As I explained in a previous post, self-improvement is one of the three strategies that Tara Brach suggests we use to run from shame. I want to introduce you to the other two ways we hide from shame and a practice that she suggests help to keep our heart open during difficult or threatening times.
Here’s the full list:
1. Fleeing through addiction to substances or experiences that numb intolerable feelings, denial of feelings or depressing feelings
2. Fighting our world out of feelings of deficiency such as judging or blaming ourselves. This might manifest as taking our feelings out on others and blaming them for your feelings.
3. Self-improvement, which is often the most sneaky. This would be always trying to be better person; a constant striving to be more acceptable, to conform or to please others.
Any of these sound familiar? I thought so and I hear ya.
Running from shame doesn’t make the feelings go away. It frequently makes it worse so Brach teaches four steps to facilitate coping with a sense of deficiency so that we can allow ourselves to encounter and experience difficult feelings. The four steps are represented by the acronym RAIN, which makes it a lot easier to remember when we are overwhelmed by shame or other difficult emotions. Check out the links below for a guided reflection through stages of RAIN and more thoughts from Brach on how to employ this tool.
R Recognize what is happening
A Allow life to be just as it is
I Investigate inner experience with kindness
The Shambhala Sun has reprinted a very helpful excerpt from Brach’s book, True Refuge, which takes you through each of the four steps. Check it out at
Other resources from Tara Brach:
Brach, T. (Speaker). (2005). Radical Self-Acceptance: A Buddhist Guide to Freeing Yourself from Shame. [Audio recording]. Sounds True.