RAIN: An Exercise for Welcoming Difficult Emotions
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
RAIN is an acronym for an exercise designed to ease emotional turmoil. A common way of dealing with difficult emotions is to distract ourselves. With the RAIN exercise, we do the opposite: we turn inward.
Recall a difficult emotion you've experienced in recent days (maybe you feel it right now).
Now practice these four steps:
Recognize: The first step is to simply notice the emotion. Maybe you watched a concerning news story. Can you label the emotion you're feeling? Is it fear? Confusion? Worry? Frustration? Maybe you're experiencing a number of emotions. Noticing and putting a specific label to the emotion is the first step.
Allow: Now that you've labeled the emotion, give yourself permission to let it be. Many times we think we should have the power to overcome our feelings (e.g., "I should not worry about this, because it is out of my control"). Instead, work on letting the emotion just be. Acknowledge and accept your present moment feeling. Allowing the emotion stops you from suppressing the difficult emotion. And emotional suppression is not our friend, I promise.
Investigate: Practice becoming curious about your emotion. Can you ask questions and explore your emotions? For example, "why am I feeling this way?" And "are there physiological reasons that are adding to this emotion like lack of sleep or hunger?" When we are caught up in an emotional reaction, a natural tendency is to fixate on the triggering event rather than examining what you are really feeling. Investigating doesn't mean ruminating; investigating means letting your emotions become a little clearer. And don't just investigate with your thoughts. Investigate where you are feeling this emotion in your body.
Non-Identify: Once you have recognized, allowed, and investigated the emotion, the final step is critical. Consciously avoid being defined by a particular emotion. Feeling anxious about the current pandemic is completely different from thinking "I am an anxious person and I always will be." Defining yourself as the emotion takes away your power. When you recognize that you are experiencing a specific emotion due to a specific event, you then have the power to change your relationship to that emotion. Changing your relationship to the emotion helps ease the emotional pain.
We will never be able to control our experiences. We can only control how we relate to our experiences.
This mental exercise is designed to teach you how to relate to your emotions differently in an effort to ease emotional suffering.