I know that I’m not alone in my feelings about what happened this week in Orlando. With a younger brother living just a few miles from the shooting, the news of this particular shooting brought up even more emotions than I normally experience when hearing about these types of horrific events, but no doubt this has affected you no matter what your connection to the people of Orlando. We feel emotions like fear, sadness, anger, frustration, etc. I’m not going to get into a discussion of policy here. I recognize that action needs to be taken, but this post is about how we can take care of our difficult emotions and heal the pain from the inside.
I would like to pass along a simple acronym for working with difficult emotions. It’s called RAIN. It stands for:
I’ll elaborate: Before we begin, I invite you to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
(You can open your eyes to read the steps, but if it’s comfortable for you, try to practice it with your eyes closed once you get the gist of it.)
RECOGNIZE – This is simply the act of noticing. “Oh, there is sadness here.” Or “Ouch, this hurts.” We can even say to our emotions, “ I feel you”. (I know it might seem a little strange, but like little children who are suffering, our emotions just want to be recognized.)
ALLOW – Can you allow the emotions to be here? Somewhere along the way many of us learned that difficult emotions like anger, frustration or sadness are unacceptable emotions to have. But they are actually very much a part of being human. If we resist our difficult emotions, what typically happens is an extra layer of shame is added to our already difficult emotions. So allowing the emotion to be there ends the struggle. Don’t fight it. See if you can allow it.
INVESTIGATE – Where do you physically feel the emotion in your body? Does it move or change as you pay attention to it? Often times we can notice tightness, heat, rapid heartbeat, etc. Our throat, chest and belly are our emotional center…. So check out those areas of the body.
NON- IDENTIFICATION – Once you’ve gone through the first three steps, what often happens is that we can disentangle from our emotions. We can see that we are not our emotions. Our emotions are simply passing through us. Yes, there is fear, sadness, anger here, but there is also peace, love and joy. I’m not ONLY my fear. Fear is just here right now but it’s passing.
Oftentimes when we do these four simple steps, our difficult emotions lose their grip on us. We have awareness around them and we are not so reactive. When we face great emotional difficulties, it’s important that we take the time to be there for ourselves.
Once we have done these steps see if you can connect to something in your present moment experience that reminds you that you are safe. You can connect to your breath or the sounds around you. Or practice some gratitude by writing down 10 things you are grateful in your life. We are not defined by our tragedies. We are defined by our love, our creativity, our connection to each other, our joy, our generosity, our dreams, our passion.
Tonight instead of watching the news, go out and look at the sunset, or write a thank you note, or get together with an old friend, or do anything that reminds you that there is still so much beauty in the world.