Shake It Off – Part One of Three

by Sarah Eggers


My dog, a five-year-old runty black and white rescue pit bull, still has all the bursting exuberance of a puppy. Physically brave, I have seen her literally jump off cliffs, landing unscathed.  On hikes, she tears off into the brush after birds or squirrels.  When I lived in New York, she tried to take on the horses waiting at the curb for tourists to cart around Central Park.  I mention all these details not only because I am one of those annoying people who likes to talk about their dog (I am), but also because it was not until I did some research on TRE, or Tension (or Trauma) Releasing Exercises, in anticipation of trying it out that I realized my dog is a natural expert in this technique.  If you Google TRE, you’ll come across YouTube videos of polar bears quaking wildly after being chased and tranquilized by biologists, the voiceover explaining that this shaking is the bear’s natural way of releasing the stress and adrenaline that build up when the fight or flight mechanism kicks in.  I have seen my dog do something similar, after she has chased or been chased, or otherwise undergone an adrenaline overdose–she’ll do this all over body shake that starts at the tip of her tail and moves all the way up to her ears.  If you think about it, animals in the wild spend pretty much their whole lives on high alert, and every day is a life and death struggle.  Psychologists and biologists have often wondered: so why don’t animals have PTSD and other signs of trauma?


Dr. David Berceli, the founder and CEO of Trauma Recovery Services and the creator of TRE, believes that it is precisely this natural tremoring that animals do after a traumatic or stressful event that is what prevents them from storing the trauma in the body and developing the symptoms that people often do.  What Dr. Berceli and practitioners of TRE assert is that humans also have a completely natural tremor response to stress and trauma, but that it has been essentially trained out of us by socialization. When people tremble after a car accident or other such event, we say they are in shock and rush to get them a blanket, when their bodies may be doing exactly what they should: “shaking off the stress”.


I am not a Veteran, but my brother, several cousins, dad and uncle are, and I am studying to become a therapist right now partly because of my interest in working with Vets who have come back home with the “invisible wounds of war” such as PTSD, TBI, stress and trauma. So, I jumped at the chance to try a treatment I knew little about, but that has been used all over the world to help people, including Vets, relieve stress, deeply relax and release stored trauma.


Heather, Mary, Sarah, & Michelle begin TRE class at Sidewalk Studio Theatre in Burbank, CA.

The afternoon I tried out TRE was a balmy late spring day, so it was a little hard to leave the sunshine and enter the windowless space where myself and a small group of women met up with Mary Shriver, our facilitator.  Mary is woman with a soothing, but authoritative presence.  She is certified in TRE and is also a massage therapist, and she exudes a feeling of comfort and poise in her body. As we sat down on our yoga mats to hear about what we would be doing for the next couple of hours, I started to wonder if I should have found out more before trying this out.  What would I be expected to do?  Would I have to chant or make funny noises?  Would I be asked to share about a traumatic experience in front of others?  Would I have to flap my arms around and do a chicken dance?  Mary allayed my fears almost immediately, not only by providing a thorough and convincing explanation of the technique and its applications, but also by her down-to-earth and calmly authoritative demeanor. The exercises we were about to do, she said, were simple, straightforward, and, once learned, had the power to transform lives. TO BE CONTINUED… Please click HERE to read Part Two!


© Serve the Warrior 2013 All Rights Reserved

TFGP Editor – Pamela Haber


To learn more about Mary Shriver check out:


A special thank you to Sal Romeo for providing the space for our TRE session.

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