What are Neurogenic Tremors?

Neurogenic tremors

It is not uncommon in many cultures to hear phrases such as, “I was so frightened my jaw was quivering,” “I was shaking all over my body and I couldnt calm down,” “When I was giving that speech my legs were really shaking,” “My hands were shaking so bad I couldnt hold anything,” “I was so angry I shook all over.”

The experience of trembling is not only commonplace in our culture but it is a common experience to many mammalian species. This familiar, albeit disconcerting, experience is known as neurogenic tremors.

It is well-known and documented that neurogenic tremors are a common result of a traumatic event.

The tremors are the central nervous system’s innate way of discharging excessive tension through the rapid muscle contraction and relaxation of the tremors to calm the body down from an over excited adrenal state. Continue reading

Dr. Robert Scaer, thoughts on Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises (Video)

Stress and the phenomenon of muscles holding tension is very hard on one’s thinking process. It gets in the way.

Above is a interview with Dr. Robert Scaer where he shares thoughts on Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE).  It was conducted by Chris Balsley, a TRE Trainer based in Denver, Colorado.

Highlights from the interview:

  • He has been doing TRE for over 10 years.
  • It helps him deal with chronic back pain.
  • TRE helps him release the tension in the Psoas muscle, helps calm the autonomic nervous system and get more clarity of thought.

Continue reading

What does it mean to be “grounded”?

Meditating Lemur

Our family determines how we find our ground, how we form our territory.  If we do not have plenty of touching and holding, we may never be sure of ourselves emotionally, of the ground we stand on, since we cannot trust others to hold us.  It’s been my experience, as well as others’, that people who are not held enough have a fear of falling and hold themselves stiffly away from the earth.  Those who feel shame for their sexuality and dislike for their bodily responses never really hold their ground with others.

– Stanley Keleman, The Human Ground

Being ungrounded in this world is dangerous.  The invisible energy that grounds or leaves us ungrounded plays a critical role in our successful functioning.  Some people appear to accompany their bodies as if riding like a parrot on their own shoulder.  Other people treat their bodies like a possession, a rental horse driven over rock and hill and then abandoned to the stable.  The body is attended to, exercised regularly, but the pleasure is mainly an ego experience.  The rider and horse appear to be one, but there is no heart in the relationship.  How can they be grounded when they are so reluctantly embodied?

To be ungrounded is to be unstable and unsupported by the very earth we walk on.  We have no foundation.  We are lightweights disconnected from our feeling and unrelated to others.  An ungrounded person, oblivious to surroundings, trips over himself and other people’s feelings.  Such a person is likely to lack a sense of inner support and to suffer a loss of confidence.  The ungrounded person holds too rigidly to a viewpoint or capitulates quickly to avoid conflict.

The warriors of the world, the athletes, have paid enormous attention to grounding, to establishing firm footing and balance, since it is not enough to plant oneself down like a tree.  We must be able to move and stay grounded, to put down roots and pick them up again.  I knew someone who found it necessary to travel frequently and made each hotel room his home.  Each night he unpacked completely and placed family pictures on the bedside table.  If he were a wolf, he would have declared his territory by urinating on the four courners to declare his boundaries and establish his ground.  If he were a dog, he would circle the place he lies down in, a magic instinctual, protective circle.  To establish our territory and protective boundary is the inevitable accompaniment to grounding.

A grounded person feels she has a right to stand here, to be here, to be heard in her silence or her voice.  A grounded person need not speak to be heard while an ungrounded person may talk endlessly without result.  Being grounded inevitably leads to developing boundaries, allowing oneself a protective space which challenges unwanted intruders.  Being grounded is the prerequisite for feeling centered and being fully in contact.  And if we are loving toward others and seek peaceful relations with the life around us, the attention to boundary heightens our awareness in relationship so that we are respectful rather than intrusive.  We are intrigued by the delicate interplay of closeness and distance.

How do we become so ungrounded? 

Growing up we may have been faced with developmental tasks that were too difficult to accomplish satisfactorily.  Perhaps we learned to stand independently, for instance, but not with confidence.  We came into our genital sexuality, but we were distressed.  We learned to function sexually, but never with pleasure and ease, never as fully related to ourselves or out lover.  Our sexual grounding is a powerful key to our being “at
home” in our body.  Our sexual life reflects our strengths and injuries and the functional and durable nature of our sense of self.

