Driving home one day, I was lost in thought when I spotted a bumper sticker that read: "Don't believe everything you think."
I had to laugh because at that very moment my mind was creating a tragic mental drama that was so powerful I actually did believe it—and I was making myself miserable because of it. The bumper sticker knocked me out of my reverie and jolted me into awareness of my own crazy story-making. Sudden enlightenment!
I thought about that moment recently when a reader commented that her New Year's resolution was to change a negative thinking habit that was distressing her. Emotional pain from self-criticism, anxiety, depression, worry, and other negative mental habits is common to all of us. Not that these emotions aren't useful; like all emotions, they have their place as possible signals that something is wrong (or right). But in excess, these emotions are simply overwhelming and do us no good.
When you are in a situation when your negative thinking habits are making you suffer, consider trying the "RAIN" technique to soften and re-channel these harmful patterns. Buddhist teachers and therapists such as Tara Brach often teach this technique to bring mindful awareness to emotional distress and provide soothing balm for emotional pain.
The RAIN technique can help you be your own best friend instead of your own worst critic. Here are the basic steps you can take to RAIN on your parade of negative thoughts, soothe yourself, and move on:
Sometimes I find that it's not enough just to be mindful of the whirlwind of my hurtful negative thoughts. When this happens, I add an S to the formula, modifying RAIN into RAINS. The S step is:
The RAINS technique is not a panacea and doesn't work for everyone or in every situation. But I find it amazingly effective. As I say in my book, Changepower, "The more you can surround your negative thinking with compassion, the easier it will be to dissolve it and move on."
(c) Meg Selig. All rights reserved.
"The more you can surround..."Selig, M. Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (Routledge, 2009), p. 103.
"Instead of resisting..." Brach, Tara. Radical Acceptance, (Bantam Books, 2003), p. 28.
There are a number of excellent descriptions of the RAIN method on the Internet. Here are a few: Elisha Goldstein, lhttp://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2009/05/dealing-with-difficult-emotions/ Tara Brach: http://tarabrach.com/articles/RAIN-WorkingWithDifficulties.html