Photo by Paul S Barlow

Second Arrow Syndrome: How We Multiply our Own Suffering, and How We Might Avoid It

Mike Sturm

--

Spiritual traditions are big on fables. One of my favorites comes from the Sallatha Sutta in the Buddhist tradition.

When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows; in the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental.

I find myself easily frustrated these days, and it has everything to do with making myself suffer because I’m suffering. I inadvertently double down on my suffering.

This happens to all of us: we get hit with arrows every day — arrows of disappointment, arrows of loss and sorrow, arrows of dissatisfaction. Then we feel bad about feeling bad, and we shoot ourselves with a second arrow. We feel bad, then we feel worse. We spiral, and exhaust ourselves.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Problem is Pleasure

If I am really honest with myself, most of my stress, frustration, and lashing out comes from a feeling of discomfort. But it’s not the discomfort itself, it is my bad feeling about discomfort that creates problems.

I am so obsessed with pleasure and comfort, that I cannot even handle the thought of discomfort or pain. I contort myself in myriad ways to avoid them. And that is precisely the problem. Because in my push to chase pleasure and comfort for so long, I have robbed myself of one of the most beneficial traits that anyone can have: being able to accept and work through discomfort and pain.

And I am not alone. I am surrounded by fellow pleasure seekers, who’s inclination toward satisfaction and desire for continuous pleasure are being constantly reinforce by a deluge of media and marketing efforts. We swipe left and right, we refresh, and reframe. We skip past the waiting, we circumvent moments alone and moments of silent…

--

--

Mike Sturm

Creator: https://TheTodaySystem.com — A simpler personal productivity system. Writing about productivity, self-improvement, business, and life.