When we seek help for our psychological distress we may hope the outcome will be a return to our “old” self. This may happen, but some of us may become changed, in a good way.
The term “kintsugi” means ‘golden joinery’ in Japanese and refers to the art of fixing broken ceramics with a golden lacquer resin. Broken pots which have been fixed using kintsugi are often thought to look more beautiful than before the breakage, and often their value is increased too. The Japanese cherish the very imperfection of these mended pots, seeing the kintsugi as a creative addition to the pot, a new life for the pot, and placing value on the new beauty that has emerged from damage.
In my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) practice I often meet with people experiencing anxiety or depression who have previously thought of themselves as “strong”, never thought this would happen to them, were secretly judgemental of other who suffered, seeing this as weak. Initially these people want help to return to their former selves, they don’t want to be part of the broken group. But the genie is out of bottle now and it cannot go back in, so what now.
We can struggle to push it back in, feel ashamed of our experiences, try to hide our problems from others, but trying to pretend to ourselves and others that we are not experiencing what we simply are experiencing is stressful in itself. Some people say “this isn’t me”, to which I say “then who is it?”, the reply can only be “Yes, it is me”. We can only mend the broken pot if we have it to mend, we cannot mend it when it is hiding in a cupboard.
The person who has been able to look themselves in the eye with compassion and understanding will now be able to do the same for others. They will never be the same again, even when they are no longer anxious or depressed. When we have been through this we are strengthened by understanding and accepting our human vulnerabilities, and so those of others too.