What happens when you get startled? Does your breathing stop, does your body tense up, maybe your posture folds inward? It could be that your stomach gets tied up in knots, you stop being able to hear and understand what people are saying, or your feet and hands get cold and numb. We all respond differently to a fright, bad news or a negative trigger. Our nervous system responds in these different ways to keep your body safe. We should really be thankful that this mechanism works so well, and so quickly (it is trying to protect us), and it would benefit us to mark when this mechanism is doing its thing. For example thinking "Oh my stomach is tight, it could be from that near-miss I just had on the highway" or "Boy is my jaw clenched tight! I guess that person yelling at me really did upset me" validates your awareness of the shut-down. With practice and deep listening our inner dialogue can start to sound like "Uh oh, I feel my shoulders beginning to creep up to my ears, better turn this around" or "Wow, I haven't exhaled in three days, I wonder if the stress of my upcoming presentation is having a negative effect on my digestion. Time to do something to restart my breathing because I seem to remember that is kinda important!" In other words, we can start to recognize what the stress and triggers are doing to our bodies, how they are affecting our systems, and then acknowledge that we can
It is important to know that we really can undo it! You can change this! Think about it this way- since our nervous system can quickly take over and constrict our body, shouldn't it be able to just as quickly un-constrict it? Two important functions that we might look for in a car is how fast it accelerates and how fast it can stop. A car that accelerates quickly and brakes well is considered to be a good machine, you wouldn't buy one that couldn't do both. A body that accelerates into fight, flight, or freeze (sympathetic nervous system) and can also decelerate into rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system) would be considered resilient, and you will be more comfortable inhabiting a body that can do both. Deceleration however is the thing that is difficult, and so it is what we need to intentionally practice.
Has anyone ever taught you how to decelerate? You might have been told to walk it off or sit in a corner and count to 10 or to "take it outside." These are valid techniques! Depending on how those actions were suggested they may have felt more punitive than curative, and so you might not have thought they could be used effectively when needed.
How else can we tone the nervous system so that it will let us go back to rest-digest? A big part of being able to do this is understanding the mechanism. Once a process is understood and recognized, it can more easily be reversed. Just acknowledging that the body is tense is a great beginning. Many of us don't know what it feels like to be really relaxed because we are so used to walking around in a tension-filled body. I have worked with hundreds of people and when they have been successfully coaxed into a drooling state of relaxation they are surprised that this is what being relaxed feels like, and that they could achieve it.
Yoga, meditation and self-study are all practices that can help with the deceleration. I have been doing these things for almost four decades. When I learned TRE in 2014 I understood that this technique was the fast track. For some, the tremor mechanism can lead to the deceleration within a matter of minutes. Consistent practice also helps you to observe the oncoming tension so that you can decelerate it before it swallows you up. Remember the old phrase, a stitch in time saves nine. It applies here. If we can observe the mounting tension, let it do its job, and then discard it, we will be healthier, more relaxed and more connected to practically everything around us.
If you have been curious about TRE, or you have done it before but not consistently, or you just like to tremor with a group (it is very different to shake with others!) join me for these evening group shakes in July and August (see below for details). On September 23rd I will be holding a 2-hour workshop in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Rebirthing Center and a 2-day retreat the first weekend of November there as well. The location is stunning, and if it is close enough to home you can join as a commuter. Space is limited so let me know if you are interested.
Private sessions for TRE are always available as well.
Try it- your nervous system appreciate it.