When I first came out of therapy, I had the sense it had been a mere stepping stone to the higher way of meditation. Whereas therapy would leave me drained and sad, contemplative study generally elevated my outlook and stirred innate playfulness. I laughed more, felt as though everything ordered itself into a friendlier context. There was ENOUGH of ‘whatever was needed’ to greet ‘whatever happened’. However, although more attentive, simultaneously sharper and more open, in many ways I continued to bypass hard decisions, drunk with some feeling of permission to skip over the mundane.
Second-arrow suffering is a concept sometimes used to illustrate the way we all experience pain in our lives, but then also suffering, as something added on to that pain with interpretations, blame and praise. The general idea is that when we are hit with an arrow, it is painful. However, we can learn to, right at that moment ,become aware enough to dodge or neutralize the second arrow.
Much of the work I do in therapy is about this:
“Yes, this is happening, but why do you think it is your fault?
“Could you actually have done something about that?”
“What about what is happening now?”
The first arrow can make us more aware of our surroundings and our coordinates within them. A path of expanded perception may appear, lighting up possibilities. “In the beginner’s mind are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind are few.” Perhaps therapy just helps one slow everything down.
Many of us sustained injuries way before we encountered coping skills. We have wounds we may walk on and hide, to greater and lesser degrees of success… wounds we couldn’t have addressed properly before. Deeper avoidance patterns may require outside help, just as persistent pain in a shoulder may warrant the care of a physical therapist. It can be hard to know what can or should be addressed logically vs. given the cosmic perspective treatment (both, usually).
In my case, I benefit from a therapist’s trained eye to parse between first and second arrows… what treatment will benefit versus what I can work with, or around, with the aim of fewer friendly fires. 🙂 It is from a place of compassion for others that I do this, and an optimism I’m not sure there would be, if not for the spaciousness developed in meditation.
It does make a difference that therapists I’ve worked with have been contemplative people who comprehend and value devotion.