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How the Japanese Concept of Kintsugi Can Help With Relational Loss

Feb 27, 2017

How the Japanese Concept of Kintsugi Can Help With Relational Loss

Posted by Gail Snyder on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 - 8:37 AM in Behavioral Health , Depression , Resiliency , Stress Management

         

Often when we’ve been hurt in life, we feel broken. In our culture, if something is broken, we usually throw it away and replace it. However, the Japanese have a different approach. They practice the art of Kintsugi, which is repairing broken pottery or ceramics so that the brokenness is made beautiful. Instead of hiding your hurts and flaws, try embracing them.

Kintsugi for relational loss, broken heart - Mercy Concern, Canton Ohio

February is the month when our culture focuses on love and romance. For Valentine's Day, hearts, candy, and roses seem to be everywhere, which is great if you’re in a happy, healthy relationship. But what if you aren’t? It's hard to be reminded of what you lost or what you want and don’t have. 

People Not as Miserable as Expected

Gary Lewandowski, PhD, psychologist and professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, discusses a study from Carnegie Mellon University that looked at people who were in happy relationships and asked them to predict how unhappy they would be if their relationship ended. Years later, the researchers looked at those same people whose relationships did, in fact, end and asked them to rate just how unhappy they actually were. Surprisingly, the majority of people were not as miserable as they thought they would be. 

It’s important to remind ourselves that we do survive relational loss and can come out of the situation stronger and happier—though it seldom seems like it at the time. According to Dr. Lewondowski, that’s because we lose a part of our self when we lose a relationship. The remedy is to rebuild our sense of self by looking to the past. 

Bring Back Old Interests

What did we once enjoy that we stopped or gave up in order to be in the relationship? Bringing those interests back into our lives helps much more quickly than simply allowing time to heal the wounds, according to his research. So, if you spent all your time with someone and stopped playing darts with friends, going hiking on the weekends, or singing in the church choir, try getting back into the things you used to do. See what happens. Maybe you’ve changed and no longer enjoy the things you used to, but maybe you’ll reclaim pieces of yourself and feel happier for it.

Apply the Principle of Kintsugi to Relationships

Often when we’ve been hurt in life, we feel broken. We feel out of place and messy, as though we’ll never be worth much again because of what we’ve been through. In our culture if something is broken, we usually throw it away and replace it. However, the Japanese have a different approach. 

They practice the art of Kintsugi, which is repairing broken pottery or ceramics with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The broken things are repaired not to hide flaws, but to highlight them and make them beautiful. This is in keeping with their philosophy of wabi-sabi, or embracing the flawed or imperfect. 

Instead of hiding your hurts and flaws, try embracing and healing them in order to find the gold in your scars that can actually attract others to you and help them. Applying the concept of Kintsugi to our lives allows us to heal and bring to life the words Ernest Hemingway wrote in A Farewell to Arms: “The world breaks everyone and afterward may are strong in the broken places.”

If you would like assistance with the healing process, please call Mercy Concern at 330-489-1415 to discuss scheduling an appointment.

Behavioral Health, Depression, Resiliency, Stress Management

About Gail Snyder

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Gail Snyder manages Mercy Professional Counseling Services and Mercy Concern: Employee Assistance Program, located in Canton and Akron, Ohio. She holds a master’s degree in counseling and human development and is a licensed professional clinical counselor with supervisory endorsement. She specializes in emotional trauma and is certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, an approved evidence-based treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. She has been with Mercy for over twenty years as a counselor and a consultant for businesses, leadership, and human resources in behavioral risk management.

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