Over the past 13 years, I’ve had the privilege of teaching TRE (Trauma and Tension Releasing Exercises) to over 2000 people. Here are some of the insights I’ve gained about the power of this simple trauma healing practice:
People expect change to be painful or difficult, it doesn’t have to be.
TRE assists the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of stress, tension and trauma, which calms down the nervous system. After doing TRE, many people have reported feelings of peace and wellbeing.
People think catharsis is useful, it’s not.
Many healing modalities focus primarily on the mental or emotional causes of trauma, requiring that you relive or understand the associated stress and pain as a means to overcome it. One of the things I most appreciate about TRE is that it engages your primitive reflexes to reveal where trauma is residing in your body.
You then “shake it out,” releasing long-held tension patterns and experiencing feelings of connection and peace.
Understanding and narrative is not enough, skilful regulation is more important.
TRE is radical in that you do not need to understand and you do not need to remember. The goal is to safely allow the tremors to generate new feelings inside you and switch off over-active threat detection systems. Shaking releases tight muscles and wakes up our connection to ourselves. TRE is you healing you.
Bodies make it simple, when trauma often feels complex and hopeless.
Some of the key advantages of TRE as a trauma healing approach are that you don’t need to be in a one to one therapeutic relationship, and you don’t need to talk. You can also practice in a group or on your own, depending on your preference and sense of safety.
Sometimes, often even, in my experience, people with complex developmental trauma can benefit from a simple, safe group intro to shaking. And, sometimes the strengths of TRE are hard for people with complex trauma, and a wider and deeper support network is essential.
I would offer that it’s the same with any therapy, people are complex. Nothing works all the time, everything can work some of the time.
Being skilful at feeling is the key to health.
We are trying to find a sense of agency and sovereignty in our bodies, this is hard. Our fear of feeling our feelings leads to dissociation with ourselves, which can result in the development of chronic pains and addictions. You need to feel to heal.
“Shaking” opens you up to the complex world of feelings. Through TRE, you develop the ability to regulate intense feelings, putting you back in control…
Shaking to connect is a better metaphor, ultimately, than shaking to release.
We teach how to relate to intense feelings in a grounded and self-regulated way. TRE is about releasing tension and about ‘waking the body up’. Shaking is used to support connection and find safety. There is a deep acknowledgement of dissociative states and a long, slow journey to embodied safety.
Anything that supports safety is useful.
In stress and trauma our brain defaults to old, habitual, protective patterns. Involuntary shaking is a burst of good news from the shaking muscles direct to the central nervous system. The signals generated when tremoring actively create new neural pathways inside the brain.
Shaking, skilful bodywork, learning to feel, and learning to move again can help create a sense of safety. The model offered here is that learning to feel connected to your body is a powerful and necessary first step to healing.
Most people dissociate, most of the time.
One of the big hidden features of trauma is the shutdown response – also known as freeze, dissociation or immobilisation. Not enough people know how pervasive and common the shutdown response can be.
In freeze mode, we feel stuck, numb, lost and, frequently, depressed and exhausted. Everything feels too much. Part of our brain is trying to protect us by flooding our nervous system with natural pain killers (endorphins), limiting our ability to feel and act.
One of the most common responses to TRE is ‘I did not know that I was missing my body’. People report a sense of joy and ease inside them as they feel fully connected and grounded for the first time. Coming out of dissociation helps us feel real. That is profound and life changing for many people.
Shaking can be fun.
Once you learn TRE, it can feel as comforting as rocking gently in a rocking chair or swinging peacefully in a hammock on a lazy afternoon. It’s a modern science with ancient roots — it’s fascinating to explore the role of shaking in the animal kingdom and natural world as well as within our human cultures, such as the dance practices of the mystics.
Would you like to learn TRE with me?
My upcoming 7-week online course, Shake Free of Trauma With TRE® starts on March 28th. You can find out more and take your seat here >>
Reviews from past participants:
“I’m very grateful to have learnt and benefited from the expert knowledge and experience of Steve Haines…”
This course provided a wonderful opportunity to learn more about and experience the benefits of TRE, which I would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. The course was very well run and facilitated in all aspects and I’m very grateful to have learnt and benefited from the expert knowledge and experience of Steve Haines, who was brilliant and I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about TRE. Thank you!
— Rebecca, New Zealand
“Steve is a fantastic instructor, knowledgeable and compassionate, with an ability to present information in a very clear and organized fashion.”
This was an excellent course. It deepened my understanding of physiology of trauma and stress and gave a powerful tool for healing. Steve is a fantastic instructor, knowledgeable and compassionate, with an ability to present information in a very clear and organized fashion. It was calming just to hear him speak. He actively engaged in the community group and gave thoughtful and in-depth answers to any questions. I would recommend this course to anyone.
— Eugenia, Toronto, Canada
“This course came along at just the right time and I’m really glad I chose to take it.”
I have a much better understanding of how my nervous system works and of how trauma happens and affects the body. TRE is such an amazing practice to connect, let go, learn, and shift things. I find I feel more relaxed and lighter in mood after a good practice and am feeling more optimism and excitement about the future after having felt very shut down from personal trauma and the impact of the pandemic. This course came along at just the right time and I’m really glad I chose to take it.
— Julia, Portland, Oregon