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Difficult Emotions: One Approach You'll Want to Try

Whether we’re in the midst of a storm of anxiety or depression or we’ve come out of the storm but are in fear of relapse, strong uncomfortable emotions can seem like the devil’s spawn that we try our best to ward off against. For many of us there is a fear that these strong emotions will be overwhelming and lead us back into the great abyss of depression or another round of intense anxiety. However, it is in this very struggle of non-acceptance or non-acknowledgment of this feeling that our misery becomes compounded. Although our minds believe they are doing the best thing for us, their acts are not skillful. What’s another way?

In the mindfulness circles the acronym R.A.I.N has floated around to support people in dealing with difficult emotions. It has been found in Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance, Jack Kornfield has said it, and you will find it the upcoming Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook that I have co-authored with Bob Stahl, Ph.D (February, 2010). Here is a sneak peek:

“R” is to recognize when a strong emotion is present.  “A” is to allow or acknowledge that it is indeed there.  “I” is to investigate and bring self-inquiry to the body, feelings, and mind, and “N” is to non-identify with what’s there.   This non-identification is very useful in that it helps to deflate the story and cultivates wise understanding in the recognition that the emotion is just another passing mind state and not a definition of who you are.  Just like seeing a movie, standing back and watching the actors play out their dramas, by non-identifying with your story and seeing it as impermanent, this will help assist in loosening your own tight grip of identification.  Utilizing R.A.I. N. as a practice can help you bring space to be with things as they are and grow in deeper understanding of what drives, underlies or fuels our fears, anger, and sadness.

Turning into our emotions can feel a bit foreign since most of us live in such a pain denying culture.  Isn’t it time to begin acknowledging stress, anxiety or pain rather than suppressing, repressing, or all-too-quickly medicating it?  Can we learn to view these challenges as a rite of passage instead of running away from them?

In an earlier blog, a brave warrior on the path of life commented about her difficult experiencing feeling the pain enroute to healing. Indeed, often times growing up our love with our parents is wrought with other uncomfortable emotions such as fear, confusion, and sadness. So it is, often times we have to learn to approach and “be with” our pain in the service of a greater healing. This can cultivate more love and compassion for ourselves which is the elixir of healing.

May you find healing, be happy, be healthy, and be free from fear.

As always, please share your thoughts and questions below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Difficult Emotions: One Approach You'll Want to Try


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.


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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2009). Difficult Emotions: One Approach You'll Want to Try. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 9, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2009/05/dealing-with-difficult-emotions/

 

Last updated: 6 May 2009
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