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Transforming difficult emotions

When we are in the grip of strong emotions it is hard to stay present and focused.  Through mindfulness practice rather than trying to make strong emotions go away, we learn to let it be.  We learn to turn towards these difficult experiences with a kindly curiosity.  This helps us to become more present and observe what is actually happening.    We learn to be with the thoughts and sensations as they arise.

A simple practice to help you work with difficult feelings is RAIN:

The first step is to simply notice what is happening right now.  If something happens that leaves you feeling uncomfortable, instead of ignoring it and hoping it will go away, try looking more closely.  You might find it helpful to label what you are feeling e.g. sadness, confusion, anger, frustration.

Having recognised the feeling in step one, you accept the feeling and allow it to be there rather than trying to dismiss your feeling or labelling it as wrong.  You become more aware of your thoughts, body sensations and emotions as they come up and you offer yourself compassion.  You neither hold on to the feeling nor judge yourself; instead, you let it be.

In this phase, you bring a kindly curiosity to your experience rather than trying to get rid of it through blaming, fixating or judging yourself or others.  By getting more intimate with your experience you gain greater insight into what is actually happening.  As you explore your experience you begin to notice the complexities.  For example, if you sit with the feeling of frustration you may also see that along with frustration there are other emotions such as helplessness, sadness or fear.

Rather than labelling yourself as, for example, a fearful or angry person you notice instead that there is some fear or anger here right now.

By using this simple four step process we can begin to recognise what is happening in these difficult moments.  By doing this we start to accept what is here and we give ourselves the opportunity to respond differently.  Taking a moment to acknowledge our difficulty and comfort ourselves can help us to ride through these moments with more ease.

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