Inescapable physical discomfort is the “first dart of existence” as long as you live and love, some of those darts will come your way. But then we add our reactions, these are the second darts, the ones we throw at ourselves. The second darts have the greatest impact on psychological well-being (anxiety and mood). – Richard Mendius, M.D.
“Men are not afraid of things, but of how they view them” – Epicteteus from the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I have this bizarre childhood memory that sticks with me for some reason. I was in elementary school, I couldn’t have been older than 10 and I was playing on our school playground with some of my friends.
One of my friends hit her head really hard on the playground (back when playground structures were metal).
I remember watching her. She was in shock, definitely in pain, but she was able to converse with us. After a few moments, a red spot appeared on her scalp and then started to bleed.
She was sitting quietly on the ground.
Then, as soon as we told her there was blood, she burst into tears.
I don’t want to say she was crying uncontrollably – but she was definitely panicked.
I remember thinking to myself, if we wouldn’t have told her that there was blood, she would have continued to be fine.
It’s interesting that at such a young age, we experience pain, but it isn’t the pain itself that sets us off, it’s the stories and reactions that come afterwards (the second dart – as mentioned above).
A similar example: if you’ve ever watched young toddlers/kids fall down, or bump their head. They look to the trusted adult to determine the reaction and whether or not they should cry. It is the meaning that WE give to the incident that helps them determine how much they are suffering. Again – it is the second dart that we throw at ourselves that causes the psychological “damage”.
So, give yourself a break – recognize the pain, the frustration and the hurt. But there’s no need to throw another dart at yourself with the stories, the judgement and the self-criticism.
And know that a really simple tool to assist with the second dart – is… you guessed it… MINDFULNESS.
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See you on your mat!
Megan & Adam