Another reader shares his experience with the trauma releasing exercises

Several readers have shared their experiences of doing the trauma releasing exercises of David Berceli here on this blog. Here’s a new report. David writes:

I ordered the video and it arrived yesterday. I tried the exercises for a second time today. I did the preparatory stretches and then did the wall position. Leaning against the wall I just tried to get deeper into my breathing, but for the longest time very little happened. I was having little tremors, but they still felt half-way forced.

Then gradually, after about seven minutes, some real trembling and shaking started. The more relaxed I became the more pronounced they were. I had no control over them at all. I almost felt like shouting down to my wife to come upstairs and see what was happening, because it was so strange. Just overall, rapid involuntary tremors in my legs, through my pelvis and along my torso. They went on and on for at least ten minutes.

Then I tried the lying position and it was less successful. Still, I’m grateful I tried and I’ll keep doing them.

Thank you, David, for writing.

Doing the exercises can generate the release of muscle tension in the form of shaking and trembling, but it doesn’t happen automatically.

It’s great that David kept at it. Tried the exercises a second time and continued to be willing for the trembling and shaking to start after having little “half-way forced” tremors.

There is a step in inducing tremors for the first time that no one can instruct you how to do. Between doing the exercises and involuntarily shaking and trembling, there’s a step that I think of as surrendering. It is a skill, but it’s a skill of “not doing” rather than doing. You have to be able to let go of your need to control your body.

That can be scary, but it can be done.

For some people, surrendering is easy and natural. For others, especially people who have been traumatized and who are carrying tension in their bodies, it isn’t easy or natural at all.

If you are one of these people, I urge you not to give up. Just keep at it and eventually you will surrender and shake.

The fear of emotional overwhelm

Ann, a new reader of this blog, recently sent me a message on my MaryAnn’s Bodywork and Changework Shop Facebook page that she is doing the trauma releasing exercises, and I thought I would move the discussion here so more people can participate:

hi maryann!

i have just discovered your blog online. thank you for sharing your story and advice to the world. i feel a kinship to you, as i am in the third month of my trauma releasing process.
i practice spring forest qigong (5 yrs)

i have done tre exercises 3 or 4 times a couple of months ago and now i can do them at will.

as fear and anxiety are aspects of myself that i am reclaiming/ integrating… i tend to stop the tremors that seem to want to happen a lot now because my mind wants to understand what is actually happening and will this clear the messages from the subconscious. i have apprehension that the amount i release will then need to be felt consciously afterwards and maybe i shouldn’t do them a lot so i can maintain a balance/ keep up with the processing of the emotions…. or do they just go away?…i saw that you posted to do them as much as they want to come out at first. any thoughts?

i have read that the symptoms come back if you stop…so how do they clear?

maybe they get pushed out in a continual cycle that allows you to consciously release what you can… the release just keeps them suspended for a time?

well, that’s enough thinking… any thoughts?

you are lovely.

heartfelt gratitude.

ann 

p.s. the other day i tremored, kicked, wailed, spoke in about 6 different languages… very grateful i have read waking the tiger as i guess you do need to release the things you would have done when you froze. in the english parts i said “no, i said no!” and i didn’t just “say” it. and at the end of it i went back into english and i said “NO. YOU GET OUT OF ME!” it felt awesome.

A little later, Ann sent the following message:

in re-reading this i could sum it up as : fear of emotional overwhelm 

Well put, Ann. To Ann and everyone else who has ever feared being overwhelmed emotionally, whether by grief, anger, or some other emotion (even bliss), I just want to say that this is very, very common.

We all have emotions. Infants and toddlers seem to have a very full range of them and express them freely and with their whole selves.

And at some young age, we begin to receive messages about emotions: which ones are good, which are bad (or positive and negative, if you prefer), which ones are not okay to express in public, maybe which are not okay to even have, which ones are harmful to repress or bottle up.

Maybe we’ve been on the receiving end of someone’s rage, bad boundaries, or lack of feeling, or have felt/not-felt those ourselves. Maybe we’ve felt emotional pain so strongly we’d do anything to avoid feeling it again, including numbing out for years.

No wonder we get messed up emotionally.

It can feel unsafe to let go emotionally, as if we could die or crumble or never come out on the other side. We fear our own emotions, especially the strong ones, because part of us wants to be in control, and emotions can be very intense.

Ann, it seems to me that needing to experience a balance between release and conscious processing is a belief you have acquired. Try on this belief and see if you like it: allowing the emotion/trembling/etc. to flow through you IS clearing the subconscious. You don’t have to understand it for it to work!

And if understanding does come, it will come AFTER you clear the channels and return to a calm state in which other parts of your brain can come online to create whole-brain insight.

I also imagine you experimenting with releasing as much emotionally/physiologically as you feel comfortable with for a few days, letting your conscious mind work at its own pace, and seeing for yourself what happens. That cannot mess you up—it’s just you discovering what mix of emotion and thought, conscious and unconscious works best for you.

