How to deal with difficult emotions as they arise.
How do you deal with your emotions when they’re not so easy to handle? It’s not something we were taught how to do in school. But it is often our experiences as children that we bring with us into adulthood. Managing our emotions being one of them. As a society generally we’re not great at sharing how we feel or expressing what’s on our minds, often because of shame or fear of judgement. We’re very good at suppressing our emotions.
But what happens when you suppress your emotions? Well, they can show up in other ways. A study from the University of Texas found that when you avoid your emotions, you are actually making them stronger. Left suppressed this can create sicknesses in the body and the mind. Causing countless health issues, like chronic pain, anxiety, depression, addiction, and food disorders. Research also shows that the problematic regulation of the emotions (including anger and anxiety) has a major role in physical illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.
I’m not suggesting you should be sitting in a weekly sharing circle! But I feel it is important to look after your wellbeing and develop a coping mechanism to manage difficult emotions as they arise. How you do this will be unique for you we all have very different coping mechanisms.
In this article I’m sharing with you a beautiful mindfulness and meditation technique that you can access when you feel a negative or difficult emotion arise. It is called RAIN.
What is the RAIN method?
It is a process, a mindfulness technique that was developed by Michelle McDonald. In which you maintain your awareness of your surroundings and the thoughts and feelings that accompany them, without judgement. Tara Brach is the most famous meditation teacher who teaches this method to bring mindful awareness to emotional distress.
RAIN is a wonderful practice to adopt when you are dealing with difficult emotions that are present in a situation that is happening in your life. It could be that you’re dealing with some uncertainty in your life. Perhaps difficulties in a relationship, with a colleague or at home with your partner. The last couple of years has brought a lot of uncertainty. Living with uncertainty, the fear of not knowing can really impact your stress and anxiety levels.
Try RAIN as a process to bring awareness to the emotion.
RAIN is an acronym for:
Nurture with self-compassion.
Step 1 – Recognise what it is.
The first step is to acknowledge the thought or emotion that is concerning you in a non-judgmental way. In doing so you are giving space and allowing it to be there. When there is uncertainty, it can bring up so many different and difficult emotions that can change constantly. Once you recognise and name the emotion, you’re instantly weakening its impact.
Ask yourself, what is this dominant emotion? Can you feel this emotion in your body? Perhaps as a sensation or a feeling of heaviness in your body.
Are you able to name the emotion? Is it anger, do you feel hurt, are you annoyed? Are you experiencing sadness, or disappointment? Do you feel stressed?
Perhaps you feel unappreciated by your partner or boss? Do you feel shame and afraid to ask for help. Maybe you feel discomfort by your reactions and what you said in the heat of the moment?
Step 2 – Allow it to be there.
Allow your thoughts, feelings, and emotions to be there. Accept that this is the reality, you are feeling this emotion.
You may say to yourself.
I am feeling overwhelmed, I have so many things to do.
Yes, I feel like I cannot cope. I am worried about finances.
It can be painful to sit with a difficult emotion. It’s very natural to want to run away from it. We can easily get caught up in an emotion, in doing so, the negative thoughts and feelings to grow. Your mind is very good at that!
Whatever emotion or thought it may be try to feel it in your body, the resentment, the overwhelm, the hurt. whatever it is you are experiencing. In doing so you soften your resistance to it.
Step 3 – Investigate
Investigate the emotion or thought with curiosity, with an open mind and importantly without judgement. Tune into the deepest part of yourself to enquire.
Why am I feeling this way?
What has made this occasion particularly painful?
Is what my mind telling me true? Why am I feeling this about myself?
What do I need to do? What action can I take? How can I let this be easier?
There is a meditation practice called Antar Mouna which is about self-enquiry. This particular meditation gives you the tools to understand your thoughts at a deeper level, and their origins. Developing your awareness and being the witness to your thoughts, you can access the roots of the most negative patterns of your mind.
Like with any investigation you have to be open with what may arise. Your enquiry may show you deeper healing that is required. In which case you need a avenue in which to process this. Like talking it through with a friend, family member or seek professional guidance.
It’s important to approach your investigation with self-compassion.
Step 4 – Nurture with self compassion
The final stage is to bring awareness to the emotion, but to do so with kindness and compassion. We are so good at passing judgement on ourselves, being our own inner critic.
I want you to know that this emotion, this feeling is not a reflection on who you are. Don’t believe the stories your mind is telling you. In meditation we talk about witnessing without judgement or attachment.
Know that your thoughts are just that, they are temporary, and they will pass. The important thing is to find a way to express your emotion.
Different ways to express difficult emotions.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by negative feelings and emotions, you might like to take some time out for yourself to sit quietly to process. Connecting in with your breath is one of the most powerful practices to take you from the stress response and re-balance the nervous system.
As I mentioned earlier, be open to talking with a friend, family member, or a qualified counsellor.
Maybe you are a person who prefers to express your emotions through creativity, music, or journaling. Getting what’s in your mind out onto paper and then referring back to your thoughts and noticing any patterns can be your biggest teacher.
However, you may prefer ways that are more soothing like being in nature. Even for just 10 minutes a day, tuning into all the different senses around you, takes you out of your head and brings you into the present moment. Feeling the ground beneath your feet can be extremely calming and incredibly grounding.
Primarily It’s important to offer yourself compassion. Remember that you are doing the best you can.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like to read..
Keeping your ground in times of uncertainty
Coping with change and how to let go.
FREE AUDIO TRAINING AND PRACTICE:
Click the link below to access a free 10-minute audio training, where you will learn a simple mindfulness practice that uses the breath to take you from your daily barrage of overthinking and worry to reclaim your calm, focus and clarity.