How do you react after a setback? After losing your job, a divorce, an injury, or emotional trauma?
Well, you can choose to hide, emotionally freeze, and give up. OR you can choose to collect yourself, reshape your new reality and grow from it.
Obviously, I recommend choosing growth!
There are two philosophies surrounding “post traumatic growth” that I want to share today. The first is the Japanese art of Kintsugi. The second, is the theory of the shattered vase. Both need to be considered in order to accept our “new normal” with a more positive and realistic view of how to craft our life as we move forward after any setback.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about Kintsugi:
Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum… As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.
Kintsugi literally means golden (“kin”) repair (“tsugi”).
In other words, having a setback or a trauma is NOT something that you should be ashamed of, or try to hide. Instead, it should be displayed proudly as part of your life experience. So often we want to throw away the broken pieces of our past and deny they ever happened. But hang on! These broken pieces can ADD value to your life. By mending the metaphorical object of your past, you prove that out of something broken can be something whole and beautiful again, scars and all. Your resilience and ability to learn from negative experiences is what makes you unique and will help you thrive. We can’t deny it happened, so we might as well embrace it, learn to live with it as part of who and what we are.
But, Dr. Tal, what about the kind of trauma that you can’t just glue back together with pretty gold lacquer?
This is where the theory of the shattered vase comes in. The theory goes like this: You have a beautiful vase sitting on your coffee table. (Why you put this delicate, breakable thing on your coffee table when so much movement occurs on and around it is a discussion for another time…). One day, inevitably, you accidentally knock the vase over and it shatters on your hardwood floor. There are now many pieces of this gorgeous vase everywhere.
So, do you try to glue it all back together and make a beautiful gold-lined masterpiece?
No. Absolutely not. That would be way too difficult, and an unrealistic expectation as it just isn’t possible to restore this vase to look anything like what it was before. Instead, you can take the pieces of this vase and create a mosaic. Re-purpose it to create a new work of art. It can still have many of the same characteristics of the prior vase such as colors, patterns, and texture, but it will be different perhaps in size, shape and what you use it for.
In the face of harsh adversity, the metaphorical shattered vase of your life needs a revamp. Rather than wishing everything would go back to exactly as it was before, you get to redesign your new and improved “mosaic self.” By getting creative and by focusing on your available resources, you include all remaining pieces, broken or not. This new creation is your revamped present, which will motivate you to move on to a new future.
Whether your life’s circumstances allow you to choose the route of Kintsugi or the route of a mosaic, the most crucial part is the choice you made to grow. To put yourself back together in whatever form works for you, into your most innovative shape yet!