I’m going to let you in on a little secret….I practice what I preach.
When I recommend meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing and exercise in my compassion fatigue seminars and workshops, it’s because it has had a profound affect on me and my mental state. I’ve battled more than one addiction in my life and have come to realize how universal these simple, yet powerful practices can be when we incorporate them into our daily life.
Speaking of addictions, they are simply coping mechanisms that almost work. The object of our addiction (food, drugs, alcohol, technology, etc) almost soothes the dissonance we feel and the emotions we are trying to avoid. Almost.
The problem is when we come down, wake up or walk away we find that not only are the emotions, issues, problems, disappointments still there but now they have self-loathing on top of them. And difficult emotions bathed in self-loathing is a recipe for suffering. Trust me on this one, I’m very experienced.
I also know I am not alone. I recently received this message from a workshop participant:
“I am trying to do as you say and ‘let go’ because otherwise I know the job will destroy me…It can make you cry and scream. It can make you feel so angry and so sad. It can make you feel so helpless and disillusioned. It can make you feel so frustrated and overwhelmed. It can make you so angry at what we humans do to animals, how we treat them. Sometimes you just want to pound the walls, sometimes you do. Sometimes you just want to scream. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you just want to cry, sometimes you do. Sometimes you want to run away from it all, but you can’t, not really.”
So how do we let go? How do we stop torturing ourselves with our own intense emotions and critical thoughts?
One very helpful technique is the RAIN technique. It’s taught by many meditation and mindfulness teachers and can help you find not only self-compassion but relief from the mental boxing ring. I’ve used this technique when I find myself angry at someone for not doing what I want them to do, when I receive a comment about a seminar or workshop that I don’t like and then am hard on myself and when I just don’t feel quite right and don’t know why.
R= Recognize what you are feeling
Sometimes we just need to stop and say to ourselves “What am I feeling in this moment?”. Often we may be in a bad mood, feel off, cranky and our feelings are swirling around in the backdrop of our lives. We have to stop and notice that the hell we are actually feeling. Sometimes just naming them (anger, frustration, sadness) can bring a sense of freeing.
Oh, sadness, ok so that’s it. I’m feeling really sad about …
A= Allow, accept & acknowledge
Allow the feeling to permeate you, I can tell you it won’t let up until you actually feel it so why not just do it now? It won’t overtake you. You can handle it. Breathe and accept it as a friend. Feelings aren’t our enemy and yet we treat them as such. We do all kinds of things (see above) to avoid them only to find out they are never as intense as we imagined.
This doesn’t mean we like the feelings but we are acknowledging that they are there rather than continuing to try to push them down, away and distract ourselves from them.
Think about the energy that is required to repel them. It’s draining you.
This step is where we take a moment, pause and stop resisting what is.
Breathe….sadness…ok I’m letting you in…..breathe……I’m softening to it….oh, ok it’s not so bad…
Be curious about where in your body you are feeling the feeling or what you are believing about yourself. A favorite question to myself is “What am I making this mean?”. When we can be curious without judging we often can see that our thinking is often misconstrued.
We might also find that certain feelings are directly linked to our old tapes that are playing in the background, usually a version of I’m not good enough.
I’m feeling such a heaviness in my chest….and in my neck and shoulders….where have I felt this kind of sadness before? What am I making it mean about me? What am I projecting?
This is the most freeing part of the technique, to realize the thoughts and feelings are not YOU. You can literally step back and watch them from afar, not attaching, linking up with or identifying with them.
It’s not that we are ignoring them (at all!) but we realize that we are not our thoughts. As the popular bumper sticker says Don’t believe everything you think. That’s life-changing advice right there!
Ok, so the sadness is there, I see it but I’m not going to get lost in it. I don’t need to. I’ve let it wash over me and now I can step aside and just observe it and breathe……letting it go….letting it go…I breathe in calm, I breathe out stress…
So here you have another practice to use when you find yourself swept up in emotion and overwhelmed or reaching for an unhealthy coping strategy like that third glass of wine or the pint of ice cream when you aren’t hungry.
I’ve found that I can sit with a feeling, feel it and then let it pass through me. That’s all it’s asking of us anyway, just to be acknowledged. That’s very different from attaching to it and burying it in our heart. And yes friends, it’s a practice which means we do it over and over and eventually we learn to trust that our emotions are actually friendly and have something to teach us.
Be kind to yourself.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
~ Lao Tzu
Julie Squires is a Certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist & Educator who brings a unique perspective and approach to support the sustained energy and passion of animal workers. Her company, Rekindle LLC, offers on-site compassion fatigue seminars and workshops to veterinary hospitals, animal shelters and other animal organizations.
Julie has more than 20 years of experience within the veterinary field and with leading organizations where she has developed and executed trainings, workshops and 1:1 coaching. www.rekindlesolutions.com