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Handling an Emotional Storm With the R.A.I.N. Technique

By: Tara Cousineau
emotion storm rain technique

As human beings living in the limitations in living in our physical bodies it is natural that we can find ourselves with strong reactions. After all, the body has a tendency to resonate with the energies in the environment, too. People, places, and things all hold energy. Your true self, your loving intentions, and soul purpose can get camouflaged by negative vibrations from worry, panic, exhaustion, anger and so on, or that of the people around you. This can cause disconnection. These triggers can also flare up an inner critical voice, who can wreak havoc on your sense of self. This is the voice who reprimands you, says you are not good enough, or admonishes you with, “Who do you think you are….”  for wanting, needing, desiring something new, fresh, alive and loving.

The acronym R.A.I.N. is a helpful kindfulness tool for just such moments. It can be a salve for those times when you are caught under a spell of negativity, which can happen naturally when feeling overwhelmed or overly critical, and consumed with anxiety, fear or uncertainty.

You can use RAIN in a difficult moment to cultivate a deeper connection and direct experience to the world. Let’s go through each step.

  • R. The R in RAIN stands for recognize — recognize what’s going on in the body, and consciously noticing in any given moment the strong emotions, thoughts or sensations that are arising… and doing so in a way without judgment.

Recognizing can be as simple as a silent nod, or a mental whisper, noticing that a reaction is occurring. It can be helpful to name the experience such as: “This is anger” or “I’m feeling frustrated” or “I’m just so tired.” “Oh that’s my inner bully acting up.”

  • A. The A in RAIN stands for allow — allowing means letting the thoughts, emotions or sensations simply be there… applying loving attention to your body… it doesn’t mean we have to agree with the inner critic or like the situation at hand. It simply means that we can honestly acknowledge the arising of any judgment, as well as the uncomfortable or painful feelings that percolate underneath.

Instead of trying to suppress the experience, or resist, avoid or repel, we can soften into it with the quality of kindfulness, and not get caught up in the thoughts or the emotions.

Rather it is about saying “Yes, this is what’s happening right now.” “It’s OK.” “Take a moment here and just be.” We can tell our inner bully to go take a seat in the corner. This is a time out.

  • I. The I in RAIN stands for investigate — to investigate your experience with kindness and care. Once we recognize and allow what is arising we can become curious, and call on our natural ability to inquire. Tapping your inner detective and asking yourself, “What most wants my attention right now?” “How am I experiencing this reaction in my body?”  “What is my inner critic telling me, or trying to warn me about? Am I believing it? Is it true?”

You can reflect: “How can I bring kindness to this moment?”

It is essential to take a non-judgmental attitude and move away from trying to interpret or overthink. Instead, bring your awareness to the felt sense in the body and allow direct experience or connection in the moment.  The body is an exquisite emotional radar system with important information and clues. You may notice over time that there is an incredibly wise and quiet voice inside. An attitude of care helps to cultivate a sense of safety and understanding. You begin to befriend yourself as you would care for a dear friend in need.

  • N. The last letter in RAIN stands for nurture or nourish. We can intentionally care for the vulnerable and wounded places inside. You can ask: What does this place deep inside me need most? Reassurance? Respect? Forgiveness? Friendship? Love?

N can also stand for what some meditation teachers call non-attachment. This means cultivating an ability to take a step back and having some distance from the reactivity. This means not getting hijacked by difficult emotions (the brain’s flight or fight reaction) or being harassed by mind’s incessant commentary. Instead, you can be a benevolent caretaker just as you might care for a small child. In this way, you’re not fused with or defined by the reactivity; instead you adopt a sense of care, ease and compassion.

RAIN allows you to find refuge from the emotional storm by a very deep inner sense of peace, comfort, and homecoming. When you are at home in your center you can intentionally choose who you want to be, how you want to act, and what kind of world you want to live in.  And that is rather refreshing! 

To listen to these instructions you may download an Audio version: The R.A.I.N. Technique – guided instruction (7 min)

This article is republished from Dr. Tara Cousineau’s website with her permission.

About the Author

Tara Cousineau

Psychologist, Research Scientist, Author

Clinical psychologist at Harvard University, research scientist and author of The Kindness Cure, specializing in positive coping strategies.

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