Think with me about difficulty for a moment. Difficulty is difficult — especially as processed by our minds.

The problem is that in difficulty our minds tend to run away from reality and get obsessive and exaggerate the danger. We run hot; we run negative. Our minds terrorize us, make the problem worse by constantly returning to it and focusing on it.

I do this. I do this with my physical pain. Focusing on it is like digging at a wound that already hurts. Poking in there makes it hurt more.

Perhaps you have heard of the RAIN technique for dealing with pain and stress, unpleasant experiences and feelings.

The four steps are as follows:

R   Recognize

A   Allow

I   Investigate

N   Non-Identifiy

The basic idea is to honestly recognize the feelings that we have in any given experience, allow ourselves to sit with them with no judgment, investigate them but gently refuse to define ourselves by these thoughts and feelings.

This approach is a way to de-stress, to calm down, to be curious but not traumatized by thoughts and feelings, especially those that come from negative associations or experiences.

I’m interested in the ideas of the last one (N). The idea is to not identify yourself or define yourself by small parts of yourself or temporary feelings or experiences.

It has been explained like this.

“Disentangle yourself from the various parts of the [painful] experiences knowing that they are small, fleeting aspects of the totality of who you are, 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.”

I like this. I have pain from an old surgery, but I am not defined by that pain. When I over-focus on it then it seems to become the whole universe. But it is not. There are whole sections of the rest of my body that don’t hurt at all. And there are huge expanses of time in my life when this pain has not been present.

I may not be productive in my moments of intense pain, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been productive and won’t again be in the future. Therefore, I can work at being patient with the moment that is unwanted. And most importantly I can refuse to define myself by it.

We would all do well to practice such non-judgmental, gentle, patient responses to difficulty. We are not one of our poorly functioning or harmed body parts. We are not defined by one bad relationship we have had. One perceived failure doesn’t define us. We are not one feeling that we might have on one given day. We are not our ability or non-ability to function in any one given moment.

As concerning negative feelings sometimes I’m afraid, sometimes I’m lonely, sometimes I am fuzzy headed, but none of those are me. I am simply having moments, human moments, moments we all have, that flow through us but are not the essence of us.

So what am I that is more consistent than this? I’m a precious human being. I am a father, and a husband, and a brother. I am a friend, I am a helper, I am a Christian, I am a child of God, I am a creature of great value and worth.

So let it rain. Let it rain gentleness. Let it rain self-acceptance. Let it rain wisdom, the wisdom to live humbly with difficulty, the wisdom to define ourself accurately and yet compassionately.

My prayer: God help me to be as gentle and loving with my imperfect mind and body as you are with me.

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