Grounding is quite rightly cooperating with the earth, accepting the pull of gravity and learning to do that gracefully.  But we are not rooted like trees, so that I prefer to think of grounding as a function of movement, as a moving wheel that touches the earth.  Grounding is about relatedness, not only the rim as it touches, but the connectedness through the spokes of the wheel.  We cannot be grounded and be disconnected in our bodies.  Just bringing our energy down into our feet and legs in a grounding exercise won’t do.  We contain polarities which must not be disowned.  We reach for the sky, extending up and out, as well as root in the earth.

In so far as we refuse to relate to others, the outer world, or inner agents of our own character which remain in shadow, disowned or undeveloped, we unplug from our grounded nature.  Groundedness demands that we honor the polarities in our nature.  When we center ourselves in the hub of the moving wheel, we feel the edges of our being through a relaxed connectedness and enjoy for that moment a sense of wholeness which extends far beyond ourselves.

Excerpted from The Body In Recovery by John P. Conger, pages 61, 62, 63.  Compiled by Barbara English for Living Ubuntu. 

Bioenergetics vs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (and most traditional therapies)

Time and time again we are asked why we focus on the body in our work in Living Ubuntu.  Below is an explanation by Alexander Lowen, founder of Bioenergetics.

Alexander LowenAt the outset it must be recognized that most therapeutic efforts fail to help the individual resolve his conflicts and find peace of mind. In my opinion, there are two basic reasons for this failure. One is a lack of understanding by the therapist of the nature of the problem, and the second, related to the first, is too great a dependence on insight to change behavior.

Throughout this book I have emphasized that one needs to look at the body, to observe its movements and read its expression, to understand the individual and to evaluate and treat emotional disturbances. These disturbances are structured in the body and manifested in its loss of gracefulness. An analysis or therapy that focuses largely on the presenting complaint or symptom is not a holistic approach because it does not comprehend the whole individual. The goal of gracefulness cannot be achieved by working solely through the mind. It is a mistake to believe that deep emotional conflicts can be resolved through conscious reasoning alone.

The far greater part of our actions and behavior is governed by feelings and impulses of which we may or may not be aware. Analysis attempts to bring these unconscious forces, threatening as they may be, to consciousness. Psychoanalysis depends largely on free association, slips of the tongue, the interpretation of dreams, and the analysis of transference to shed light on the unconscious. Jungian analysis relies more heavily on dream interpretation. But because such methods are indirect, in most cases they do not reach deep enough. Even if patients become aware of some of their unconscious motivations, such insight does not generally lead to significant change. Neurotic attitudes and behavior are largely structured in the body by chronic muscular tensions over which the mind has no control. These tensions have to be released before any real resolution of conflict can occur.

Bioenergetics is a more powerful and effective technique than analysis alone because it offers a more direct route to the unconscious. By reading the body’s language, the therapist is able to see a patient’s personality conflicts immediately in areas of rigidity and chronic tension. By working with the body as described in earlier chapters, the patient learns to sense these tensions and to get in touch directly with his unconscious. Such an approach does not neglect the use of verbal analysis, including the interpretation of dreams and the analysis of resistance and transference, but its primary focus is the body. Rigidity is softened, chronic tensions are released, and the body is freed to feel the life of the spirit. In effect the body recovers its natural gracefulness.

In most cases a person cannot accomplish this alone. Feelings that have been suppressed are generally too frightening to be experienced without the support and understanding of a therapist, who acts as a guide to the patient’s unconscious. How good a guide he is depends on the extent to which he has explored the unknown world of his own unconscious. I like to compare the therapeutic experience with Dante’s account of his adventures in The Divine Comedy. When the poet finds himself lost in a wood with three wild beasts ahead of him, he calls upon Beatrice, his protector in heaven. Because the way home passes through hell and purgatory. Beatrice sends the Roman poet Virgil to guide him. As they traverse hell, Dante sees the punishments visited upon sinners. The passage is dangerous because a false step could leave him stuck in one of hell’s pits. Only with Virgil’s guidance does Dante make it safely through hell and purgatory. The patient in therapy goes through a similar experience on the path to self-knowledge and health. His own private hell consists of the painful feelings he suppresses in the interest of survival despair, panic, rage, humiliation. The chronic muscular tensions these suppressed feelings cause cannot be fully released until the feelings are brought to consciousness and expressed. That process requires the help of a therapist who has traversed his own hell, learning its dangers and finding his own way out.

From Spirituality of the Body by Alexander Lowen, M.D. Pg 74-75.

Alexander Lowen is a world renowned psychiatrist and the creator of Bioenergetic Analyis, the revolutionary therapy that uses the language of the body to heal the problems of the mind.  He has authored 14 books including Narcissism, Betrayal of the Body, Joy, Bioenergetics, The Way to Vibrant Health, Pleasure, Language of the Body and Honoring the Body.

