RAIN: A Mindful Technique to Master Uncomfortable Emotions
Emotions are a lot like cats. They are difficult to control and often speak to us in a cryptic language.
Through mindful practices (and tools such as Thyself) we come to realise that we are not our emotions. We have them and we can choose what to do with them but emotions do not define us. Think of emotions as the way our subconscious speaks to our conscious self. If an unpleasant motion arises, your subconscious is telling your conscious self something is not right. Rather than suppress the emotion we should investigate it further.
Dr Tara Brach is a world-renowned meditation teacher and psychologist. She has popularised a simple technique for getting a handle on your emotions. The RAIN technique. Through regular practice you turn this way of thinking into a habit. When you feel uncomfortable, whizz through this technique.
R – Recognize
First, recognize you are experiencing an emotion. “What do I feel?” is a great question to start with. Label emotions when you feel overwhelmed. Through the mindful technique of labelling we learn what we are dealing with. Anger, hunger, sadness, worry, joy, happiness they can all be named. Labelling knocks whale-sized emotions down to size. Perhaps you are experiencing many emotions at one. Start by separating them and giving each a label.
A – Acknowledge, Accept, Allow
Secondly, be with the emotion. Sit with it. Let it fill you fully. Pause and give it time to say what it has to say to you. Accept its presence. Like an angry cat, it may feel extremely uncomfortable but just ride with it. Everything in your being may resist accepting uncomfortable emotions but step aside and let it pass.
To ease its passing, Brach suggests whispering an encouraging phrase.
“You might feel the grip of fear and whisper “yes” or experience the swelling of deep grief and whisper “yes.” You might use the words “this too” or “I consent.” At first you might feel you’re just “putting up” with unpleasant emotions or sensations. Or you might say “yes” to shame and hope that it will magically disappear. In reality, we have to consent again and again. Yet even the first gesture of allowing, simply whispering a phrase like “yes” or “I consent” begins to soften the harsh edges of your pain.“
I – Inquire, Investigate
As children, curiosity comes naturally. So many of us lose our curious spirit as we age. The third step in RAIN, Investigate, needs us to channel our lost child. Get curious. With kindness, interrogate the emotion. Combine this with Dr Tasha Eurich’s ‘What not Why’ questioning style to avoid rumination. “What made me feel like this?” “What is this emotion trying to tell me?” “What other times have I felt this way?” “What thoughts and sensations are connected to this emotion?” "What is the signature of this emotion?" Listen carefully to how the emotion responds.
N – Non-identification / Nurture
And finally nurture the emotion. Show yourself kindness. Many of us struggle being kind to ourselves. We berate ourselves if we don’t meet our own high expectations of ourselves. Expectations we’ve usually built through comparing ourselves to others. If you’re not used to being kind to yourself, it’s a challenge. But this is an important step. Understanding that this emotion is impermanent will let you see that it will eventually go if you allow it to.
Through this process we end up at non-identification. You are not your emotions. Through recognizing the emotion we established our subconscious was trying to tell us something. By accepting the emotion fully, we opened ourselves to understanding. Investigating the emotion we learned what it had to say. Non-identification falls naturally on from this. As the emotion passes we are still here, the emotion is not. You are not your emotion.
With mastery of RAIN, you’ll be able to step aside when a big hairy emotion comes your way and see it walk on by.
On cloudy days it must rain before we enjoy the sunshine.
Your personal mental health homepage
Thyself, is your personal mental health homepage. Our mindful mood diary lets you practice techniques like RAIN to gain an optimal grip on your emotions. Master your mental health today.