Updated: Mar 23
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending objects with gold is the enduring symbol of resilience. One that I often use in my talks and presentations as a resilience specialist and mental health keynote speaker.
It reassures us in troubled times: things can fall apart, we can even be shattered by life, but this is not the end of our story. We can slowly and carefully put ourselves back together, in a way that is even more beautiful.
This metamorphosis is, however, rare. We're more familiar with loved ones who fall on hard times and become a shadow of their former selves. It's heartbreaking to see their ashened faces, or worse to acknowledge our own when we look more closely in the mirror.
Our transformation is a craft we apprentice to in crisis. Whereas indigenous cultures have initiation rites to deliberately break and remake you, we are often flung into a sink or swim situation without orientation or guidance.
As a mental health keynote speaker I often share that, culturally, we lack a framework for understanding the productive and profound role of suffering in our lives, and so default to seeing the tragedies that beset us as being the random outcome of an unfair world.
Those that embrace this journey should not expect a happy ending. We tend to conceive of the dark night of the soul as a spiritual gap year, with return tickets and a renewed healthy glow. In reality, the deepest adversities will scar and compromise us in enduring ways.
The golden glue of Kintsugi is the lucidity that emerges from post-traumatic growth. In hindsight, we understand that we were always a fragile assemblage. Who we thought we were was really a collection of compensating sub personalities who emerged early in our lives to protect us from painful experiences. The overachiever who was never fully seen, the rescuer who kept a fragile peace at home: we are a patchwork of obsolete strategies that limit us as adults.
The glue that held them together was a deeper set of naive assumptions and superficial desires: that tragedy happens to other people, that we are entitled to special treatment, that we can evade responsibility and obligation... We need to be broken apart for these small minded parts to find a new place in a more beautiful home.
The secret of Kintsugi is that in order to put ourselves back together we must make contact with a deeper source of strength. We become self-made, a word typically bolted on to the world millionaire, but which more meaningfully describes the authentic self confidence that we rightfully earn when we pull ourselves out of our own hole. That is the aim of the trainings and talks I offer as a mental health keynote speaker.
Adversity reveals the hidden, inner resource.
This is an A-Z guide to showcase some unfamiliar concepts in resilience, originally shared on my LinkedIn and inspired by day-to-day insights from my own experience with stress and chronic illness and my work as a mental health keynote speaker. Also is this series: A (is for Auto-Regulation),B (is for the Breath), C (is for Coping), D (is for (the far side of) Despair), E (is for Endurance), F (is for Forgiveness), F (is for Family), G (is for God) and H (is for Habit), I (is for Interdependence) and J (is for Joy).