Let it R.A.I.N.
Updated: Jan 28, 2021
I've long been a proponent of thinking about resolving psychological difficulties in terms of progressing through three distinct steps: 1) notice it; 2) sit with it; and 3) put it in perspective. This has been such a useful framework in my own life that I find myself thinking about at least daily, and often much more often than that. I want to introduce you to a slightly more nuanced (and hopefully slightly more useful) version of this hierarchy, but first let's have a look at each step in my simpler version in greater detail to get a better understanding of it's purpose.
Step 1: Notice it. You simply can't solve a problem that hasn't yet bubbled up into consciousness as even being a problem. From this, it follows that you have to notice what you are thinking or feeling before you can take action. Make a habit of slowing down to notice what you are feeling moment by moment. Is it anxiety? Is it sadness? Is it anger? Jealousy? Loneliness perhaps? Take a moment to acknowledge this before beginning your next task. If, as the saying goes, 'a problem defined is a problem halfway solved' - then a problem noticed is a problem halfway defined.
Step 2: Sit with it. After you notice a problem, aim to just sit with the discomfort that it creates for just a few moments. Notice that in this space, you have options regarding how you want to respond, and realize that nothing obligates you to respond in a certain way. Evaluate your options, take a deep breath or two, and commit to the course of action that gets you the closest to your goal.
Step 3: Put it in perspective. Once you've noticed a problem, and sat with it, aim to think about it from a few different angles. How would a friend or neighbour view your problem? If they were experiencing a similar problem, what advice would you offer them? Will you care about this problem in 5 years? 10 years? Can you think a person that would consider their prayers answered if they could trade their problems for yours?
Another way to think about this process is through Tara Brach's slightly more elaborative R.A.I.N. framework:
R - RECOGNIZE what's happening: consciously acknowledge the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise from moment to moment.
A - ALLOW the experience to be there, just as it is, without trying to fix or avoid anything.
I - INVESTIGATE with interest and care. Get curious about what you are experiencing. Consider asking questions like 1) What most wants my attention? 2) What am I believing? 3) What does this vulnerability place want from me? 4) What do I need most right now?
N - NURTURE with self-compassion. Understand that your struggle has been an experience of suffering (whether major or relatively minor in scope), and offer yourself an olive branch of sorts. Do you need reassurance? Provide it. Do you need forgiveness? Grant it.
Tara Brach notes that the final step 'after the R.A.I.N.' is to notice the change in your thinking after working through these steps. The 'fruit' of R.A.I.N. (how clever) she adds, is freedom from the limiting sense of self that brought you to contemplate these steps in the first place.
Which of these two models of working through psychological difficulty resonates most with you? And why?
This week's sharp thinking question is: What problematic thought, feeling, or sensation of yours consistently goes unnoticed or unrecognized?