The “RAIN” technique

Can you be with the whole of your psyche? Let It R.A.I.N

I came across this article, written by Rick Hanson an American psychotherapist  and based on the work of Michelle McDonald, a Mindfulness Teacher, which I thought was a great technique:


When you’re young, the territory of the psyche is like a vast estate, with rolling hills, forests and plains, swamps and meadows. So many things can be experienced, expressed, wanted, and loved.

But as life goes along, most people pull back from major parts of their psyche. Perhaps a swamp of sadness was painful, or fumes of toxic wishes were alarming, or jumping exuberantly in a meadow of joy irritated a parent into a scolding. Or maybe you saw someone else get in trouble for feeling, saying, or doing something and you resolved, consciously or unconsciously, to Stay Away From That Place Forever.
In whatever way it happens, most of us end up by mid-adulthood living in the gate house, venturing out a bit, but lacking much sense of the whole estate, the great endowment of the whole psyche. Emotions are shut down, energetic and erotic wellsprings of vitality are capped, deep longings are set aside, sub-personalities are shackled and silenced, old pain and troubles are buried, the roots of reactions – hurt, anger, feelings of inadequacy – are veiled so we can’t get at them, and we live at odds with both Nature and our own nature.

Sure, the processes of the psyche need some regulation. Not all thoughts should be spoken, and not all desires should be acted upon! But if you suppress, disown, push away, recoil from, or deny major parts of yourself, then you feel cut off, alienated from yourself, lacking vital information about what is really going on inside, no longer at home in your own skin or your own mind – which feels bad, lowers effectiveness at home and work, fuels interpersonal issues, and contributes to health problems.
So what can we do? How can we reclaim, use, enjoy, and be at peace with our whole estate – without being overwhelmed by its occasional swamps and fumes? This is where R.A.I.N. comes in.



R.A.I.N. is an acronym developed by Michelle McDonald, a senior mindfulness teacher, to summarize a powerful way to expand self-awareness. (I’ve adapted it a bit below, and any flaws in the adaptation are my own, not Michelle’s.)

R = Recognise: Notice that you are experiencing something, such as irritation at the tone of voice used by your partner, child, or co-worker. Step back into observation rather than reaction. Without getting into story, simply name what is present, such as “annoyance,” “thoughts of being mistreated,” “body firing up,” “hurt,” “wanting to cry.”

A = Accept (Allow): Acknowledge that your experience is what it is, even if it’s unpleasant. Be with it without attempting to change it. Try to have self-compassion instead of self-criticism. Don’t add to the difficulty by being hard on yourself.

I = Investigate (Inquire): Try to find an attitude of interest, curiosity, and openness. Not detached intellectual analysis but a gently engaged exploration, often with a sense of tenderness or friendliness toward what it finds. Open to other aspects of the experience, such as softer feelings of hurt under the brittle armor of anger. It’s OK for your inquiry to be guided by a bit of insight into your own history and personality, but try to stay close to the raw experience and out of psychoanalyzing yourself.

N = Not-identify (Not-self): Have a feeling/thought/etc., instead of being it. Disentangle yourself from the various parts of the experience, knowing that they are small, fleeting aspects of the totality you are. See the streaming nature of sights, sounds, thoughts, and other contents of mind, arising and passing away due mainly to causes that have nothing to do with you, that are impersonal. Feel the contraction, stress, and pain that comes from claiming any part of this stream as “I,” or “me,” or “mine” – and sense the spaciousness and peace that comes when experiences simply flow.

R.A.I.N. and related practices of spacious awareness are fundamental to mental health, and always worth doing in their own right. Additionally, sometimes they alone enable painful or challenging contents of mind to dissipate and pass away.

But often it is not enough to simply be with the mind, even in as profound a way as R.A.I.N. Then we need to work with the mind, by reducing what’s negative and increasing what’s positive. (It’s also necessary to work with the mind to build up the inner resources needed to be with it; being with and working with the mind are not at odds with each other as some say, but in fact support each other.) And whatever ways we work with the garden of the mind – pulling weeds and planting flowers – will be more successful after it R.A.I.N.s.

Time structuring theory

Time Structuring

I liked this framework and article from Relationships about how we spend time with ourselves and other people using time structuring theory in Transactional Analysis.


Time structuring is piece of theory which allows us to think about how intensely we spend time with other people. Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis, believed that human beings need to structure time and relationships with other people in some way.

He assumed that we have an inbuilt drive to create structure out of chaos in relationships, just like our brain organizes sensory input in terms of objects and meaningful categories. He suggested six possible ways that people might structure their time and relationships: withdrawal, rituals, pastimes, activities, psychological games, and intimacy.

