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what is TRE? by Kate Niles

TRE stands for Tension, or Trauma, Releasing Exercises. Animals, unless they are in captivity and cannot escape, are really good at shaking off disaster. They may “go to ground” and look dead, with their breathing almost completely stopped. But as often happens in the wild, the predator is run off or distracted and the “dead” animal comes to life. It moves from near paralysis to deeper breathing to standing up and shaking their whole body (like a dog does) and running away. (There are oodles of You Tube videos of this phenomenon.)

When humans are similarly exposed to a situation that is perceived as life or death we tend instead to lock up and hold that trauma in our bodies for a long time. We don’t know how to shake it off. TRE was developed by Dr. David Barceli, who spent years in war torn countries doing humanitarian work. In a bomb shelter in Lebanon, he noticed how everyone crouched over in a universal wince when a bomb landed overhead. The kids cried and shook; the adults stayed stoic, perhaps to “look strong” for the kids. Unfortunately we pay a price for this locking up.

Our autonomic nervous system is responsible for our response to traumatic events. We go into fight or flight, or when that is impossible, some kind of freeze or limpness (remember the prey gone to ground). We can’t help this. Often victims of trauma blame themselves relentlessly for these responses but in fact their nervous systems are just doing what they should be – playing dead in hopes of later escape or resuscitation.

TRE exercises access autonomic responses to unlock long held trauma in muscles, fascia, and other tissue. Over time, a person does not even need the exercises to start shaking, and with practice their body returns to a pre-traumatized state. One can be watching TV and shake; in fact, turning the mind off from analysis while shaking is a good idea. However, in my experience, as we release long held stuff, we also sometimes release the emotional part of this. That is why, in my practice, I hope to combine TRE with my EMDR and other trauma protocols to effect more thorough and lasting change.

I came to TRE after 26 years of my own trauma work. I’d done everything and still had a “right side/left side” split in terms of feeling, and recurrent bouts of numbness, anger, and pain. TRE has radically altered this stuckness, and I have been able to move past deeper and deeper trauma into a place of peace.

I am currently finishing my training to get fully certified in TRE. I hope in the next 6 months or so to thoroughly integrate it into my practice. I am already using tidbits as I witness people go through EMDR (they almost inevitably re-enact the crouch position and when they start to sit up is usually when the relief starts to come in and re-integration of stuck parts takes place). Please let me know if this interests you!

~The Power of Community~

 I was invited to take at trip to Africa this past December with a mentor of mine, specifically to Kenya, which has been a childhood dream. My mentor advised that I would make lifelong friends while there and I dismissed his words and “thought I will only be there for a few weeks—I have enough friends here in Durango.”  

It turns out my wise mentor was right and once I opened to the connection with the people (not just the majestic wildlife) around me I learned life changing wisdom from them.

 I was sitting in the back of the bus having a conversation with two of these wise women who I will hold close to my heart forever. I believe the conversation was after we had visited Kibera while in Nairobi—that experience alone was life changing. People with very little, relative to what our standard of living is here in the states, invited us into their homes with welcome arms. Children without shoes had some of the most genuine, sweet smiles I have ever seen.

 I shared these observations with my (soon to be) “life-long-friends” and reflected on what that kind of openness and happiness looks like back home, in Durango.  As we talked they shared that when people make a meal—they make enough for, not just their families, but for their neighbors and anyone who may walk down the street hungry, because you never know when the last time they may have had one was.

They prepare enough for others even if that means they may not eat the following day.

 Again I reflected on back home— “Wow! The first thing I did when moving into our house was finish the one section of privacy fence that allowed us to walk out in the mornings and say hello to our neighbors.” This is really a common standard in our society, whether metaphorical or literal “How soon can I get my fence or wall built up high enough to separate and individuate?”

 As I look back on this conversation and my intention of not making “lifelong-friends,” this was my way of separating and individuating. And the moment I engaged in this conversation and shared my vulnerability, risked sounding like a stupid over privileged-American, my mentors warning of making “lifelong-friendships” began. This conversation will stick with me for the rest of my life.

