Letting Go of Shame, with Rick Hanson

October 8, 2013

For many, shame is one of the most difficult emotions to work with. It is so pervasive in contemporary life, yet it is often hidden underneath layers of more “obvious” sorts of feelings and emotions like rage, sadness, anger, and despair. Sounds True author and dear friend Dr. Rick Hanson, organizer of The Compassionate Brain free online video series, has spent decades studying shame, self-worth, and self-acceptance, as a neuropsychologist and as a psychotherapist working with clients.

Additionally, Rick is the author of a number of audio learning programs, each of which offers simple guided meditations to open you to your true nature – that of a happy, content, aware, alive, and loving human being.

To help you begin to let go of the shame you may be carrying, Rick has put together the following simple, yet very effective guided exercise. We hope that you find it helpful. If you’d like to read more about Rick’s work in the area of shame and self-acceptance, you are welcome to read his article, “From Shame to Self-Worth.”

Guided Exercise – Letting Go of Shame

Imagine that you are sitting beside a powerful river on a beautiful sunny day. You feel safe and contented and strong.

Imagine that sitting with you is a wise and supportive being. Perhaps someone you know personally, perhaps a historical figure, perhaps a guardian angel, etc. Know in your heart that this is a very wise and honest and caring being.

Imagine a small boat tied to the bank of the river, there near you. Imagine an empty and open box in the boat that you can reach easily. Alright.

Now, continuing to be centered in feelings of worth and well-being, bring to mind lightly something you are ashamed of. Represent it, whatever it is, as a small object on the ground in front of you.

Imagine that the being is telling you, or that you are telling the being, some of the many causes and conditions that led to that thing you are ashamed of. You don’t need the whole story; often a few seconds in your imagination can summarize the heart of the matter.

With that summary of the causes of the shame, see if you can feel a letting go inside.

If you like, in your imagination, bow to the object representing the shame: it exists, it is what it is.

Then put the object in the box, and let it go as much as you can.

Now bring to mind, lightly, something else you are ashamed of. Represent it, whatever it is, as a small object on the ground in front of you.

I’ll be repeating the instructions, and feel free to go at your own pace, slowing down to dwell on certain parts, or speeding up to get through them to additional things you’d like to put in the boat.

[Repeat as many times as you like.]

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Let it R.A.I.N – a home for all of you – w...

Dear friends, some years ago a simple, yet powerful approach to working with difficult emotions emerged out of the intersection of the fields of mindfulness and psychotherapy. Come to be known as the “RAIN” technique (an acronym for the four steps of the process), many therapists, meditators, healers, and practitioners have found it to be incredibly helpful for on-the-spot relief and support during challenging times.

Here, friend and Sounds True author, Dr. Rick Hanson, describes the RAIN practice and the benefits is offers. This article was originally published by our friends at The Huffington Post. We hope you find it helpful and beneficial in your own life – and in the work you may be doing with others.

Let it R.A.I.N. – by Rick Hanson, PhD

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.

How?

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 = Recognize: 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.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (from Random House in October, 2013; in 4 languages), Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (New Harbinger; in 24 languages), Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time (New Harbinger; in 12 languages), and Mother Nurture: A Mother’s Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships(Penguin). Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and an Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, his work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, CBC, FoxBusiness, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report,and O Magazine and he has several audio programs with Sounds True. His weekly e-newsletter – Just One Thing – has over 91,000 subscribers, and also appears on Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and other major websites.

raindrops4

Rick Hanson: Self-Directed Brain Change, Part 2

Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and the founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. He is the author of the books Buddha’s Brain and Hardwiring Happiness, and with Sounds True has created several audio programs, including The Enlightened Brain and the new learning course Self-Directed Brain Change. In the second half of a two-part interview, Tami speaks with Dr. Hanson about how we can move from a “red” reactive state to a “green” state of calm, how this progression aligns with the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, and his vision for how healthy brains can change the state of our world. (63 minutes)

Rick Hanson: Self-Directed Brain Change, Part 1

Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and the founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. He is the author of the books Buddha’s Brain and Hardwiring Happiness, and with Sounds True has created several audio programs, including The Enlightened Brain and the new learning course Self-Directed Brain Change. In the first half of a two-part interview, Tami speaks with Dr. Hanson about the ways we can “install” positive brain states as lasting traits; how we can respond in situations when we feel our basic needs are threatened; and the three ways of working with unpleasant experiences—letting be, letting go, and letting in. (66 minutes)

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