The Supreme Court nomination process and the charges of sexual assault that have arisen are bringing up difficult emotions for many people. I thought I would revisit the teaching and acronym R.A.I.N. as a support for working with difficult emotions.
The R stands for Recognize: Clearly notice what is happening. Name it. Just the act of naming something, to some degree, gives us some distance from it. We can’t be completely lost in rage and know it at the same time.
The A stands for Allow or Accept: Can we open to the fact that this emotion (whatever it is) is present? It’s not that we have to like it or condone it, but simply say “yes” to its presence. Saying yes to a difficult emotion takes the resistance away. It is often the resistance that is added to a difficult emotion that makes it too difficult to be with. Take the resistance away and, although the difficult emotion is challenging, we’re usually able to be with it.
The I stands for Investigate or Intimacy: What can we notice about this emotion? Now that we’ve recognized and accepted its presence, what can we learn about it? One of the best ways to investigate an emotion is to feel it in the body. Where does this emotion live in the body? Where do we feel it? What do we feel? Now the emotion that seemed so overwhelming can be known as just tightness in the stomach for example. Often there are thoughts and stories that arise with and/or get born by difficult emotions. Being in the body is an excellent way of keeping the attention from being lost in those thoughts and stories.
The N stands for Non-identification or Nature: The difficult emotion that is occurring doesn’t belong to you. You didn’t make it happen. It occurred as a natural result of the conditions that supported it being present. We don’t have to feel bad about the emotion being present, nor do we need to form an identity around it. “I’m such and angry person”. The emotion does not belong to us, but we are responsible for it. How will we be with this emotion. Or, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, how can we “care for this emotion”. Of course, the answer is mindfulness. Mindfulness as manifest in Recognize, Accept and Investigate.
Lastly, I would suggest that if you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the news of this event that you take a news break. Sometimes the nervous system needs a break so that it can heal. This isn’t escaping, its skillful means.