 Since then I have taken heart to what the since of community was over in Kenya and what it is here in Durango. Our community members have experienced an alarmingly high rate of tragedy. Family members and friends loosing loved ones to death by suicide and the number is showing a trend to increase by the end of 2017 compared to last year. The Center For Disease Control lists La Plata County at number one in Colorado for deaths by suicide and Colorado is number four in the Nation.

 Many of my colleague’s, as well as family and friend have theorized the “whys” and one common theme I have heard,  and find to be true, is our general standard of community that perpetuates individuation. Of course there are many reasons for each individual’s wellbeing and breakdown of thriving. It was evident in the recent fire our community has an amazing ability to support and be compassionate for others after experiencing a tragedy. The remaining question is what is missing in preventative action—Community Action when looking at the high prevalence in our community such as suicide, substance use, the un-noticed or unreported feelings of depression, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, etc.? The resources in our community are outstanding, in quantity and quality, compared to other communities—so the question remains, “Why?”

 When I returned from Africa my view had shifted in many ways to a place of noticing how I participate in community and what I learned from my Kenyan friends and what I want to bring into my daily life to foster the cultural way of life I was enlightened to. As I read Besel Van Der Kolk’s book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” I was reminded of the philosophy of Ubuntu—a cultural value in Africa that sums up why people make meals for others at the the risk of not being able to eat the next day. Van Der Kolk asserts that Ubuntu means healing for one cannot happen without honoring commonalities with one another at the deep level of humanness.  

 The difficulty, and where people build “fences” is talking about the more difficult things in life. For example when at social settings and someone asks “how are you?” The expected response is “I am well, and you?” Commonly, conversations consist of success and achievement oriented discussion. Such as “What are your plans for the weekend?” Response “I’m hoping to get at least 30 miles in on my road bike!” These goals are commendable; however, often our achievements and success, our doing  can become our fence and prevent being with one another—prevent Ubuntu.

 When we are being with one another and not doing wellbeing is fostered. I have noticed when I or others practice being rather than doing, Ubuntu comes to fruition. When we can take down our “fences” and share struggles with those close to us and receive validation that grows the relationship. Often it is scary to share vulnerable things beyond our out-door adrenaline avid achievements—that’s one of the best parts of living in Durango right? And, the question is “does this act as a fence to block out what’s going on deeper?”

Whether starting deeper conversations with friends or having park bench conversations with a stranger this is a starting place. It is amazing to me to hear of people taking that first step of vulnerability and talk about something that is troubling them and often surprisingly come-to-find, whom they trusted enough to share with has a similar experience or has been through difficulties and can offer empathy—you really never know what is going on for the people around you until you go to that deeper level. This is the power of community—a way to assert your power in community action.  

If you or someone you know are in need of immediate assistance you can call 911 and request a CIT officer or below are 24-hour resources: 

Axis Health System:



Crisis Text Line: Text 741-741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis. http://www.crisistextline.org


Lifeline Crisis Chat: Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention services

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Related Article:


HAPPINESS for 2017?!

As 2017 rings in the new year, many are setting their new year affirmations and resolutions. Plenty of gym memberships, budgeting apps and activity planners are being tended to with vigor. Goals are being laid out to change what we want to improve, or perhaps to attend to work we’ve already done and want to maintain our results. 

Some goals to consider are mindful practices and social engagement in happiness. 

Yes, planned social engagements of happiness!

In the U.S., people are affected at a higher rate by anxiety as they are by headache or migraine (13%). In the US 18% of the population is affected by an anxiety related mental health disorder. Anxiety is developed through complex combination of risks in the biology, brain, personality and environment of a person. Anxiety increases doctor visits and increases the likelihood of being hospitalized for mental health issues. Mindful practices with a therapist can help decrease or eliminate these risks and issues. 

