There’s a buddhist quote that goes, “any time we suffer misfortune, two arrows fly our way.” The arrows are the emotional pain we feel inside, and they come in two waves. The first arrow is the initial pain we feel when something hurts us. I’ll give you an example, say you drunk text your EX and they don’t respond. Ouch. That totally sucks. There goes the first arrow. Then the next morning you wake up and you are furious with yourself for making such a poor decision. Shoooom. Second arrow. The second arrow is the pain we inflict on ourselves.
Here’s the catch. The second arrow is optional. When that first arrow hits us, it hurts, but it’s instinctual and it’s important that we feel those emotions (occasionally). But as for the second arrow, you choose your own response to whatever bad thing it is that happened and caused you to feel pain. You don’t need to beat yourself up about it, one arrow hurts enough!
Finding out how to avoid the second arrow is not easy. Some of us, me especially, are prone to sending that second arrow. Half the battle is recognizing when you’re doing it, and the other half is pull that arrow out and let it go. I know this metaphor is super cheesy, but it’s such a wonderful physical description of the mental processes our brains take when we deal with unfortunate situations.
I haven’t mastered avoiding the second arrow, but I’m practicing it. Recognizing and being emotionally aware of what you’re making yourself feel is so important. We don’t necessarily have control over whether or not we’ll be hit with the first arrow, but we do have control over the second. So why the hell do we always shoot it? — I don’t know the answer to that but I don’t think I need to. All we can know and try, for that matter, is to teach ourselves to gently correct our thoughts. Hopefully after sometime we learn that self inflicting pain is absolutely avoidable.
Next time something doesn’t go quite your way, and you beat yourself up about it, try asking yourself:
Do I really need to shoot this second arrow?