RAIN of self-compassion
It’s a very natural and instinctive reaction to feel discomfort when dealing with challenging emotions. Feelings like shame, anger, guilt sadness and grief are tough to face, and at times, we’ll look to unhelpful behaviours as a way of coping; lashing out at people, drinking, overeating, smoking and various other ways of harming ourselves either physically or mentally.
If you recognise yourself in this, that’s ok! It doesn’t make you flawed, it makes you human.
The good news is that we don’t always have to allow difficult emotions to derail us or lead us to act in unhelpful ways. Let’s have a little look at a coping strategy that mindfulness teachers have used for some time, that helps us to manage these big intense emotions more effectively and in a more healthy way.
It’s goes by the acronym of RAIN and here’s to use it…
Recognise that you are having an intense experience; that you are feeling a strong emotion. As tempting as it may be to avoid, deny or numb your experience, try instead to turn towards it. Gently pay attention and tune into what you’re feeling. Where in your body are you saying? What sensations can you feel? Can you identity and label the emotion you’re experiencing?
It seems counterintuitive, but turning towards our experience is actually one of the most effective ways to defuse the power of the emotion that we’re going through.
Just allow it, don’t fight it, don’t resist. Seems so simple! But our tendency is to look for ways to push the emotion down or make it go away.
“I can’t stand how patronised and angry I feel after a run in with a colleague, so I’m going to go light a cigarette”
“The deep shame I feel about being an inadequate parent is overwhelming, so I binge eat to feel better”
“The grief and pain I’m feeling from the break-up is more than I can deal with, so I’m going out drinking again”
When we tried to push down or ignore our experience, we end up creating even more pain and suffering for ourselves. Just allowing what ever’s showing for us – however unpleasant it may feel – is an act of compassion and healing.
Once we’ve allowed ourselves to lean into our experience, it can be really helpful to try understand it a little better. This is where we investigate.
Questions we might ask ourselves include, why did I feel that way? What triggered that reaction in me? What led to me experiencing that emotion? Do I have needs right now that are not being met? What can I do now to mind and nurture myself?
Investigation gives us insight and perspective which serve to help us deepen our self-awareness, identify our triggers and plan ways of managing more effectively in the future.
This is one of the most powerful and liberating steps that we can take to release ourselves from mental suffering. It simply involves recognising that we are not our emotions, we are not our minds. Our emotions don’t define who we are. Just knowing this is hugely freeing as it naturally create space between us and our experience; meaning that we become an observer of our emotions and not a victim of them.
Anytime you find yourself facing an inner struggle around difficult emotions, see if you can use RAIN to help you move through and release your experience with more kindness, ease and self-compassion.