Written by Ross Abbott, Head of Health & Wellbeing
I have to admit, at times I am very hard on myself and get defensive with others. I feel proud to say that, which might sound strange but I am at a stage in my journey where I can acknowledge my actions and associate them with my thought processes.
Being honest, that still doesn’t excuse the defensive one liners but the spiralling thoughts of inadequacy and failure I have is a strong force but it isn’t me… well it is me but isn’t me, if that makes sense?!
It’s human nature to focus on negative thoughts due to the natural perception of associated danger. It’s also human nature to accept our thoughts as true and normal instead of analysing them. These thoughts then slowly become internalised beliefs that impact how we treat ourselves.
So as I said earlier, which might have sounded strange I am proud. Not that my thoughts impact my behaviour to myself and others but that I realise this, and realisation is the first step.
Actively doing something about it is a lot harder. I have followed many paths with the management of my thoughts and self compassion and like music tracks there are some that I have thought rocked and some that I thought didn’t. I have also realised that at times the “track” might have actually rocked, it just didn’t for me at that moment in time.
As I sit here on sunny day wishing for the weather to change for the garden it seems appropriate to write about a 4 step process RAIN, credited to Michele McDonald which I have found helpful.
RAIN stands for Recognise, Allow, Investigate and Non-identification.
If you’re trying to practice more self compassion, you might find it helpful too.
So I stop, pause and take a second to recognise that a powerful emotion is present and acknowledge what is happening mentally and physically. For me labelling the emotion can help with the recognition, “I’m stressed” or “I’m feeling overwhelmed” for example.
Allow means ‘roll with it’. It doesn’t mean I have to like my present thoughts and emotions, and I often don’t but I recognise this is what I am experiencing, right here and right now.
So allow the emotions? On initial reading this might seem strange to allow this to actually happen to me but with practice I have learnt allowing the emotions means I can move through the stages for the ultimate result.
By allowing the emotions I am actually dropping my mental resilience to the situation to allow a conscious response to how I am feeling rather than allowing the natural impulses to suppress or ignore the emotions. This denial of emotions can lead me to get “caught up” and overwhelmed by my emotions, which can also happen, but I’m trying!
Now that I have recognised and allowed this emotion I make a choice to investigate it, to seek to understand it. When I do this I always try to be kind to myself, this isn’t me.
“Why do I feel the way I do?” “What has happened?” are questions that help me.
At this stage I also consider factors that can might also impact my vulnerability “How did I sleep?” “Hows my son feeling?”
For me a heightened chance of vulnerability impacts my mood and opens the doors for my thoughts and emotions to take over.
My next level of investigation is about what can I do?:
“What do I really need right now?” “Are there things I could do to support me and everyone now?” These questions help as I can choose the response and my pathway.
What I like about RAIN is that this process isn’t rigid, it is fluid like my mental health. Sometimes I don’t always need to get to the investigation stage as just the recognition and allowing the emotions can be enough.
I have already mentioned this a few times “this isn’t really me”
Yes, my thoughts and the impacts they have on me are mine but they aren’t really who I am.
For me this brings freedom, peace and hope to the situation, no matter how intense my thoughts get I am still me.
I accept that at times my responses can not be ideal but expressing my thought processes can really be beneficial to me and others.
Tools like RAIN rock for me, but we are all different. It might not rock for you now but might do at a later stage.