Using R.A.I.N. to cope with difficult emotions

For most of us, we would like to get through a day where we have only experienced positive emotions. A day when we can ride a natural high injected with all things “feel good”. Then, we hope it will last for the rest of the week, month, year, and so on.

Realistically, we know that year, month, week or even day round positivity may not be possible. Negativity can creep its way in- something could happen at work or home, or you could watch the news and negativity comes flooding in. Herein lies the reality: there will always be negative, bad, awful emotions. That is life. You can do everything in your power; try to influence how your every day goes with your thoughts and feelings. Inevitably something, somewhere will happen that will challenge those feelings.

[Side note: I do believe in toxic positivity. I believe we should be aware of the positive moments in our life in order to live our best life in the present moment, whilst still also being able to be truthful about the not-so-great moments when they arise. I have personally felt guilted into not feeling positive when I needed to express my negative emotions. I had never learned how to deal with negative emotions in a constructive way growing up and most definitely not when I worked in the hospitality industry. It took me years to realize that negative emotions have their place and having them is not a “bad thing”. It makes us human. Negative emotions happen to point to issues that need adjusting, working through or even amount to breathe and reflect.]

The real question is: how do we deal with these negative emotions? We can’t always smash a plate or more; we can’t always scream in a pillow or at a person, and we can’t punch everyone walking down the street (as much as we felt tempted to). People in your life might start to get worried about you. It’s incredibly important to know how to work through these emotions while still being able to then come back to the present and what life has to offer you or what you can do to make life better, easier or more livable for you.

Let us take a look at R.A.I.N.- which was developed my Michelle McDonald. R.A.I.N. was a process she developed as part of a mindfulness movement, geared to keep emphasis on maintaining awareness of your surroundings, and the thoughts and emotions without self-judgment. Even though it is not that old, many mindfulness practitioners have been putting this into practice, with a few added extras, or alternatives. I recommend only doing this practice for 30mins-1 hour.

R is for Recognise.

The first step is to RECOGNISE your emotions. It’s not enough to know the basic adjectives that describe how we feel. We aren’t just happy, sad and angry. We have moved on from being Neanderthals using basic descriptions of how we feel. We can indeed articulate how we feel and talk about them descriptively.

I suggest getting a Feelings Wheel (see below image) to be able to accurately identify the feeling. There is so much relief in knowing that you don’t just feel angry but frustrated, or you don’t just feel sad but despondent.

First, name the surface feeling. For example, “I feel like I’m drowning under my workload!” Usually that is easier when starting this exercise at first. Next, is to dig a little deeper. Are you feeling frustrated? Are you feeling overwhelmed? If you’re feeling lost, take a look at the feelings wheel. It starts with the base emotion and branches off into more descriptive emotions or feelings that may relate to you more.

When you are at this first part of the exercise, it is noted across most, if not all mindfulness practitioners to not use any self-judgment and to remain in a space of self-compassion. We punish and chastise ourselves for feeling or thinking anything other than a positive emotions or thoughts. We are human and come with a myriad of emotions and thoughts- what we resist, will persist. Don’t try to block them. See them as they are and that is the first step in being able to really deal with negative emotions and thoughts.

This should only take you 5 minutes.

A is for Accept and Allow

The A in R.A.I.N. can stand for a few different things. I like to use Accept and Allow. We are learning to accept the way we are feeling and allowing that in. As I had mentioned earlier, practice not judging yourself and remain self-compassionate. When we Accept and Allow, or rather Allow and Accept, the idea of experiencing negativity is not something to dislike or punish ourselves over. You are working through emotions in a constructive way. You aren’t pushing down what is coming up to the surface and choosing to work through it. This choice will make you better, as painful as it may be.

Here is the most important part: you DO NOT IDENTIFY WITH THIS FEELING. For example, you feel angry, you are NOT angry/ anger. You feel frustrated, you are not frustration itself. You FEEL it, you are NOT it. Identifying with the emotion makes us vulnerable to wallowing in them even longer than we should.

This process should take you 5-10 minutes (time yourself if you need to).

I is for Investigate

It’s time to Investigate and get CURIOUS! Start to ask yourself questions about what you have been feeling and quite possibly still are feeling. Here is a good list of questions to ask yourself:

- How did this start?

- Have I felt this way before?

- Was this in my control or not?

- Did this escalate?

- How did I respond or react?

- Was my response or reaction the correct action?

- What small step can I take right now to make myself feel better? (do something that feeds your mind and soul for the better).