Richmond Heath is a physiotherapist and a passionate Trauma Releasing Exercise (TRE) instructor. Recognising the value of TRE, Richmond brought the initiator of this neurological approach to stress relief – Dr David Berceli – to Australia and has continued to ‘spread the word’ here since 2010.
Think about the muscle-tightening fight-or-flight stress response – very useful for situations requiring a physical response and often helpful for mental activity as well. But, what about when we feel continually wound up…going to bed but been unable to sleep because our muscles are still tense and our hearts still beating more quickly than usual?
The completion of the fight-flight cycle is natural and critical. Think of a bird we’ve rescued and how it ‘tremors’. Think of a horse’s flanks after completing a race..they ‘tremor’.
Whether we have faced a ‘war situation’, a wild animal attack, a stressful day at the office, or an altercation with a partner, we do need to complete the cycle and allow our muscles to relax/tremor. Our body remembers and if we don’t relax, the memories/stress build up, especially as society does not accept ‘quivering with emotion’ after a stressful experience. We have learned to quell the tremoring and thus forgo completing the cycle.
“Until the brain receives a signal from the central nervous system that the danger is over, the body will continue to repeat the bio-neural pattern of defense and protection. Trauma Releasing Exercises by David Berceli PhD.”
“David talks about his life as a relief worker in Beirut during the conflict there..
One day when the fighting was particularly intense, Dr Berceli just happened to be looking directly along the line of people sitting with their backs to the wall when a mortar hit. He was stunned to observe that each person instantaneously contracted at exactly the same time and in exactly the same way as it if were a piece of well-rehearsed choreography.
It was the moment he realised every human body has instinctual defensive responses that tend to be unconsciously activated before we are even aware of it.To the human body as an organism, it doesn’t really matter exactly what the threat is, whether it is a physical trauma such as abuse or car accident, an emotional trigger such as a divorce or loneliness or a psychological stress such as a deadline or finding the money to pay the mortgage. The only real options available to the body are to contract and tighten under threat and to release those contractions in order to relax and re-expand once it has passed..
Many of us don’t realise our psychological experience, emotional balance and lack of physical health and vitality tend to be much more an expression of unresolved fight, flight and freeze states rather than the cause of them. While negative thoughts have an obvious impact upon the body, more often they reflect an unconscious bubbling up and expression of these undischarged defensive states carried by the body until they are finally ready to be released and resolved.
Years later, having recovered from severe PTsd following his experience in Lebanon, Dr Berceli again found himself in a war zone, this time as a relief worker in a small village in Africa. At the sound of an approaching air raid..in a primitive bomb shelter..Dr Berceli noticed the [two] children on his knees were shaking all over – much like a dog in a thunderstorm or a person in extreme cold. He had experienced this uncontrollable shaking himself previously, but it was the first time he actually questioned what purpose these tremors had.
As his own arms began to tremor and shake along with the children’s bodies, he also noticed he was beginning to feel more relaxed. Looking around the room, he observed all the children shaking uncontrollably while not one of the adults were. Once the bombing had passed, he asked the other adults, “do any of you ever shake when the bombs are coming?” “no,” was the reply, “we don’t want the children to know we are scared.”
It was the ‘aha’ moment..
In that moment, he realised, just like the adults in the bomb shelter and most of us in the west, he had spent his entire lifetime tensing against his body’s natural instinct to tremble..
Many people naturally experience this involuntary shaking after traumatic events such as a car accident or birth or when stressed or nervous such as speaking in public.
These tremors have largely been misunderstood as only a sign of pathology or disease by western medicine due to a lack of understanding why they happen and what they are achieving – namely, returning the body to homeostasis..
Many years later after developing his revolutionary approach to stress and trauma recovery using simple exercises to deliberately invoke these tremors in a safe and controlled way without needing to talk about past events, Dr Berceli once again found himself in Africa..teaching TRE to a group of 50 traditional midwives..suddenly one of the women yelled: “Push Mamma Push!” With no idea why she had said it or why it had caused hysterical laughter for the rest of the women, he asked why it was so funny.
“You white doctors,” she said, “we know all about these tremors. When we give birth, we do it standing up with two midwives supporting the mother, each with an arm under her armpit. After she has given birth we keep her standing up as her body begins to shake and tremble, even for up to half an hour. We know we can’t lie her down until her body has completely finished this shaking or she will end up with problems after the birth.”
There is an email newsletter with info about his workshops around Australia and the next 1 day workshop is 6 April 2013, at Bairnsdale, Victoria via www.inspiringhearts.com.au
There are seven exercises, quite simple I find.. and effective.