At Allies in Recovery, we believe that your own self-care is a critical component of your Loved One’s recovery, so much so that we devote the entirety of Module 7 to caring for yourself when negative feelings get in the way. We also provide guidance on self-care in the Sanctuary, and offer you support through the AiR Journal and Track Your Progress tool.
Being good to yourself can feel nearly impossible when a Loved One is struggling with addiction and you are expending so much energy and time on their problems. Too often we fail to treat ourselves with the same generosity and compassion we freely give to others.
As writer and teacher Tara Brach explains, we are our own worst critics, often assuming, “Something is fundamentally wrong with me”:
Over the last several decades, through my work with tens of thousands of clients and meditation students, I’ve come to see the sense of personal deficiency as epidemic. When we feel unworthy we are in a trance that causes tremendous suffering. Yet, I have found in my own life and with countless others that we can awaken from this trance through mindful self-compassion….
In order to unfold, self-compassion depends on honest, direct contact with our own vulnerability. This compassion fully blossoms when we actively offer care to ourselves. Yet when we’ve gotten stuck in the trance of unworthiness, it often feels impossible to arouse self-compassion.
Brach teaches a helpful meditation called the RAIN of Self-Compassion. The acronym is easy to remember and can be a stand-alone exercise, or a tool you turn to whenever challenging emotions arise. Brach defines the steps of RAIN as follows…
Recognize what is going on, which means acknowledging, in any given moment, the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are affecting us. Common signs of the trance include a critical inner voice, feelings of shame or fear, the squeeze of anxiety or the weight of depression in the body.
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is, letting the thoughts, emotions, feelings, or sensations we have recognized simply be there, without trying to fix or avoid anything.
Investigate with interest and care. You might ask yourself: What most wants attention? How am I experiencing this in my body? What am I believing? What does this vulnerable place want from me? What does it most need? Be kind and non-judgmental as you investigate.
Nourish with self-compassion. Try to sense what the wounded, frightened or hurting place inside you most needs, and then offer some gesture of active care that might address this need. Does it need a message of reassurance? Of forgiveness? Of companionship? Of love? Experiment and see which intentional gesture of kindness most helps to comfort, soften or open your heart. It might be the mental whisper, “I’m here with you.” “I’m sorry, and I love you.” “It’s not your fault.” “Trust in your goodness.” As Brach explains, “many people find healing by gently placing a hand on the heart or cheek; or by envisioning being bathed in or embraced by warm, radiant light. If it feels difficult to offer yourself love, bring to mind a loving being—spiritual figure, family member, friend or pet—and imagine that being’s love flowing into you.”
In the following video, Tara Brach shares ten-minute, guided RAIN meditation, which will walk you through each of these four steps. After you listen to the meditation, write down any thoughts or observations in your personal journal. Feel free to bookmark this page so you can return to it again the next time you are feeling trapped by unworthiness or difficult emotions. Also, be sure to watch Module 7 for more information on how to exercise self-care.
“RAIN is a practice for life—a way of transforming doubts and fears with a healing presence,” says Brach. “Each time you are willing to slow down and recognize, “‘Oh, this is the trance of unworthiness… this is fear… this is hurt…this is judgment…,’ you are poised to de-condition the old habits and limiting self-beliefs that confine your heart. Gradually, more than any story you’ve ever told yourself about being ‘not good enough’ or ‘basically flawed,’ you’ll experience natural loving awareness as the truth of who you are.”
(Note: Tara Brach’s RAIN of Self-Compassion Guide is available in English, French, Spanish, German, and Danish at her website.)