The order of the possible patterns is important. The emotional intensity in our relationships increases step-by-step as we move from withdrawal to intimacy. While we may feel lonely and unstimulated by withdrawal, we move to a highly charged and emotionally open state when we’re intimate with another person (also have a look at psychological hungers in relationships for a discussion on intimacy).

However, by the same token, the emotional risk increases when we move from withdrawal to intimacy. During withdrawal we are emotionally very safe, and no-one can hurt as we are not in contact with anyone. When we are intimate with another person we open ourselves to the other and whatever they bring into the encounter, good or bad. Unfortunately, a lot of us needed to learn how to protect themselves in relationships as children, which limits our capacity to be emotionally close as adults (see script).

We therefore tend to spend less time in intimate encounters and more time in safer social situations than is perhaps good for us, since our relationships become superficial and empty of real attachment or investment, and so fail to nourish or stimulate us. However, we all need time in each one of the different social situations: for example, we need time to withdraw and be with ourselves. Or, when we get to know somebody new, we may want to spend some time just “pastiming”, either because we don’t feel safe yet with the other person or because we don’t actually want to get to know them any better.

Here’s some more information about the different ways it’s possible to spend time with people:


Withdrawal is spending time out of contact or out of relationship. Some people will physically withdraw and be on their own.

Other people withdraw on the inside and are physically present, but emotionally absent. However, we all need time to be with ourselves and regroup, so some withdrawal time is necessary for all of us.


These are highly structured and stylised ways of interacting. For example, a greeting like “Hello, how are you?” and a response of “Thanks, very well, and how are you?” is a ritual. Two people are interacting, albeit in a very structured and pre-programmed way.

The good thing about rituals is that they give us a lot of structure and security and a possible way in to more intense contact. On the downside, they contain little emotional value: you could exchange hellos with a complete stranger without much, if any, emotional contact.


This is the dinner party level of interaction. Here we make polite and easy conversation and there are culturally agreed topics we can talk about, knowing we won’t get into hairy situations with our partners in the exchanges. In Britain we might talk about the weather or the food or your last holiday, but you certainly wouldn’t start talking about the difficulties you are having with your partner or your mother.

There is a bit more of an exchange involved, but it’s still pretty safe, because both parties will avoid any controversial or painful topics. This level of interaction fits with casual acquaintances and people you have only just met. It might be amusing for a while, but most people will get quite bored with it rather sooner than later.


This is probably where many of us spend a lot of time with others. Activity stands for “goal directed activity” with others, say attending a meeting or playing tennis. It is time we spend doing things with others, rather than just being with them.

Activity may include work, or at home it could involve running a household or looking after the children. It’s shared time, and may include having a lot of fun, but it may also mean we are avoiding really being with the other and meeting them fully.

Psychological Games

This is a chapter in itself! You can read more on games, if you haven’t already done so, under the section games. In short, games are a sequence of interactions with others which involve a hidden agenda and which end up with both parties experiencing familiar bad feelings.

Games can be seen as a failed attempt to be intimate with another person. However, both parties do not take the full risk of being open and authentic with each other and the result is a repetitive pattern of interacting from set roles.


This is an authentic encounter with another, a moment of shared openness, trust and honesty. Intimacy means emotionally intimate, not necessarily sexually intimate (unfortunately, a lot of sex isn’t necessarily emotionally intimate). It also doesn’t necessarily mean nice and peaceful.

An intimate encounter may be an angry argument, but conducted from a place of respect and openness to one’s own feelings and those of the other(s). Intimacy gives us the highest level of emotional intensity, but also involves taking the greatest risks (one could be rejected or ridiculed when showing one’s true self and being open – something that most people would find emotionally very painful).

In a lot of our relationships it’s the moments of emotional intimacy that are missing and which are so important to us all. Intimacy means attachment and letting somebody into one’s heart and soul. It means we are allowing the other person to impact us and change us. If relationships don’t work it is often, maybe even always, caused by lack of shared intimate time.

If you want to know more about how to apply the concept of time structuring to your life and your relationship, have a look at applying time structuring.


Psychotherapy Resources

Psychotherapy Resources

I have trained in different forms of Psychotherapeutic and Psychology theory over the last few years including foundation Counselling training, Constellations Family systems training and Group analysis. I have also part completed integrated psychotherapy training at the Metanoia Institute.

I am writing some of my own and collecting articles around aspects of Psychotherapy and Psychology which may be of interest, in a similar way to the many Coaching articles I have written.

Please select the resources you are interested in from the menu on the right hand side