Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold. It is a beautiful way of identifying the parts that have been fixed and put back into place. Recovering the pieces of the pottery and exemplifying those pieces with a boarder of gold only highlights the parts that have been healed, if you will. I have never made any kind of pottery. The closest I have come to making something such as that with my hands is carrying the lamp that I have in my office that was made by my mom. Or making a macaroni picture frame in elementary school, which I am still very proud of. However, I have always admired those who can create something tangible with their hands. Taking something from their imagination and placing it into reality fascinates me.
This leads me to the point of this blog post. The other day my daughter was watching a Tic Tock video of someone talking about being “broken.” I have to be honest; I began to feel a level of angst at the notion of promoting the idea of being broken. As a therapist, I also often hear this sentiment. If we were as simple as a piece of pottery, then we could be put back together right? Maybe add a little bling? But the fact is, we are not pottery. We are not able to be patched up with some tape, super glue, or any other adhesive.
The idea that we are broken goes right to the fundamental concept of who we are. If I was to be taken apart piece by piece and then reassembled, morbid I know, I would not exist anymore. I wouldn’t be able to walk around and make dad jokes. That last part is really sad. The point is, we are more than our bodies. We are not objects that break only to be fixed. So, who am I? Am I this body, or am I something else within this body?
“When a program isn’t serving you anymore, when you find yourself not happy, feeling anxious, in emotional distress, or whatever it is you are experiencing, it is time to change the channel.”
The idea of being broken would suggest that I am fundamentally flawed. At the core, I am in need of repair in order to be whole and productive. If I was to tell myself this repeatedly, then I am at risk of creating a belief system that supports the idea of inadequacy. If I was to repeat this message, then I am creating neurological connections in my brain that allow me to have this thought process unconsciously, hence a belief. These thoughts are originally in response to something that happened to me in my lifetime. Does having these thoughts and beliefs mean that I am broken like a plate that has fallen off the shelf? I would argue that it doesn’t.
Here is another metaphor to illustrate my point. Have you ever seen a movie like Sharknado? Or Sharknado 2? Or Sharknado 3? Can you believe there are actually 6 of them? To be honest, I have only seen the first 2. Regardless, if you were watching a movie that you didn’t think was that good; would you pick up the television, walk to the front door, toss it into the street, and then go buy yourself a new one? The television isn’t the reason that the movie playing is of poor quality. The television isn’t broken. More than likely, it is perfectly fine. What seems to need to change is the program that is being streamed. Change the channel or switch to a different streaming app. Either way, the television is perfectly fine. Do you see where I am going with this?
When a program isn’t serving you anymore, when you find yourself not happy, feeling anxious, in emotional distress, or whatever it is you are experiencing, it is time to change the channel. I understand that I am making a complex set of systems sound overly simplified, but it is a place to start. There are neurobiological processes at play when it comes to creating our experiences and our own realities. This entire metaphor is just pointing to one fundamental concept, you are not broken. The programing might just need to be changed. You, at your core are whole and good enough. Change the channel from Sharknado 5 to Steel Magnolias or Ocean’s Eleven. Watch whatever it is you want, the choice is yours.
“The words ‘I am’ defines an identity.”
Lastly, look no further than a newborn. What does a newborn do in order to generate praise, love, and adoration? Maybe go to the bathroom in their pants or vomit on your favorite onesie? You were that once, and you still are! Worthy of love, adoration, compassion, respect, affection, the list goes on and on. You learn who you are, how the world operates, and how to interact with it through the messages that you are given while growing up. You also learn such things through potential traumatic moments at any others points in your life. Regardless, these experiences will only define you to the extent in which you let them.
Now, I’m not saying to not wear your favorite bling and be proud. What I am saying is to not let your symptoms become your identity. The words “I am” defines an identity. You are not the flu, nor are you strep throat. Therefore, you are not depressed or anxious. You are a person who experiences symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. That difference in wording defines the power of identity. You are not broken, you have areas in your experience that you may wish to change. Neurobiological processes that may need tending to in order for you to feel better in your life. But you, who you really are, your essence, can never be broken. When a bowl is pieced back together with gold metaphorically identifying the lessons learned through experiences in life, or not pieced back together at all, the fundamental aspect of the bowl remains the same. It is and will always be a bowl.