The Second Arrow

While in treatment I was introduced to a book, No Mud No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh. Hanh is a Zen Buddhist who writes about mindfulness and ways to live in the moment. There are many ideas in the book that everyone can identify with. One particular passage that really stuck with me describes a Buddhist teaching called The Arrow. This teaching is analogous with what all of us have a tendency to do, which is overthink. The basic premise is this: Imagine being hit with an arrow anywhere on your body. Now imagine being hit with a second arrow, and of all places it lands directly in the same spot as the first arrow. While both are going to hurt, which one do you think will be worse? The first arrow represents the initial trauma whatever it may be, and all of the pain that comes along with it. It hurts, and we suffer for awhile until the wound heals and we can move on. The second arrow is fired by ourselves, which creates even more pain and suffering as well as slowing down the healing process. If we can leave it be and let it heal, our suffering will only hurt as much as it's supposed to. Unfortunately our minds don't deal well with this, and is constantly looking for the "what if" and "if only" scenarios. We tend to re live the trauma over and over in our minds searching for an answer. This is where the pain and suffering is magnified into an uncontrollable thought process. Much like a runaway train, our minds take us on a ride that is hard to stop. The majority of us turn to our preferred substance to dull the pain. Everyone has developed their own coping mechanisms to deal with the first arrow. Some are healthy and some are not. Unfortunately for an addict it tends to be the latter. Whenever something unpleasant happens we try to drown it out through using, and that leaves us open for the second arrow to do more damage. Trying to find healthy coping skills to deflect the second arrow is essential to a peaceful life. It can be anything that keeps you focused on right now. Read some books, write in a journal, draw a picture, pick up that instrument you always wanted to learn. Anything to keep your mind focused on living in the moment. Don't be afraid to try new things. It helps because new hobbies tend to take up a lot of our thought process when starting out. Essentially filtering out the trauma and making it more manageable to cope with. Plus this keeps you on track and less susceptible to the second arrow. You never know what your missing if you never try it. Stay Strong -Aaron

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