Don’t Shoot The Second-Arrow
March 20, 2021
There are many times in our lives when “shit” happens-an an arrogant boss, a break-up, mounting debt, a pink-slip, etc. It can feel like life is an unending parade of one shitty problem after the other.
The standard template advice that is very easy to dole out is, “Yes, shit happens. It’s all about how you deal with it.”
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
The Parable Of The Second Arrow
Apparently, the Buddha once asked a student.
“What happens when an arrow strikes you?”
The student replied, ” The arrow will pierce me, and it will hurt.”
The Buddha then asked, ” If a second arrow strikes you at the same place, what will happen?”
“It will hurt even more, master,” responded the student.
The Buddha smiled at the student and explained the significance of the questions. “In life, we can never control the first arrow. But the second arrow is something we can control. The second arrow is our reaction to the first arrow. The pain we cause ourselves from the second arrow is more than the pain of the first arrow. The second arrow always comes with the power of choice.”
The shitty event or situation in our life that makes us feel bad is like the first arrow. It will hurt. But, what happens then? Instead of moving on, we have a mental chatter that looks for why shit happened. Not to learn and improve but to assign blame. “It’s all my problem” or “it’s all the other person’s problem”.
This wallowing in the problem and feeling like a victim is the second arrow we shoot at ourselves. This second arrow emotionally creates more pain than the actual problem in the first place.
While we cannot always control the circumstances leading to the shit happening. But, we can, with practice, prevent ourselves from shooting the second arrow. That is the power of choice that comes with the second-arrow.
Recognize The Second-Arrow
We need to become aware of the recurring pattern within ourselves that looks to assign blame whenever shit happens.
Before the Covid lock-down, I was traveling to Singapore, and because I started late and got stuck in heavy traffic, I missed my flight.
Quickly, I found myself into a downward spiral or negative mental chatter-” shit, how could I have been so careless. I should have started early. This is always happening. I am always making mistakes. There is something wrong with me, I am just not good enough.”
In the space of a few minutes, my mental chatter ratcheted up from “I am careless” to “I am not good enough.”
Missing the flight was bad enough. Continuously replaying the mistake and feeling bad was the equivalent of shooting the second arrow. Thankfully, I could recognize the pattern of assigning blame and stop myself from shooting the second arrow.
So, the next time you are in the throes of any serious issue, where you are caught in a loop of blaming yourself or someone else, remember the first arrow has already hurt you. Don’t create more pain for yourself by shooting the second-arrow!!