What is TRE?

“The first night, I fell asleep really easily and felt like I’ve been asleep for weeks.

I woke up feeling deeply rested.  It feels like a sense of ‘letting go’ […]  I feel like I can then move forward in my life and I’m not acting out of things that have happened and pains that I’m carrying around.  So it just feels like I can become more available to… life.”

– Nicole

Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) is an easy to learn body-centered method created by Dr. David Berceli.  It is a simple technique that helps releases stress or tension from the body that accumulate from every day circumstances of life, from difficult situations, immediate or prolonged stressful situations (e.g. anxiety, depression), or traumatic life experiences (i.e., natural disasters, social or domestic violence, PTSD).

TRE consists of six simple exercises that help individuals release tension from the muscles, which in turn relaxes the anxiety of our minds, by evoking a muscular shaking process in the body. The exercises elicit this shaking in a controlled and sustained manner. When evoked in this way, this shaking, also called “neurogenic tremors“, begins to release deep chronic muscular tension held within the body.

Reported benefits include:

  • Better sleep
  • Less worry & anxiety
  • More energy & endurance
  • Less relationship conflict & work stress
  • Reduced muscle pain & body tension
  • Alleviates symptoms of PTSD and helps heal trauma

“The human body registers everything that occurs to it, both physically and neurologically. And if we do not resolve trauma, all it can do is to continue to wear us down over life psychologically, emotionally and physically.”

– David Berceli, creator of TRE

* * *

David Berceli, creator of TRE

David BerceliDavid Berceli, PhD is an international expert in the areas of trauma intervention and conflict resolution.  For the past 22 years he has lived and worked in nine countries including Israel, Palestine, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Yemen, Egypt and Lebanon providing trauma relief workshops and designing recovery programs for international organizations around the world.

For more information, see David Berceli explains TRE.

David on trauma as a paradigm shift

The human animal is designed to experience, endure and survive traumatic episodes. If we did not possess this ability the human species would have become extinct shortly after it was born. This natural ability to let go of and resolve post traumatic reactions is genetically encoded in us to complete one process and begin something new as a part of our unending cycle of evolution. When a traumatic event occurs, the individual feels overwhelmed and the experience seems unbearable.

However it is precisely because of this overwhelming experience that the individual is forced out of their old way of thinking into a new way of being in the universe. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, all experienced trauma and used their painful encounters to develop a more moral and ethical response to their traumatic circumstances. Their lives demonstrate to us that the trauma recovery process contains the possibility of helping the human person develop into a more moral and ethical species. If we can repeat this process for thousands or millions of people, we can use the transforming power inherent in the trauma recovery process to transform the ethical and moral foundations of the human person… Mass trauma may be the process whereby the human species is evolving into a more ethical species. The trauma survivors of the third world may be the harbingers of a morality necessary to temper the technology of the first world. These survivors may be evidence of the natural evolution of the human species from the Age of Technology to the Age of Wisdom.

Wisdom born of trauma

“I do not wish tragedy on anyone but ever since that accident, I never fail to tell my wife I love her. I kiss my children every day. Life is richer, fuller and deeper than I have ever experienced. It has more meaning and depth than it ever had before.”

This type of transformation of life after surviving a traumatic experience is very common. The questions that beg to be asked here are: How and why does a traumatic experience cause us to live a more profound life than we previously had? Why don’t we simply choose to live life at its deepest level before a tragedy? Why do we need to have a traumatic experience to wake up to appreciating life to its fullest?

As a human species, we are biologically designed to experience, endure and survive trauma.  No different from other living organisms on this planet, we are genetically encoded to let go of and recover from trauma as a way of ridding ourselves of any experience that obstructs or interferes with the natural evolutionary process of the human body.

Resolving past traumas delivers us into the future.  Through the unending cycle of trauma recovery, the human species learns how to adapt to life threatening situations. This process of adaptation makes the species stronger and wiser to protect it from future traumatic episodes. If we did not possess this natural evolutionary instinct, we would have died as a species shortly after we were born. Trauma recovery is as natural and common as trauma itself. Accepting this sometimes unpleasant fact of life allows us to see trauma in a new light… Only by letting go can we unlock ourselves from the past, be delivered into the future and prepare ourselves for our next evolutionary experience.

Once a trauma befalls us we are forced, whether we like it or not, whether we want to or not, to follow its life-altering path.  At times, this process often leads us through episodes of helplessness and hopelessness. It can terrify us by unveiling the fragility, precariousness and vulnerability of our humanity. It exposes us to the rawness of life as a living species on this planet. It tears at the very fabric of our identity and radically redefines our view of life. However, it is precisely because this experience has burned the bridges of our past ways of thinking that we are forced into a new way of being in life. The old ways of thinking and relating no longer suffice and a new way of being begins to emerge. We discover that on the other side of this frightening journey we have the potential of emerging into a new life of maturity, compassion and wisdom.

