Have you heard about Buddhas second arrow?

There is something philosophical in the phase ‘unlucky in life’. It can feel like the world is against us with one thing happening after the other: a parking ticket, a flat tyre, a job loss, a break up, a cancelled flight, an illness, a bereavement……..and so on.

There may be an event or situation in your life that is the first arrow making you feel stressed, bad, not okay, unhappy, unsettled or upset. As humans we tend to overuse our left brain and over think and look for a reason all this has happened or even point the finger at someone else. We say things like: its my fault, there is something wrong with me, I brought this on myself, I’m not good enough, I’m too fat, too ugly, too old , too young, not qualified enough, don’t have enough money, its a punishment from God and so many more phases I hear clients say.

In Buddhist teachings the second arrow goes as follows. A Buddha once asked a student: “If a person is struck by one arrow, is it painful?’. The student replied: “Yes it is”. The Buddha then asked:“If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that even more painful?”. The student then replied: “Yes it is”. The Buddha then explained , “In life we cannot always control the first arrow. However the second arrow come from the possibility of choice”.

While we can’t change the outside environment , we can with practice change the inside environment of the second arrow of self blame. When you are in a deep crisis of anxiousness or depression we can feel that everything is our fault and self inflicted. The second arrow syndrome I hear from clients: “If only i’d done this, done that, eaten this , eaten that, said this , not said that and the list goes on……


Learning to notice these patterns and be kinder to yourself is difficult and sometimes we need outside feedback as it helps us to reframe what is happening and not about our failures but our success’s. And most important it reminds us that these thoughts are common, that everyone has them and that it is normal and part of being a human being.