It’s true no one teaches us how to deal with our feelings. Or if they do, it’s by mistake. Often we learn what to do with feelings as children by watching our parents’ management of their emotions, or from messages we get from
teachers, peers, or the media.

When I ask my clients how do they feel about certain situations, what are they supposed to do when they feel angry, sad, or worried, or what did they learn about the right way to handle these emotions, rarely, do they have answers.
I think I probably wouldn’t know either if I hadn’t seen the need a therapist.

One of the first things I introduce my clients to is the idea that they probably need a coherent theory for dealing with their emotions in their lives.

RAIN is the theory I teach. Emotions are like weather patterns. When the conditions are right, they will happen. I am not a meteorologist, so I can’t really do this metaphor justice, but I know when certain things happen outside it
rains, or it snows, or it’s windy. Same with emotions. When the causes and conditions are right, we feel anger, or sadness or worry.

Everyone has different causes and conditions, so that’s important to recognize. Your background, your biology, your thought patterns, your environment how much sleep you’ve had, whether your hungry, all of these things contribute to
the creation of your particular emotion at a particular point in time.

Looking at feelings this way can help remove some of the judgment that many of us have of ourselves when we have difficult feelings. Also, it’s important to know that we can influence how we act when we have these feelings, and we
can influence how we think when we have these feelings, and ultimately after a great deal of work, we can also influence the intensity of some of our most uncomfortable feelings, but , paradoxically, we have to be willing to feel
them first.

Most of the time many of us are walking around not even aware of how feelings are dictating our choices. When feelings are painful we try to bury them, avoid them or distract ourselves, or we discharge them through anger and blame.
When something is pleasant we chase after it and try to hang on to it.

Mindfulness, which is about paying attention on purpose, and self-compassion, which is about doing it in a kind, understanding, and non-judgmental way, give us the choice to see how we are making decisions in our lives that are
making us happy or unhappy based on avoiding uncomfortable feelings or chasing after good ones.

It’s hard work, but often the work that people come to therapy to do. Feelings are patterns that arise naturally based on causes and conditions. You can use mindfulness and self-compassion to discover what those causes, conditions
and patterns are.

The letters in the acronym RAIN stand for:

R – Recognize what is happening

A – Accept and Allow life to be just as it is

I – Investigate inner experience with kindness

N – Nurture

RAIN is the acronym used to explain a mindful way to process emotions. 

Learning how to recognize your feelings and then accept them is usually the first step to working with feelings from a mindfulness and self-compassion framework.

Recognizing feelings can take some time. If you are not used to naming feelings a list of feelings can come in handy. You can learn to identify feelings by naming them, but also by recognizing their feelings in your body.
This site has a great list.

Acceptance or allowance is a mindfulness strategy that includes not doing anything with those feelings once you recognize them. Usually we are reacting to feelings unconsciously. We are stuffing them, or avoiding them, or actively
refusing to feel them somehow by trying to get rid of them or by blaming someone else. Accepting them is simply opening to the experience of the feelings in your body and making room for the experience in your mind. Having an attitude
of understanding and compassion for yourself if it is a painful feeling can help tremendously with the process of acceptance.

To help with this, I use the image of the school bus and a child getting off the school bus. What is the first thing you would do for a child who was coming home from school felt the way you feel ( sad, scared, hurt, angry) and it was
your job to greet them after their day?

Usually, the response is to hug and comfort the child. Sometimes this image is not helpful, and it is easier to think about what you would do for a best friend or someone you loved who was feeling this difficult feeling. Part of
acceptance is being able to sooth and comfort yourself so you can stay still in the feeling and not try to deny or get rid of it.

The step of allowing or accepting a feeling may seem silly, but identifying feelings and accepting them is key to making wise decisions in your life. Emotions can informative, and can contain wise information. Many of my clients start
to see destructive and unhealthy patterns in their lives when they practice mindfulness and #selfcompassion because they are actually able to see
how the choices they are making in their lives are driven by their unfelt emotions rather than by what is their best interest. Spending time on the R and the A in RAIN is worth it.

The I of RAIN stands for investigating. During this process, we are focusing on making the unconscious conscious so we can have more control over our behavior in our daily life. Normally, our feelings are influencing our behavior,
but to a large extent, we are unaware of this. Breathing in and out slowly and calmly so you can intentionally relax can be helpful for you throughout this process. Some questions to ask during the investigation phase are:

  • Where is the emotion in your body?
  • What does it want from you?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What thoughts are you having that are accompanying it?