We can all agree the increase in mindfulness and mindful practice have become great resources for those experiencing anxiety, trauma, stress, or simply wanting to increase awareness. Mindful practices increase awareness so we can become aware of positive experience opportunities in our lives. Recognizing these positive experiences provide protective factors against the potentially negative effects of the chaos of modern societal pressures. Mindfulness powerfully concentrates our attention toward our focus and aspirations. Mindfulness increases happiness! Mindfulness is an individual self centered practice. While self is paramount important, this might be a great time to expand your practice of self awareness recognizing joy to others. 

So, about those “planned social engagements of happiness” I suggested in your resolutions? Well, happiness for an individual is known to be happiness for many when it is shared! Sharing experiences of joy and happiness exponentially increases positive effects for all those involved.  I’d like to invite you all to increase your happiness and share it! Intentionally share positive feelings with others. Share experiences of joy to increase the overall contentment and calm for your communities. From the community of family, to the community of work, and geographical communities. After 2016, we could all stand to be a part of increasing the overall well-being and contentment of all people with happiness.

**And if you have migraine, please call and let’s talk about EMDR Treatments for Headache and Migraine! Migraines can resolve in a single session!*

Joy to you all in 2017!

Gina MK Kramer




What to Expect During Your First Therapy Session

For someone who might not be used to sharing their problems with strangers, the first meeting with a therapist can be quite daunting. I remember my first therapy session was definitely intimidating. I had all sorts of thoughts going through my head about what to expect. I thought the therapist was going to judge me and after months of debilitating panic attacks I thought I was going crazy. My worries were unfounded. During my first session, the therapist and I just spent time getting to know each other. I also walked away with a few tools to help me start getting the anxiety under control.

Here are some things to expect for your first therapy session:

Why are you there?

During your first session, your therapist will ask what brings you to counseling. It’s helpful if you can write down some things beforehand to pinpoint what isn’t working in your life in the current moment. While some people may know exactly what the problem is, for others it’s not so easy. I had no idea what was causing my anxiety and panic attacks when I showed up to my first session. It took several more meetings to discover what had actually triggered me.

What is your background and current life like?

It’s helpful for your therapist to learn a little bit about your background. You don’t have to tell your whole life story during the first session (and there probably won’t be time if you’ve already lived a few decades), but if you come from an alcoholic, abusive background your therapist should know that. Likewise, if you’ve recently gone through a divorce or changed jobs, even if that might not the main reason you are there, it’s helpful for the therapist to know these things.

Are you experiencing any symptoms?

Your therapist will ask you during your first session if you are experiencing any current symptoms. This helps to target things to work on, as well as the possibility of needing medications.

How is your sleep? Are you able to enjoy activities that usually give you pleasure? Are you more fearful than usual?

With a checklist, your therapist can determine if you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or other issues.

Don’t let this scare you. Not everyone has a diagnosis and if there is one, it can be a blessing in disguise. Getting referred to a doctor and starting medications can be life changing.

There doesn’t have to be a crisis to see a therapist

One thing to remember is that your life doesn’t have to be in crisis to see a therapist. You may have a great life, but just need some help dealing with a difficult relationship or a hard challenge at work.

 Ask questions

 Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your therapist is a person just like you.

And, if you don’t like your therapist it’s ok to move on to another. I do encourage giving the therapist a second chance if the first meeting doesn’t go well. When I first met my current therapist, I didn’t care for her at all. However, the more I got to know her, I found out she was a deeply caring individual and very good at what she does.

 A personal confidante

 One great thing about having a therapist is that she is your confidante. Unlike some friends or family members, you don’t have to worry about your therapist telling other people your business. She’s not allowed. Unless what you tell her will endanger your life or the lives of others, you can be assured  what you say will not leave her office.

 It’s a process

The last thing to remember is that therapy is a process. All your life problems will not be solved in one hour. Commit to that process and slowly you will start noticing your life changing for the better.

Paula Bostrom has written for the International Bipolar Association and Tiny Buddha among other websites and publications.

