Do you get hit by the second arrow?

written by Erica Quam

There is a buddhist story about the two arrows that fly with each misfortune. The first arrow is the actual event that may cause pain. The second arrow is our reaction TO the event. 

Interestingly enough, it's the second arrow that causes more pain than the first.

The second arrow is our choice. We choose our reaction and thus are in fact in charge of how much pain the second arrow will cause. So, ultimately we choose how much we suffer.

It goes back to that old phrase that I always heard from teachers, parents, & coaches growing up..."pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

So, do you want an example? Just for fun??

Let's say, you go to the grocery store. You get a little distracted and forget to buy the one thing you originally went to the store to buy. 

It's not that big a deal, right? 

But...you are so hard on yourself. 

  • "How could I be so stupid...to forget the one thing I actually went to the store to get?" 
  • "I ALWAYS do this."
  • "Things never work out the way that I want them too."
  • "Everything ALWAYS has to be hard. It always has to be a struggle."

In reality, unless the circumstances are extraordinary, it's probably pretty simple to go back to the store & grab what you forgot, OR just get it the next time.

But that reality gets totally lost. 

Because...you've been hit! 

By the second arrow.

  • It's the second arrow that takes you down a vicious cycle of negativity, judgement, and self criticism.
  • It's the second arrow that causes us much more pain and suffering than the original arrow.
  • It's the second arrow that can fuel that inner dragon of self doubt.

Well, what can you do? How can you avoid being hit so hard by the second arrow?

The first step is to pay attention.

When you bring your attention to what actually happened, you are more equipped to ward off that downward spiral of negativity.

The second step is awareness.

Becoming aware that your reaction to the event will help create a better outcome.

The third step is to reflect.

If you can create some space between the actual event and your reaction to it, and reflect on what's happened in the past. Shift the outcome for a better result.

What are the second arrows in your life that cause you more pain than the original arrow? What is ONE thing you can do to reduce it? Share your comments below.