“When I’m stressed about something, my feelings get buried under my thoughts. Some of those thoughts center around questions about the future: “What if this happens? What if that happens?” Other thoughts are about the feelings: “You shouldn’t be feeling these negative feelings. You should be trusting God.” …Some months ago [my therapist] suggested that I practice self-compassion as a way to cope with negative feelings, and I’ve had a wonderful year learning more about what self-compassion looks like and why God would desire it for me. The form of self-compassion that I have found helpful is summarized in the acronym RAIN:
1. Recognize [feelings]. It takes a bit of effort to figure out what I’m feeling because the thoughts swirling around my brain are so vivid and powerful. When I feel my negative thoughts careening out of control, I’m learning to stop and try to discern the feelings that lie behind the thoughts. Most often those feelings are fear or sadness, but I also sometimes feel anger, hopelessness and frustration.
2. Acknowledge [feelings]. After recognizing the emotion, I sit with it for several breaths. I focus on my breathing and let myself feel whatever it is.
3. Investigate [feelings]. I try to identify where the emotion is located in my body, because this helps identify emotions the next time they happen. I also try to figure out what the emotion wants. Sometimes it wants to dominate my life. Sometimes it just wants to be acknowledged.
4. Non-identify [with feelings]. When the feeling wants to dominate, it wants to be pervasive. It wants me to identify myself with that feeling. When I non-identify with the feeling, I might think about feelings as weather. They come and go. …Or I might focus on other feelings I’ve had that day–such as contentment, joy, happiness, or gratitude, no matter how fleeting–to demonstrate to my brain that this strong negative feeling is only a part of me, a part that needs to be acknowledged, but a part that does not define me.
…Why is feeling feelings a Christian spiritual practice? The Psalms demonstrate that all emotions can be brought into God’s presence. How can we do that if we don’t know what we’re feeling? God made us, knows us, and calls us to love and serve him. How can we do that with our whole beings if our feelings are driving us into counterproductive thoughts and behavior? My swirling negative thoughts truly are demonic, and I’m much better able to let them go if I acknowledge the feelings that lie behind them. This process of feeling the feelings, called self-compassion by some people, extends the same kind of compassion to myself that God asks me to extend to others. Why would God want me to show compassion for others but not for myself? Living under the burden of stress makes it harder for me to love and serve God. This gift of self-compassion through the RAIN process enables me to love and serve God more fully because I am not preoccupied with my swirling thoughts and feelings. Christian spiritual practices help us walk with Jesus and help us grow in faithfulness, and this process helps me do that.” Lynn Baab
“Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes
asked Jesus to leave them,
because they were overcome with fear.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Are you dominated by your emotions?
- Do you see emotions as misleading?
- What can you learn from your emotions?
Abba, teach me to listen for your voice in my emotions.
For More: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero
Thanks for following this blog. Longer this time. Too hard to abbreviate more, too important not to do.