Our society functions on standards and checklists. Once enough items are ticked off the checklist, we qualify for a label. Passed 7 papers out of 9? Congratulations! You can move on to the next semester. 4 symptoms met out of 7? You have an illness. After being accustomed to a world where every event needs to be quantified in order to mark a socially recognized milestone, is it any surprise that the vast majority of society is having an existential crisis due to uncertainty regarding what they want?
Irrespective of what our circumstances may be, anyone can feel like they aren’t enough – even if they seem to have it all. A life of happiness, health and success is the dream that we are all heading towards, but our paths diverge. Regardless of whether we take a shortcut there or a detour, what matters socially is how soon we achieve it, and how long we retain it. In creating a prototype of perfection, we are doing an injustice to all the variations, the quirks and the roadblocks that come in everyone’s paths.
The Japanese concept of Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi is a practice of repairing broken objects in gold. This way, even the cracks are a part of your history, and you’re not broken anymore. As lovely as it sounds, this practice might no longer fit in the culture we live in. We are the generation that goes back and deletes our teenage years from social media. Every action of ours is documented and scrutinized repeatedly for how well it holds up in the present time. When something breaks, we throw away the pieces. One mistake, and we start over – to ensure that the final product is perfect and untouched by flaws. In doing this, we are rejecting each attempt we make to repair something.
We do the same with ourselves. Regardless of what one has undergone – be it trauma, addiction, body image struggles due to acne/braces or anything else – it may seem appealing to pretend that it never happened so as to ‘move on’. In doing so, we are associating that event with shame. This rejection hurts us instead of healing us because we are erasing a part of ourselves. It is difficult to move on from something we haven’t tended to. What we need to remember is that sometimes, the onus of fixing everything with a brave face needs to be shared with someone else. This is where seeking therapy helps.
Therapy functions on the principle of Kintsugi. All the different pieces of the client’s life are gathered and put together – perhaps differently from how they were earlier – but just the way the client accepts and wants. The gold is symbolic of the powerful healing nature of a strong therapeutic alliance, which is the relationship between a client and the therapist. In therapy, the lens from which one views their life is altered. Thus, they go from being a victim of their circumstances to see how the impact of their past fits into the context of where they are headed. This takes a collaborative effort – where the therapist helps the client to examine the different pieces of their past and the meaning attached to them, in the context of their identity, emotional well-being and relationships.
The ultimate goal of therapy is to take ownership for one’s actions and to be accountable for them. When the cracks have been filled with gold, the object and person can now withstand more than they could earlier because of the added strength of the gold. The person emerges stronger and better than before, and THAT is the power of healing.