What is TRE?
TRE is the acronym for Trauma or Tension Releasing Exercises. It is a set of exercises that helps to evoke the psoas muscles to release neurogenic tremors. This combination of neurological and physiological involuntary tremors can lead to a release of deep tension, stress and trauma, helping the body to return to a calmer and balanced state.
How does it work?
TRE allows people to release deep tension and stress. When paired with counselling and psychotherapy, it can help people regulate or attain an equilibrium better, especially those who are easily affected or distressed by their experiences. Having experienced certain shocking, traumatic or painful events in their lives, it can be difficult to manage the stress from the event. TRE can help them tolerate the uncomfortable sensations better. Some people also find it hard to talk about the events that shocked or traumatised them. When use safely with a certified provider, TRE can help them address the stress without going into the details of their experiences.
What will I experience during the exercises?
As TRE helps to evoke the psoas muscles to release neurogenic tremors, people often experience tremor and trembling in the process. The tremors may vary, as each body and nervous system is different.
Can I learn TRE and do it on my own at home?
Ultimately at Soulmatics, I hope to help people to learn to do TRE independently, where it becomes a tool which people can use to help themselves self-regulate. It is always helpful to have a certified provider to follow through the exercises in the initial learning process. Doing it under the supervision of a certified TRE provider can give you additional insights and help you in the regulatory process.
How is TRE different from, say, stress management and muscle relaxation techniques or exercises?
To understand how TRE is different, we need some understanding of neuroscience and neuroanatomy (the functions and structure of the brain). According to neuroscientist Paul MacLean, the brain can be classified into three main portions:
- The neocortex is our consciousness and executive brain. This part of the brain that regulates decision-making, problem- solving and impulse-control. It is at the top most layer of our brain.
- The limbic system, or the emotional brain, modulates our moods and arousal. It is in the middle of our brain. It also helps in managing our memory.
- The reptilian brain, or the brain stem, helps us in unconscious and subconscious activities such as breathing, digestion, and fight/flight and freeze responses. These activities happen automatically. It is located at the lower back of our head, close to our neck, linking to the spine.
In other forms of stress-relieving practices such as meditation, we use our neocortex to monitor our bodily function (i.e. breathing). This is an example of a “top-down” approach. In somatically based approaches such as TRE, they tap on the reptilian brain and reach out to the limbic system and neocortex creating a “bottom-up” approach. TRE is not just a physiological exercise, but also a neurological workout. It taps all three parts of the brain, creating an integrated regulatory experience. There is no one approach that is better than others, it is about finding the right one that suits the individual.
Disclaimer: “The Triune Brain” illustration is a simplified model of understanding the brain. It is used to help readers better understand the differences of TRE and other stress management techniques. The anatomy of the brain is definitely more complicated.
Can anyone use TRE? Are there any precautions to take before doing it?
Yes, TRE has proven to be safe and can be used as a self-administered exercise to relieve stress and reduce tension. However, those with a history of physical limitations, injuries or psychological conditions should consult their medical health professionals before doing TRE. Always seek guidance from an approved TRE provider if you have any concern or query.
What are the benefits?
Some of the benefits that people may experience after doing TRE include feeling less anxious and stressed, more energetic, and less muscle and back pains. People have also reported sleeping better, having improved relationships with loved ones, healing of old injuries, and relief from chronic illnesses. It has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Like any other exercise, regular, long-term practice of TRE is needed for people to experience some of these benefits.
Are there any side effects?
Yes, some people who have used TRE too much found that they became angsty, anxious and easily restless. We tend to think that “the more, the better”, but that is not the case with TRE. Part of the objective of doing TRE is learning self-regulation.
Is TRE used widely?
TRE is pretty widespread around the world, though it is still fairly new in Singapore. There are only a handful of certified TRE practitioners in Singapore. However, many experts have spoken of its effectiveness in helping people deal with the trauma of violence, accidents, war and other crises.
How did TRE came about?
TRE was created by Dr David Berceli, an expert in trauma intervention who used to work in war-torn places. Over the years, he noticed how people often responded to crisis by curling into a foetal position, which contracts the psoas muscles. Observing that children would tremor and shake, but adults would not. Dr. Berceli later found that adults stopped themselves from shaking because they were worried that they would frighten the children, or were afraid of embarrassing themselves. Interestingly, animals in the wild respond to stress or predators in a similar way, collapsing into a frozen position in extreme danger, and getting out of such a position through shaking and tremoring. Wanting to help people to tap on this natural mechanism to release deep tension and stress, Dr. Berceli learned more about the human anatomy and other body-related therapeutic modalities, and created TRE.
Where can I find out more about TRE in Singapore?
TRE for all (the international and official TRE certification organisation) has also kindly shared the exercises steps during this COVID-19 pandemic period to help individuals safely release tension and trauma:
Berceli, D. (2008). The revolutionary trauma release process: Transcend your toughest times. Canada, Vancouver: Namaste Publishing.
Berceli, D. (2015). Trauma Releasing Exercises: A revolutionary new method for stress and trauma recovery. USA: BookSurge Publishing.
Van der Kolk, B., A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. USA: Penguin Group. [electronic version]
Levine, P. A. (1997). Waking the tiger: Healing trauma. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.
Tension, Stress and Trauma Release : TRE®. (2018) Retrieved from: https://traumaprevention.com
About the writer
Dominica is a certified TRE provider and also a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. She is a counsellor by profession. She enjoys integrating body-oriented approaches in the counselling process to help those who come to her to have a more holistic and experiential process. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing with her pet dogs – Kopi & Xiaobai.