Dysphoria, the embodied feeling that something with our bodies isn’t right, is very common for trans and gender expansive people. For some, it’s extremely intense and hard to deal with, for others it’s quite mild. My experience with dysphoria has been more on the intense side, and I’ve struggled with it for a long time.
There is an ancient, Buddhist-originated mindfulness technique that can be really helpful in dealing with dysphoria: RAIN. RAIN is an acronym, standing for:
Recognize what’s happening.
Allow your experience to be there, just what it is.
Investigate with interest and care.
Nurture with self-compassion.
(This is Tara Brach’s version. I like this version better than the traditional, where ‘N’ stands for “Non-attachment” or “Non-identification”. Those terms are easy to misunderstand.)
So how can RAIN help with dysphoria? When you feel dysphoria, if you can take a quiet moment, and go through this process:
Feel the embodied feeling. Recognize it as your dysphoria. Just acknowledge, “yes, here it is, dysphoria.” Allow the experience. Try not to push it away, or psychologize yourself, or talk yourself out of it. Just allow the whole experience, and any emotions that come from it. Notice any judgement, and try to allow that, too.
If you can, dig a little deeper. What does the feeling feel like? Where in the body do you feel it. What are the components of it? What emotions arise, and how do they feel in your body?
Hold yourself and this experience with the greatest of gentleness and compassion. Imagine perhaps, your favorite baby animal. Imagine the compassion you’d feel if you held that in your hands, and direct that to yourself, and to this experience. And even if your experience is a lot of self-judgement, hold that self-judgement with compassion and care.
The more you can allow this experience to be what it is, and give yourself compassion around it, the more able you will be to tolerate the feeling – the easier it will be to live with dysphoria.