Whenever we experience something, we experience it in one of three ways as either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.
If the experience is something we find pleasant, we tend to react with attachment. We want to hold on to the experience and prolong it and have more experiences like it.
And if it's something we find unpleasant, we tend to react with aversion. We want it to stop or to avoid it, or to make it go away.
And if it's something we find neutral, we tend to react with a lack of interest. Perhaps we don't even notice it, or don't care about it, or look for something new or more interesting.
Now let's look at what happens when we experience something unpleasant, and react with aversion.
There's a Buddhist teaching about how the way we react to pain and unpleasant experiences often ends up making things worse. When touched with the feeling of pain, the untrained person sorrows, grieves and lament beats their breast and becomes distraught.
And so they feel two pains, just as if they were to shoot someone with an arrow. And then right afterwards, were to shoot them with a second arrow, so that they would feel the pain of two arrows.
The first arrow causes us pain. And the second arrow causes us to suffer. In this story, the first arrow represents physical pain. But this first arrow can be any sort of unpleasant experience we have.
So you might experience this first arrow in the form of an unpleasant body sensation. Your heart skips a beat, or starts to speed up. You tense up, you get a lump in your throat, you start feeling hot, where the first arrow might come as a feeling or emotional reaction. There's a wave of anxiety. You get stressed, you start to feel sad. Or you get angry.
Or this first arrow might strike as a negative thought, What am I going to do? I can't take this anymore. I'm such a loser. That's so unfair.
And this first arrow is outside of our control. We can't prevent ourselves from having unpleasant experiences that causes us pain, but it's what happens next that's important.
If we respond to this pain with sorrow, grief, and lament, or by beating our breasts and becoming distraught, then in addition to feeling hurt, we start to compound things. It's our negative reaction to the pain of that first arrow that initiates the second arrow that causes us to suffer.
So there's some sort of negative trigger. Like we remember all the work we need to get done this weekend. And then the first arrow hits as an anxious thought. And then we get struck by a second arrow as we start to feel anxious, and our heart starts beating faster when that first arrow hits some stress, and we start stressing out, and tense up where that first arrow hits as a negative thought. And then we start to feel sad. And we get a lump in her throat without first arrow hits as a feeling of anger. And then we start dwelling on how unfair this is. And then we start feeling hot.
And because the second arrow that causes us to suffer is so unpleasant, we can react to it in ways that lead us to get struck by a third arrow, which can then lead to a fourth arrow, and the fifth, and so on, and start a negative cycle that pulls us into a downward spiral and leaves us feeling overwhelmed.
And here's another way of looking at how that first arrow from an unpleasant experience that causes us pain can lead to a second arrow as we respond with a version. And this pulls us into a downward spiral of negative thoughts, distressing feelings and emotions and unpleasant body sensations which in turn leads us to be struck by more arrows.
Now, if instead of reacting with aversion to that first arrow from an unpleasant experience that causes us pain, we can learn to accept the fact that we've been struck by that first arrow. Accept that we're experiencing something unpleasant and feeling some pain, then we can often manage to avoid being struck by that second arrow that causes us to suffer.
And you can check out my next video to learn more about how to practice acceptance, and avoid being struck by that second arrow. And please hit the like button and subscribe to my channel for more videos like this. And if you'd like to check out my online Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and cognitive therapy program where these videos come from for free, you'll find a link in the description.