What is the second arrow?
Sometimes people ask me, “What is this second arrow that you keep talking about?” The second arrow refers to a story in Buddhist teachings that says that emotional pain is the same as being hit by an arrow. Of course, you can heal from this wound if you take care of it and allow it to heal. However, many times people shoot themselves with a second arrow after they are hit with the first one. This second arrow represents the thoughts, feelings (such as fear or anger), and reactions to painful events in our lives. The injury from the second arrow magnifies the initial pain and causes suffering, preventing healing and recovery from the initial wound. Learning more about these second arrows is what we do together in therapy. Many people have negative thoughts about themselves that may increase emotional suffering. Sometimes people have big emotional reactions to seemingly small life problems and don’t understand why. Examining these second arrows and how they may be holding you back as well as learning how not to shoot that second arrow in the first place is a big part of the work of therapy.