I remember feeling rage about 10 years ago for the first time since I was about two, because it wasn’t acceptable in my family or in much of society. I was alone, remembering something I hadn’t thought about in years, when suddenly I had a different understanding of it that brought up hot, intense anger.

I didn’t know what was happening at first, so I kept allowing it to happen because I was curious—and alone. I am sure I got red in the face. There was definitely an upward surge of hot energy toward my head and a stiffening of my posture. I stopped in mid-stride.

Right after I was feeling the most intense anger, my inner witness was marveling, “So this is what rage feels like! I get it how steam comes out of Elmer Fudd’s ears and the grimace and posture he makes!”

It actually had a very, very cleansing effect. It renewed my self-esteem and motivated me to protect my interests. Afterwards, I felt like I had on a cloak of protection. It was actually near the beginning of my trauma recovery process, but I didn’t know that then.

Interestingly enough, fully allowing that rage to flow through me and feeling it completely took maybe 30 seconds. A very slow 30 seconds, to be sure.

Imagine: I had spent years denying/repressing my anger, and when I let it ripple through me, it only took half a minute of intensity, and the benefits were enormous and lasting.

Lesson 1: Emotions have two components. You experience them in your body, and they change you (you resolve an inner conflict, and then you take action: set a boundary, express a concern, reframe your identity, make a decision, right a wrong, and so on).

Lesson 2: You can allow yourself the experience of feeling the emotion fully without having to take action right away. That can come later. Unless the situation is life or death, you can let it settle before doing anything. That provides time for other less emotional parts of your brain to add their gifts on the wisest course of action for you to take. Meanwhile, you’re not bottling up something toxic.

Lesson 3: This is easier said than done. We’re all here in the School of Life. We mess up, we learn, we forgive, we grow.

So this is the thing. I can’t really tell you what’s right for you, but maybe these lessons can help you get through the labyrinth.

I found this quote on Tricycle Daily Dharma, and it’s perfect for this post:

The ebb and flow of life is not unlike the sea. Sure, sometimes it’s calm and serene, but at other times the waves can be so big that they threaten to overwhelm us. These fluctuations are an inevitable part of life. But when you forget this simple fact, it’s easy to get swept away by strong waves of difficult emotions.— Andy Puddicombe, “10 Tips for Living More Mindfully”

I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the best books I’ve read about emotions and their messages, The Emotional Hostage: Rescuing Your Emotional Life by Leslie Cameron-Bandler. It’s an oldie but goodie that helps you decode the purpose of each emotion and use your emotions to live more authentically.

More on the therapeutic uses of trembling

Apparently body tremor research is not a new thing in sports. Russians preparing gymnasts for Olympic competition in the 1970s induced trembling. It was called vibrational therapy then.

Since then, numerous studies have demonstrated that low-amplitude and low-frequency mechanical stimulation of the neuromuscular system has positive effects on athletic performance (Cardinale & Bosco, 2003; Torvinen et al., 2002; Bosco et al., 1999). For many years it was primarily used by elite athletes to help increase the strength and coordination of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems and to increase the rate at which athletic injuries heal (Bosco et al., 1999).

I’m not a competitive athlete. I had no idea. Maybe I’ll become more coordinated and heal more quickly!

I must say that I have been feeling really, really excellent lately, even given the stress of a new job, repeated repairs to my car, selling my house and moving.

This is after doing the trauma releasing exercises about eight times this month so far.

The web page goes on to say:

Over time vibrational therapy has developed as a serious field of research known as Biomechanical Stimulation ([BMS], Bosco et al., 1999). It is being used in physical therapy and rehabilitation programs to correct restricted body mobility, range of motion, the coordination of musculoskeletal and nervous systems and to increase the rate of healing injuries (Bosco, Cardinale, & Tsarpela, 1999; Bosco et el., 2000). BMS research has demonstrated that exposure to vibration frequencies between 20-50Hz increases bone density in animals. It is also helpful in providing pain relief and the healing of tendons and muscles (Muggenthaler, 2001). Vibrational stimulation between 50-150 Hz has been found to relieve suffering in 82% of persons suffering from acute and chronic pain (Feldman, 2004).

I could use more bone density and healing of tendons and muscles from my long-time alignment issues.

Hmmm. I’ve heard that cat purring speeds bone healing. That could be related. Thinking aloud here…

My father had Parkinson’s disease. I got excited when I read this! The shaking that happens in my left hand is similar to the Parkinson’s shaking.

Speculation in the field of BMS research suggests that tremors in humans associated with certain diseases may not be a symptom so much as the body’s attempt to detoxify itself through increased metabolism and lymphatic circulation which is produced by the body’s self-induced tremors (Feldman, 2004).

So maybe if I tremble and detox now, I won’t get Parkinson’s disease. It’s worth the effort.