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  • Jasmine Dixon

The Second Arrow and the Critical Voice

"When touched with a feeling of pain, the ordinary uninstructed person sorrows, grieves, and laments,

beats his breast,

becomes distraught.

So he feels two pains, physical and 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…”


—the Buddha


The parable of the two arrows is an ancient Buddhist teaching that helps us to identify and soothe our critical inner voice.


When we have negative experiences of pain, shock, illness, stress, or failure, we have been shot with our first arrow. The discomfort can be sudden and intense. We can be unsure of what to do next, and no longer feel capable of performing at our usual best.


But instead of taking a step back, resting, removing the arrow head and repairing the wound, we often take hold of our own bow… and shoot ourselves with a second arrow.


The second arrow is forged out of the “Why wasn’t I good enough?”, “Why can’t I do better?”, “I am so stupid, useless, and bad at this!”, “I need to be better”, and “I just need to get over this!”


The second arrow is a pain only we can give to ourselves.


The second arrow is our critical inner voice urging us to improve ourselves, be better and do better. But this voice hurts us as much as our first arrow, and blocks the precious learning that takes place as we overcome our problems and recognise our natural strengths. Crucially, we must acknowledge the pain of the first arrow, and permit ourselves to heal from it, growing even stronger than we were before.


Hypnotherapy can help many minds to put down their bows and focus on healing their wounds. As psychotherapists, we regularly utilise hypnotic suggestions to soothe the critical voice whilst enhancing self-esteem and self-care. We must all permit ourselves to heal when we are hurting.


If you would like to learn how hypnotherapy can help you to put down the bow, please enquire here.

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