July 27, 2015

Working with Difficult Emotions

It's human nature to resist pain. Evolution trained us to push away the difficult, to just survive. These habits are well-grooved, but they're no longer necessary. And they block true healing. As Carl Jung concisely stated, "What you resist, persists." 

When I resist pain, I only create more pain. If I resist my grief, anxiety, shame, or fear, I strengthen the hurt not the healing. But when I make space for difficult emotions--when I invite them in and look more closely--there's a release. It's counter-intuitive, but it works every time. After years of practice, I have a new relationship with fear. It's no longer a scary monster in the corner. Now it's a known companion. It's a signal: look inward and be gentle.

Michele McDonald created an acronym for this process: RAIN (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Non-identify). First we must recognize our situation--what is my direct experience in this moment? Exactly how do I feel uneasy? (This takes time and inner-reflection.) The second step is a big leap: allow for the feeling; allow for the experience, as is. Here, we release our grip and let the feeling flow. (This can be done in small, safe ways; it's a gradual process.) Investigation is the third step. Once we allow for the emotion, we bring curiosity--not in a heady way, but in an embodied way. How does this emotion pulse in my body? What are the sensations and how do they change? (This investigation is worthy of a lifetime.) The last step is resting in awareness, in presence. Our emotions don't define us. If we allow for difficult feelings, eventually they morph and settle, and we sit in a centered place.

This path is both brave and beautiful. It takes strength and kindness. If you'd like to try, I'll be your guide:


  1. Your voice and guidance is a gift, Joy. I love that quote: 'What you resist, persists".

    1. Thanks, Steph. I always love seeing you here. May we walk together in this process of letting go. Hugs!