Complex trauma resulting from childhood emotional abuse and neglect can cast a long shadow over one’s life, impacting everything from mental health to relationships and overall well-being. But there’s hope. In this post, we’ll explore the transformative journey of Sarah, a survivor of complex trauma, and how she found healing and resilience through the practice of TRE® (Trauma Release Exercises).
The Complexity of Complex Trauma:
Complex trauma, often referred to as Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), is characterised by exposure to multiple traumatic events, typically over an extended period. These experiences can lead to a range of debilitating symptoms, including flashbacks, nightmares, emotional dysregulation, dissociation, and difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships.
Sarah’s journey began with a diagnosis of C-PTSD, after years of emotional abuse from her narcissistic mother. Her symptoms were taking a toll on her daily life. It seemed as though there was no way out of the cycle of symptoms that hijacked her. She had survived by disconnecting from life and described allowing herself to feel anything as terrifying and overwhelming. She described feeling as like being on a tightrope above an abyss.
That’s when she embarked on a path to explore embodiment with TRE as a doorway to relieving her symptoms.
The Power of TRE® (Trauma Release Exercises)
TRE® is a set of simple yet profound exercises designed to help individuals release trauma and reduce trigger neurophysiological responses such as fight, flight and freeze. The approach is rooted in polyvagal theory – the idea that trauma is not only a mental and emotional experience but also deeply physical.
By working with and soothing the body’s response to traumatic events, individuals can regain a sense of safety and control.
Sarah’s journey with TRE® can be broken down into several key phases:
1. Establishing Safety and Trust:
The first step was building a safe and trusting therapeutic relationship. Sarah received psychoeducation about the mind-body connection, helping her understand the impact of trauma on her nervous system. This early phase laid the foundation for the work to come.
2. Gentle Exposure and Relational Touch:
The heart of TRE involves gentle exposure and co-regulation. Through somatic exploration and regular TRE® sessions, Sarah began to release stored tension and trauma. The TRE® Provider introduced relational, negotiated touch as a tool for co-regulation, always respecting Sarah’s boundaries and comfort levels.
3. Boundary Setting:
Perhaps one of the most critical aspects of Sarah’s journey was learning to set boundaries. The therapist consistently supported Sarah in expressing her comfort levels, limits, and preferences regarding the pace of each session. This process of negotiation was empowering, helping Sarah reclaim agency over her own body.
4. Integration and Healing:
In the final phase, Sarah’s resilience truly began to shine. As she progressed to more advanced TRE® and partnered touch exercises, she continued to grow and heal. She incorporated mindfulness and cognitive-behavioural techniques to integrate her healing experiences and develop a resilience skill set for dealing with triggers and flashbacks. Sarah now enjoys a regular TRE practice as part of her self-care routine.
Through her commitment to using TRE® and embodiment training, Sarah experienced some remarkable transformations:
- Reduced PTS symptoms: The frequency and intensity of flashbacks and nightmares decreased significantly.
- Improved self-regulation: Sarah felt more grounded in her body and developed coping skills for emotional triggers.
- Enhanced interpersonal skills: having been unable to work previously Sarah found a job in a sector she loves. With the new ability to set healthier boundaries and improved communication skills this has allowed her to build nourishing new professional relationships.
- Increased body awareness: Sarah became more in touch with her body for longer periods and developed new levels of self-compassion.
- Overall well-being: Sarah’s overall sense of hope and optimism for the future improved.
Sarah’s story is a testament to the transformative power of a regulated and supported TRE practice for those with complex trauma. It highlights the potential of this approach to promote recovery, resilience, and a renewed sense of self.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of complex trauma, consider exploring TRE and embodiment as a potential path to wellbeing and transformation. With the right support and a commitment to the journey, it’s possible to find light at the end of the tunnel.
Kate Munden TRE® Certification Trainer & Advanced Provider