During this part of RAIN, I ask my clients to play the role of the curious scientist. So often, our inner experience is causing us to make decisions that are not in our best interest. The uncomfortable emotions keep us constantly in
motion, usually making poor decisions because we are trying not to feel them or to get rid of them. The RAIN process helps us to slow down and begin to really take a good look at what might be happening, so we can make wise and
skillful choices that are in our best interests.

The N of RAIN stands for Nurture. The next step in RAIN is to practice self-compassion for your experience. Mindful processing of emotions is not always easy. Sometimes we don’t like what we feel or notice, although it’s always
better to live our lives awake rather than asleep. Offering an attitude of kindness to ourselves can happen in several ways. We can say words of kindness, practice generating the feeling of kindness, or even simply put our hand on
our heart as a gesture of kindness. Each one of these attempts to nurture kindness can be a good way to end this process.

I incorporate a self-compassion journal with my clients when teaching them RAIN. This is an exercise Kristen Neff uses with her clients. Here is the
link to her directions for the journal.

I have found this tool works works to teach the skills of self-compassion and replace the self-critical voice. You can pick anything that causes you distress, from an emotion that is uncomfortable to a specific incident that
occurred where you found yourself being self-critical. Uncomfortable emotions are appropriate to write about because often when we have uncomfortable emotions we turn on ourselves and become self-critical. For example, if you are
angry you may be saying to yourself ” I shouldn’t be so angry.” There can be a subtle turning against ourselves when we have uncomfortable emotions. At first, you may want to write about simple things such as spilling your coffee or
parking outside of the lines in a parking space, and as you get the hang of it, you can progress to something more difficult.


The first step in the journal is to bring mindful awareness to the feeling that happened and to describe the incident that immediately prompted it.

For example, lets say you lost your temper with your child in the morning, and you yelled at her. You would describe the event and then the emotion of guilt. Words of judgment don’t belong here, so it wouldn’t include ” I was a
bad mom” or anything like that.

In your journal you would write ”

 I was getting my child ready for school. I had to call her twice to the table for breakfast. She didn’t answer me right away. I yelled loudly, and sternly why don’t you ever come when I call you. You’re being a bad
girl today and have been all week. She came to the table, looked at me and started to cry. ”

Common Humanity

In this part of the journal, you try to imagine other people having this same experience. Then, you write it down. 

I can imagine other moms have this same experience, and then who you can imagine having this experience, and if there is someone you know specifically who has had the same experience. Then elaborate a little on what it feels
like when you imagine it.

In the example above, Can you imagine other moms feeling guilty when they yell at their child or lose their temper in such a way? Do you know anyone whose done that? How do you feel when you connect with the idea that other
people have this behavior and/or feeling and you are not alone?

In the above example you might write, 

” Yes my best friend often loses her temper with her child, and has confided in me she feels the same way. I understand how hard it is. It’s not easy to handle the hectic mornings. I felt less alone when I thought about
this. “Cause and Effect/ Reparation/ Words or Acts of Self Kindness

The NEXT step here is to look at the cause and effect of the situation.

It may be that your child has been particularly difficult as of late, or that you didn’t get enough sleep, or that you were actually upset about something else. You can alternate between using RAIN and using the self-compassion
journal at this step. The first thing this step does is help you be more compassionate with yourself because you have an understanding of the cause and effect that makes it less personal. The second thing this step allows us a
more comprehensive understanding of how you might be able to help yourself. The deliberate and intentional effort to process your emotions can lead to the unearthing of many facts you otherwise would not be willing to look at!
These are good habits to start.

If you have done something you feel you shouldn’t have done in response to your emotions you can make reparation. If you feel like you want to make amends for yelling, you can be apologize to your child and share how emotions
are okay but behavior at times, is not. The research on self compassion shows that people are more willing to take responsibility for mistakes when they have self compassion.

Generating kindness towards yourself is the last step of the self compassion journal.

It can help to find some phrases that may be applicable in most situations if you struggle here. ” I’m doing the best I can” or” I’ll do better next time. You might want to think about what you would say to someone you love in a
difficult situation, or what someone who loves you would say to you.

In the example it might look something like this:

I have been under a lot of stress at work, with this situation I have been having with my coworker taking credit for my work. I really need to deal with this problem. I realize I am stressed every morning because I don’t
want to go to work. That is a diffiuclt situation to deal with. Also, I’ve been worried about my mom, who seems to be not doing to well living on her own. All this anxiety is keeping me up at night so I’m so tired in the
morning, and not in the best mood to deal with dawdling. I need to apologize to my daughter when she gets home, but tell her we need to just try to stay on schedule in the mornings and get to be on time at night. I’m doing
the best I can as a single mom. It’s not easy. I’ll do better next time.

Using a self compassion journal, in conjunction with RAIN, has been helpful for many of my clients to add both mindfulness and self compassion into their lives.

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