Sometimes, life hits us with an arrow and we feel like shit. We lose our job, a relationship ends, we get sick, someone close to us passes away, someone insults us at work.
Sooner or later, physical and emotional pain is bound to show up in life.
If you’re hurting there are a ton of reactions that normally show up, all of which are human:
- Anger toward ourselves or someone else
- Sadness about losing something we loved
- Frustration that things are not going as we hoped
- Denial that anything bad happened
- Obsessive thinking about the problem
- Feeling hurt, abandoned, or rejected
- Fearing there is something wrong with me
- Fantasizing about a better situation
- Feeling lonely and misunderstood
That is just a few of the possible ways we may be feeling when we feel like shit. These are inevitably a part of life.
So once this suffering shows up, the question then becomes: What now?
In Buddhism there is a metaphor of the two arrows. It states that when someone shoots an arrow at you (or life hits you with an arrow), the practice is to not take another arrow and shoot back at the other person and also to not shoot an arrow at yourself.
The idea is to just be with the wound and notice it. Say “ouch,” but don’t retaliate or take it out on yourself either.
In this way, we stop the cycle of suffering. The suffering stops with me.
Instead, we can examine our wound and begin to heal it. We can turn the arrow into a flower.
As we suffer in whatever way we are, we can look and notice what our suffering looks like. Does it link back to something from early in life? Where do I feel the pain in my body? Can I give it some space to just be and heal?
When we feel like shit, it is time for mindfulness.
It is time to just sit with our feeling of shittiness and begin to examine it with loving curiosity.
In this way, the arrow becomes a gift. It shows us the parts of ourselves that need healing. It points us to greater self-discovery and understanding. It gives us the opportunity to love ourselves even more so than before.
The arrow opens up the possibility to having greater compassion for ourselves and others.
Perhaps the person who shot the arrow has three arrows sticking out of their own back as well.
They too have been hurt by others.
And with mindfulness, the hurt stops with us. With a willingness to be with our own pain and not retaliate toward ourselves and others, we grow up emotionally.
We see what this suffering is all about and we can more easily relate to others’ suffering.
The thing about suffering is that it is one thing all humans have in common. No one can escape it and life always has some of it.
Often we share in our suffering. When a tragedy happens, it affects us all.
And we can share in our healing and compassion. With an intention for love and healing, we can start to heal ourselves and others.
So if you feel like shit, know this: You are not alone. Everyone goes through something similar, and you don’t have to retaliate or beat yourself up. You can instead bring mindfulness and loving kindness to your pain and you can extend that love and understanding to other’s pain, making the world a more loving place.
Dr. Ellis Edmund, PsyD. is a psychologist in Oakland, CA. In his training, he focused on learning Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness and continues to practice ACT with his clients. He specializes in Individual therapy for anxiety and mindfulness stress reduction for groups, individuals, and in the workplace. You can connect with him on Facebook or on his website!