The concept of the “second arrow” or “second dart” is a metaphor that describes the difference between pain and suffering. The first arrow represents the pain or misfortune that we experience in life. The second arrow represents our reaction to the first arrow, which can add to our suffering.

For example, if we lose our job, the first arrow is the pain of losing our income and security. The second arrow is the suffering that we add to the situation by beating ourselves up about it, worrying about how we will pay our bills, and feeling like a failure.

We can’t always control the first arrow, but we can control the second arrow. By learning to be mindful of our thoughts and emotions, we can choose not to add to our suffering by dwelling on the negative. We can also focus on the positive, such as the skills and experience we gained from our previous job, or the opportunities that are now available to us.

The second arrow metaphor is a powerful reminder that we don’t have to suffer unnecessarily. By learning to control our reactions, we can reduce our suffering and live a more peaceful and joyful life.

Here are some tips for dodging the second arrow:

  • Be mindful of your thoughts and emotions. When you experience pain or misfortune, take a moment to notice how you’re feeling. Are you feeling angry, sad, afraid, or guilty? Once you’re aware of your emotions, you can start to choose how you want to react.
  • Don’t dwell on the negative. It’s natural to want to analyze and understand what happened, but don’t get stuck in a loop of negative thinking. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of your situation. What did you learn from this experience? What opportunities are now available to you?
  • Take care of yourself. When we’re stressed or overwhelmed, it’s important to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally. This means eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. It also means spending time with loved ones, doing things that you enjoy, and practicing relaxation techniques.

Dodging the second arrow is a lifelong practice, but it’s one that can make a big difference in our happiness and well-being. By learning to control our reactions, we can reduce our suffering and live a more peaceful and joyful life.

Here is an article exploring the concept a little bit further, and you can hear the author, Rick Hanson discuss it in detail on an episode of his podcast, too.

Related Sections

If this metaphor interests you, you may be interested in the following sections, each of which contains ample content, exercises, and resources.