How emotional suffering is created

close-up photography of girl holding composite bow

Daily, we deal with situations that bring us dissatisfaction and disappointments. Everyday events have an impact on our mood and how we feel about life. Some days can feel more satisfactory and positive than others. Maybe you think that you were lucky, blessed, that the stars align for you, you had a good day.

On the other hand, when you feel that you had a miserable day, you think that people were wrong, that you had a curse, and luck was against you.
What if I challenged that interpretation of the reasons. What if your perception was the only thing that created a good day or a snot so good day?

If you could recall the last day, you felt that you had a good day, what happened on that day? Reminisce about what were the things that made your day feel satisfactory to you. On that day, events that evolve suit your preferences, and you felt connected with positive emotions. Very possibly, you felt joy, serenity, safety, and support.

Maybe it was one or more situations that made you feel that it was a joyous day. The moments, people, and situations matched your expectations on what is satisfying and pleasurable for you, even if not all things were great, you perceived as a happy day.

On the other hand, recall a day that you felt was a miserable day. Try to remember what situations transpire that made it a not so good day. It is likely that your recall connecting with fear, sadness, loneliness, and anger. These are the most common challenging emotions that most of us tend to feel when we think we are unhappy.

A powerful story

There is an old Zen story called the second arrow. In this story, a master is talking to a disciple about emotional suffering.

The master asked the student:
“If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful? If the person is struck by a second arrow, is it even more painful?”
He then went on to explain,
“In life, we can’t always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. This second arrow is optional.”

If you feel that a day was an unhappy day, you decided to shoot a second arrow. When a disappointing or unsatisfactory situation arose in your day, you chose to interpret it as an adverse event that you had to resist. You decided to create emotional suffering; it was not the event itself. It was how you chose to see it.

Our emotional suffering is a choice when we interpret a situation that we have learned to repel. Everything that you experience is unique to your way of interpretation. The same event can have an opposite or different reaction to other people.

It is critical to understand that most times, we do not have control of the first arrow. You and I do not have control of many external factors and people that intercept our lives. That first arrow can cause pain. The second arrow is how we chose to react to the pain that just hit us. As this double arrow is optional, we have control of our reaction.


Keeping this story in my heart has been beneficial to remind myself when I feel emotional suffering. You can do the same when you feel sad, angry, afraid, and lonely. Think about the second arrow story. How you feel inside is a reflection of how you are interpreting a situation. It is up to you to continue holding on to that perception that is causing your suffering or not.

At any time and any moment, You can decide to change that interpretation for one that works better for you. In any situation, you can empower yourself to reduce or let go of your suffering. Any day you have the option to pull out that second arrow or not shoot it all.

My second arrows

Some days, I noticed that I have done the second arrow and quickly work on a way to reset the suffering I created. Other days, I can stop myself quickly when I’m just about to do the second arrow. Other times it is harder and more cloudy in mind to notice that double arrow. The critical factor for me is that I’m laws staying at it. It is an ongoing process, and I was hoping you could make it your own too. We have to commit to understand and reduce our emotional suffering.

One quote

“Perception is the reality to the one in the experience.”

Danielle Bernock

One question

Can you see yourself removing a second arrow?

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