John Wayne Syndrome By Kate Niles So many times in therapy I find clients ashamed that they ever needed someone. This of course is a by-product of abuse, and is the very definition of neglect: Had there been someone there, perhaps the abuse would have stopped and certainly no neglect would have occurred. But being kids (usually) when these things occur, we internalize our utter aloneness as the norm: what was the matter with us that we “couldn’t handle it” or “felt like crying” or worse? The irony is that many people who shame their emotional neediness are the very ones Caretaking everyone else’s needs, maybe especially the abuser’s. Stereotypically, it is women who get assigned the Caretaker role in dysfunctional families, but I have seen plenty of men with this issue too. They believe their sole role on Earth is to help others, but the minute they turn to focus on helping themselves, on self-compassion, the “You’re Selfish” demon-voice rears its ugly head and tries to shut this process down. To care about oneself, to find those sad, hurt, and angry emotions and address them, is to be “weak,” “needy,” “not good enough,” etc and so forth. Those of you with awareness around abuse are nodding your heads and going, “Well, yeah, that’s how the abuse keeps being internalized and how the abuser gets away with their crimes.” There are probably others of you who recognize your own versions of those demons, and they are in actuality fantastic protectors -- guardians of our raped and pillaged souls, pre-emptive strikes against the self so we don’t have to feel the damage done by someone else. In further irony, it is easier to keep knifing ourselves willingly sometimes than to feel what others have done. Sadly, though, the effect of this is to simply dig the wound deeper and to continue to buy into the abuse. Those feelings then come out as rage toward others (in worst case scenarios, we abuse others), or toward the self (depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts). Unfortunately, to get out of this mindset we often encounter mainstream white US culture, which is notoriously “hyperindividualistic” and – maybe especially in the West -- still in admiration of John Wayne underneath it all. (Sometimes not so underneath.) At some point in session, when my clients are learning to set boundaries and speak their truth, we run into Mr. Wayne. What helps here is to ask if my client would really want to be married to John Wayne. This stops people in their tracks. “Uh, no….” they say. And right they are! I can’t think of a dude less in touch with his emotional life than Mr. Wayne, and neither can they. Thus we (alas) lance the Cowboy Stereotype pretty quickly. Now don’t get me wrong – as a lifelong Westerner, I am a deep historian of its settlement by all peoples, Native, White, Hispanic, or other. I have come to find that the best Western movies are, ironically, superb psychological thrillers. (Check out the original Three Ten to Yuma with Glenn Ford. Yikes!) However, in healing our own wounds, we have to see the flaws in that cultural mirror so that we give ourselves permission to heal the trauma that happened in such isolation. When someone who has been trampled on first explores setting boundaries and speaking up, often that person is terrified of being “like the abuser” and cannot differentiate between simply saying “no” and being a total jerk. We explore how they can learn to do this in neutral, or even kind, ways. I differentiate between “kind” (being genuine) and “nice” (being that fakey Caretaker who puts on the smile and sucks it up). We explore what kind looks like and I remind clients that we teach people how to treat us. So until we are able to stop being a doormat and accept that we need to learn to ask for help and set up space for ourselves through setting boundaries, we will continue to feel run over. Sometimes, hiking way up high, or running across some godforsaken shack in the desert, I am reminded that for so long the United States had an escape valve in the form of westward expansion. We could run from terrible parents, religious persecution, awful economic conditions in the Old Country, or mental illness, by coming West and trying to make a go of it by mining some hole in the ground at 12,000 feet or ekeing out a homestead in some place like Pie Town, NM. My own family was some of the last to homestead, taking out a claim in extreme western Nebraska in the early 1900s. Native folk are right to see the spiritual sickness in this history, just as I am right to see to the curious pluck in making a go of it at all. Now, however, we are up against the limits of our ability to run. So we have to turn and face the flaws in the program, witness and hold space for our hurts, and learn to heal without the luxury of Manifest Destiny or a man called Wayne. It’s a tough job, but I have no doubt we are up to it. I am forever in such admiration of the courage of my clients – because that’s the true John Wayne: someone who stays with their tears, and listens to what they have to teach us.

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