The Beauty of Healing
I was recently introduced to the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi.
I saw this photo of a hakeme type tea bowl from the 16th century. The first thing I noticed are the exquisite lines and the texture of the bowl, and then my eye was drawn to the glinting seams of gold. These seams mark where the bowl has been painstakingly repaired with lacquer mixed with gold powder. This is kintsugi.
Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer that can be mixed with gold, silver or platinum. The philosophy behind kintsugi is to recognise the history of the object and to visibly incorporate the repair into the new piece rather than trying to disguise it.
This really resonated with me. Firstly, as someone who has experienced a lot of struggle and a fair amount of trauma, who has been 'broken', I spent a lot of time frightened of whether I could ever be fixed. Even if I could be fixed, I felt the damage would be so visible to everyone, in everything, that I would never get away from it.
I pasted my pieces together as well as I could, and went about my life, not talking about my experiences, trying to not think about them, hoping not to draw attention to the damage they had done . Ultimately trying to appear as close to the original 'real me' as I possibly could.
In studying to be a therapist, (and later, a coach), I had to face my issues head-on. To be able to successfully help anyone, you have to be completely self-aware. I could no longer hide from these parts of my experience. By bringing the pieces out of the dark, I was forced to look at them and start to find a place for them within myself.
This was when I began to realise that trying to fix the pieces together with no visible join was going to be unrealistic. The breaks had happened, and there was no reason to try to pretend they hadn't. I could instead work to create a new me, with gold seams of experience, compassion and understanding running through me, that made me stronger.
And this is something I work to help my clients to work towards. As they struggle to understand their experiences and repair themselves after eating disorder recovery or trauma recovery, My best hope is that they do not attempt to 'invisibly mend' themselves, but instead , just like the mantsugi artists, use gold, or silver or platinum, to create a beautiful, unique item, celebrating their victory over their bad experiences, and proudly marking their strength.