Mindful Practice does not discriminate. It cools hot tempers and restores awareness. Rain does not discriminate either. It cools, refreshes and restores everyone.
“RAIN” is also a well-known acronym for mindfulness practice, which is often useful in couples therapy. The R.A.I.N. practice teaches couples how to be curious and cultivate an interlocking capacity to hold shared experiences with openness and curiosity while suspending judgment. This is particularly important when you are not getting along, and especially crucial for men. Mindful Practice helps reduce defensiveness and stonewalling.
Mindful Practice and R.A.I.N.
- Recognize: When you are having a tense conversation with your partner, simply notice the stream of thoughts that flow through your mind. Don’t embroider or add to them. Just remain open and present to observe the flow. I sometimes describe this as sitting on a lawn chair by the side of the thought stream and watching the thoughts speed by.
- Accept. Don’t evaluate your discomfort. Don’t criticize yourself. Don’t criticize your partner. Step out of the trap of cause and effect. Accept correction as openly as you accept your flaws and enduring vulnerabilities. The antidote to defensiveness requires asking, “what is my partner saying about me that I can agree with?” while noticing and modulating your discomfort at the same time. I sometimes float the idea with my male clients; “what if you automatically assumed that your wife was always accurate in her complaints? What beliefs would you have to abandon to inhabit that point of view comfortably?”
Men particularly can have a hard time “accepting” a complaint or criticism. In Mindful Practice, It’s essential to sloooow down.
Gottman reminds us that it is the husband’s ability to remain calm and neutral in the face of withering criticism that is the most critical factor in de-escalating the marital conflict.
- Investigate: Why are you so defensive? Is there some story you embrace about this conflict with your spouse? As you notice your mind settles on a story, notice what is happening in your body at the same time. How does the story sit on your nervous system? Does it extend to your partner? In Mindful Practice, we notice how we are reacting from the inside out.
- Non-identification: This is the protective umbrella of Mindful Practice. Don’t take what your mind is telling you so personally. It is merely offering its passionate interpretation…probably based on your family of origin.
“Just Because your Cat has kittens in the oven doesn’t make them biscuits.” Polish Proverb.
Regular practice of Mindfulness ultimately results in a robust “observing self.”
If you engage in a Mindful Practice faithfully, you will gradually learn not to take what your mind tells you personally. Your awareness will deepen, and perhaps you will acquire compassion for the automatically reactive part of you.