On shaking. With rage if needs be ..


I’m thinking this week about how body work – somatic practice – is a compliment to speech, and how the act of tremoring is beyond the politics of words.

I’m currently training in particular body work practice – called TRE. (Trauma Release Exercises). This methodology for shaking was created by Dr David Bercelli, but in fact tremoring is a natural human – mammalian – adaptive response to stress, that humans tend to suppress. This practice of shaking is often seen in non-western tribal communities, who do not seem to experience collective trauma in the same way. The following is a reflection on the insight that my deepening understanding of TRE is giving me.

The additional context needed is my particular neurology – i’m autistic and have adhd and recognise that life’s experience have prompted a complex PTSD which i’m working through. TRE has been instrumentally very important in this process of unpicking and healing and understanding of how I respond to the world.

I’m a words person. They spill out of me, but, often, the more they spill out the more I lose threads of connection between others where experience is so apparently alien. The more ( I ) talk the less I connect and the more that difference is described and marked. So there is a tension created by marking the difference – defining and going over the edges to find my own shape and take up the air that this body needs. Because defining those edges simultaneously dissolves the possibilities of immediate empathic connection, and this recognition of threads let go is a kind of grieving of imagined relating, and often adds more heft to the existing trauma. But I think too that perhaps that empathic connection is not real unless we have a shared understanding of who each other is? So the work is also in learning each other. Sensing each other.

(For me this is true: ) sometimes the silent howl is as much towards words as the body can manage. Or the real howl. Which stays mostly private. Muteness and selective muteness may be the soul’s protest when words are inadequate and cannot and will not be received by the other.

Bodies are political. The experience of TRE may be a kind of democratising of experience: putting our bodies in relation to each other as we shake without words. But also it may put our bodies in juxtaposition with each other where I allow myself to be vulnerable to one observing; so that the trauma is witnessed – this feels supremely necessary. This is movement beyond dance – not as beauty or as form or as directed catharsis of experience. It is primitive movement – primal brain movement. It is an expression which is intensely private but it is an act that I think must also, in some times and some places, be witnessed with ceremony and form; like an exorcism of ghosts that were never meant to be there. That must be expunged from a body; our bodies, collectively, that are designed as glorious and for which this traumatic resonance is evil absorbed.

I’m starting to read the work of Resmaa Menakem to explore this further. The happenings in the US right now, following the murder of african-american George Floyd by a white police officer make this understanding of trauma context ever more critical to reflect and act on. (For clarity I am white and live in the UK)

Increasingly I think this; that where trauma is contextualised and rooted in a geography, and within walls – this historic trauma resonance might be shaken away into that very place so that the walls and the soil bear witness to that violence taken in. For individuals as well as for communities.

Our bodies, which become characterised by the tensions of that trauma resonance, know instinctively that the chance of renewal grows into the folds that form in us around that compression and oppression. As plants grow up new life through the cracks in pavements. Shaped by but not held back by that immovable. Leaving that resonance in the space where it belongs then, and taking just the learning that the resonance gave us; with us – as tool, and fertile tilled soul, in which to grow further understanding.

If we leave the words and also the resonance where they belong – at the site of trauma – that evidence can bare witness to what dissonance was done there, and it may do more work to change.

Where does your trauma belong? Where does the resonance of it sit in this world?