It’s only natural you think you know what hurts you. Of course you do! It’s that disrespectful thing your sister said. The way your brother gave you that ‘look.’ Or it’s the way somebody treated you that made you mad, sad, or miserable.
The cause of your upset is clear. Or is it? Might there be a secondary reason you lie awake at night and worry about these things?
We all know what triggers our initial distress, but few of us pay attention to what lengthens our unhappiness or makes it grow out of proportion.
Buddhists sometimes refer to the cause of added angst as the second arrow. The second arrow is let loose to strike your psyche (and add to emotional pain) when you continue to mull over an upsetting event.
Rather than attempt to resolve feelings of conflict, you might inadvertently feed it, pouring extra material into the mix.
Let’s say you’re angry because your partner forgets your anniversary. Naturally, their behavior, or lack of it, displeases you. But what hurts you the most is casting the second arrow.
If you use your disappointment to dredge up other misdemeanors from the past, or layer your anxiety with fears over what your partner forgetting the event means, (when maybe they just have a poor memory) you have been struck by that arrow. You’ll feel the reverberations of unnecessary pain caused by no one but you.
Society casts second arrows with ease. Instances surround you in the media, on your doorstep, and at work. People continue difficulties long after they might have ended with negative talk.
The most painful second arrows, though, are those we call worries and create by accident. Most of the things you worry about are unnecessary emotional ruptures. They stem from concerns about what an event means, what could happen, or the way you think someone wishes you harm.
Much of the time, people simply screw up. They make mistakes, like forgetting an important date. But there’s nothing more to it, even though you may assume otherwise.
Angry outbursts, sleepless nights, and mental trauma can all arise from second arrows. To avoid casting them, you must first recognize they exist and the role they play in your life. When an event upsets you, note whether you seek solutions, let it go, or continue to build anxiety with your thoughts and words.
When you realize how often second arrows strike you, you’ll want to stop them in their tracks. This involves practice.
Each time you recognize an arrow hits you, pause and take it out. Remind yourself that to continue your pain with negative thoughts only adds to your suffering.
You can’t necessarily stop events you dislike from occurring. You can be mindful of the thoughts you entertain and what you’re tempted to tell others about problems that make them grow and continue, though.
Once you get the hang of preventing those arrows flying, you’ll have greater peace of mind. Unsettling events and setbacks will pass faster than usual, and you’ll handle them without lying awake at night fretting.
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Copyright © 2020 Bridget Webber. All rights reserved