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Cooling the Fires of Anger with RAIN

Although humans like to believe that we’re rational cognitive creatures, we're actually fundamentally very emotional creatures. You might expect that we would be good with something that we have had experience with our whole lives. Yet one of the great ironies is that we are really pretty bad at relating to our own emotions, despite all this experience.

Unfortunately the process of socialization requires that we put artificial limits and layers of “should” all over our children’s emotions as they grow, so that by the time we are adults, we have very complex relationships with our emotions. So in this post, I’m going to describe an approach that can help us have a more honest and direct relationship with our emotions.  This is a technique that we can put into place immediately and right at the very moment that we’re having a difficult time with something.

It’s very easy for us to get caught up by our emotions, either by getting lost in our conceptions and story about what is going on, or by "amygdala hijack," where our emotions literally rule our behaviors without our having much freedom to direct the action.  Actually, in both of these scenarios we have very little freedom, as both our cognitive and emotional reactions tend to be conditioned by past experiences.  So how can we start opening up a door to let some new air in, or maybe even give us a new path to walk down?

When you first recognize that you are getting triggered or that you’re caught up in a cascade of thoughts, you can do the RAIN technique. 

Recognize – Pause long enough to recognize what you're feeling and label it (it may be more than one thing); Recognize the situation you’re in, the reactions you may be having, your habitual reactions, etc.

Allow - Accept that this is how it is right now, so there’s no reason to try to pretend otherwise. A complex history of causes and conditions have come together to get to this point, and it has momentum.  It is as it is, and fighting it will be wasted energy, so allow it to be for the moment.

Investigate - Investigate what and how you feel your emotional reaction in the body, what it brings up, where it comes from, what it makes you feel like you “should” do to change the situation, etc. What beliefs do you have? Investigate with an intimate and kind intention.  You are not trying to find where you made mistakes but to understand what you believe you want or need, and how you experience that in your body.

Non-identification - This is the tricky one.  In one sense, it is a natural outgrowth of the first three, but it can also be enhanced with intention. We usually believe our thoughts and feelings are who we are, and that things are really happening to us - we usually take everything very personally. In fact, we are part of a much bigger fabric or things co-emerging. The situation is in constant motion, and we can step back and let things emerge without our feeling an immediate need to have to do something.  The goal is to separate what we are feeling from the sense of it being a personal attack - we are much more than just the bad feeling we're having right now. We are actually much more stable than this momentary feeling of instability. If we can find that point of balance in the middle of the swirl, we can see it for what it is without taking it as a personal attack.

The RAIN approach allows the situation to unfold with a little more space, where the habitual reactions can be slowed down and examined.  It can allow us to find the “gaps” between feeling and craving, and between craving and grasping (to put it in 12 Nidana terms).  There’s a freedom that is found when we discover the space that is available to us at all times, especially when it feels claustrophobic, like you’re about to be overwhelmed, or like you get stuck.

 

 

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