After a long Sunday at the office doing psychological testing for client, I came home and sat on my patio to read the Spring edition of the Tricycle magazine (www.tricycle.com). I was reminded by a great little article of a Buddhist tool R.A.I.N. I learned of it not through Buddhist teachings per se but through reading the works of Tara Brach (www.tarabrach.com) who is a psychologist and proponent of Buddhist meditation. R.A.I.N, though technically from this tradition, is an amazing tool for anyone who is working to improve their emotion regulation skills. These are skills we endeavor to teach our clients whether they are dealing with addiction, trauma, anxiety, or other issues.
So what is R.A.I.N? It stands for: Recognize, Accept, Investigate and Non-Identify. I will briefly explain what that means and then discuss how it can help with someone dealing with an addiction craving. Recognize is the idea of knowing what is happening to you in the moment. It is our ability to not be immediately reactive but to see that there is something going on for us. It is the ability to know that we are triggered, feeling an emotion or feeling unsafe, in the actual moment it is happening.
Accept is the next letter in our acronym. The easiest way to explain this (as a non-Buddhist teacher) is to say that we name what we recognize. We accept that the feeling or emotion is present. We don’t have to like that it is with us and we don’t have to do anything with it. It just is. In this process, it helps to name what has happened. “This is a trigger.” “A craving is here.”
Next we Investigate. This means that we take a step into noticing. When I am investigating emotions with clients, we will ask questions like, “What does it feel like?” Where do you feel it in your body?” What is your body’s reaction to this emotion? This is the process of investigate. During the investigation process of R.A.I.N., a person breathes through the physical feeling and sits with it. Through the process of sitting with the emotion and breathing through it, the energy of the emotion dissipates. It is a skill also used in DBT, Ride the Wave of Emotions. We just sit with it until it passes.
The final letter, N, stands for non-identifying. This means that we take the “me” out of whatever it is that is happening to us. I liken this to Don Miguel Ruiz’s agreement of “Don’t take anything personally”, though it is a little different in this case. We can learn that we are not our emotions. We have emotions but they are not something we have to build an identity around. The observer mind kicks in when we can non-identify and we can see that though something is happening to me, I can watch it happen and not react.
How do we put this in action? Let’s take a scenario I have heard in my practice with sexual addiction. If an addict sees an attractive person, they may feel triggered. The R here is to Recognize that they are, in fact, feeling triggered and having a reaction to the physical cue. The next step is to Accept that they are triggered. I encourage clients to name it out loud if necessary. To simply state, I am feeling triggered, takes some power out of the trigger. From here, I ask clients to really get to know their body’s reaction. Investigate what happens when you are triggered. When we see this person who triggers me, my heart races, my breathing changes and I get mentally distracted. If the client can acknowledge that this is a trigger, it is easier for them to non-identify and manage the trigger.
I am feeling triggered and I know this based on my body’s reaction. I accept this and can ride the wave of the trigger until it’s power dissipates. I am not my triggers and not consumed by them. In my practice, clients who work to cultivate this observermind through meditation have gained a valuable tool for relapse prevention.
For more information on our treatment program please go to www.sexualaddictiontreatmentservices.com