See also:

About Living Ubuntu

We are a non-profit organization with a focus on mind-body issues, specifically health and well-being, and the effects of stress, trauma and compassion fatigue. We seek to increase awareness of the global and local impact of these issues, build a sense of community, and encourage living a more fully embodied life.

Find more more about us at http://livingubuntu.org.


What is “Ubuntu”?

“I am because we are”

Ubuntu is a traditional African philosophy that recognizes how we are inextricably bound in each other’s humanity.

Here is a video from the Global Oneness Project that explains this beautiful concept that was at the heart of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in South Africa after Apartheid.


Nelson Mandela explains Ubuntu

In the old days, a traveler through our country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or water.  Once he stops, the people give him food… that is one aspect of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves.  The question is, are you going to do so to enable the community around you… to improve? These are the important things in life.  And if one can do that we’ve got something very important which will be appreciated.

– Nelson Mandela


Ubuntu Group

In Southern California, we do a once-a-month free Ubuntu Group, a small group intended to provide a time to connect with one another in an authentic way about whatever is going on in life.  For more information, please visit http://livingubuntu.org/events.

Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, “Yu u nobuntu”; “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.”… We say, “A person is a person through other persons.”

A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed… To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. What dehumanizes you inexorably dehumanizes me. [Forgiveness] gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.

– Desmond Tutu

What is Bioenergetics?

Integrating Mind, Body and Emotions.

“It integrates a work with the body, with the patient’s interpersonal relationships, and with his mental processes; each of which is correlated and interpreted in terms of the others…. Bioenergetic Analysis starts with the reality of the body and its basic functions of motility and expression.”
– Alexander Lowen, Founder of Bioenergetics

Bioenergetics is a form of psychotherapy practiced by licensed psychotherapists with specialized training.  It blends traditional therapeutic methods with body-centered techniques to help people resolve their emotional problems and enhance their well-being.  Symptoms of unhappiness and stress, such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and decreased sexuality, often are the result of unmet developmental needs, blocked emotional expression and chronic muscular tension.

Bioenergetic therapy offers an integrated, effective, relational approach to address these common manifestations of early wounding, distress, and dysfunction.  At the heart of Bioenergetics is a deep conviction that there is a mind-body correlation for many psychological problems.  It makes use of the connection created in the therapeutic relationship to be the foundation that supports the process of healing.  It often includes work with body contact, boundaries, grounding, and the understanding of muscular tensions as indications of somatic and psychological defenses against past trauma.  The goal is more than the absence of symptoms – it is having aliveness, getting a taste of pleasure, joy, love – vibrant health.

Continue reading

Alexander Lowen explains how to read a body (Video)

Here is an old video of Alexander Lowen where he explains how a person’s body tells so much about him/her.

You don’t have a body, you are your body.
– Alexander Lowen

See also: What is Bioenergetics?

Alexander Lowen is a world renowned psychiatrist and the creator of Bioenergetic Analysis, the revolutionary therapy that uses the language of the body to heal the problems of the mind.  He has authored 14 books including Narcissism, Betrayal of the Body, Joy, Bioenergetics, The Way to Vibrant Health, Pleasure, Language of the Body and Honoring the Body.

Alexander Lowen on “protest”

In preparing for the upcoming Living Ubuntu Summer Body Group, Finding Your “No”: Healthy expression of negativity, protest and anger, I found the following passage in Depression and the Body about the role of protest in grieving.  It explains how this helps alleviate depression, and opens us to pleasure and love.

Continue reading

Alexander Lowen on “despair”

I was reading Joy by Alexander Lowen this morning and came across this very good passage on “despair”.

Alexander LowenTo reach that joy Alice had to open herself to her despair. If she could cry from that deep despair, she would touch the joy that gives life its true meaning. While we must recognize that despair is frightening, we should also know that it stems from the past and not from the present. Alice was in despair because she could not he perfect and win the approval and love of her parents. Her despair continued into the present because she was still struggling to overcome what she regarded as her faults and weaknesses in order to win that love. In effect she was trying to “overcome” her despair. which could not be done since despair is her true feeling. One can deny the despair and live by an illusion, but that will inevitably collapse and drop the individual into a depression. One can try to rise above the despair, which undermines one’s sense of security; or one can accept and understand it, which releases the person from fear. Continue reading