The Golden Flaw

Shawn Hales, Psy.D. on Sep 24, 2019 in Mood and Feelings

While I like to present myself as a psychologist as a practitioner of silence, I have to say that I do enjoy reading an occasional science fiction book or watching a sci-fi movie!

I am drawn towards to sometimes outlandish ideas in science fiction that end up speaking to the mundane changes occurring all around us. Sometimes we can observe the valuable things about our current situation by suspending belief for a story about a possible future.

You may have already heard about on ongoing Amazon series called “The Man in the High Castle.” It’s adapted from a book written by Phillip K. Dick. While this is a case of the book being better than the movie, the series has new themes and twists that I’ve come to appreciate.

One of the curious plot lines in season two occurs around the character of a Japanese leader who begins to observe that his reality may not be all it seems. He takes a mysterious journey along an “alternate time line” in which things have resulted in a quite different narrative of his family life. In that time line, he is confronted with the result of his own angry and controlling personality through the symbol of a cherished but broken cup.

In a touching scene, this character finds redemption in secretly repairing and then gifting the cup to his family.  He makes the repairs with the Japanese technique called “kintsugi”.

When I read about this, I discovered that kintsugi means “golden joinery” or repair of a broken pottery item using a lacquer mixed with gold or another precious metal.  The technique embraces damage as a part of the history of an object, rather than something to hide from view.  The artisan repairing the pottery actually emphasizes the flaw! By using precious gold, the viewer of the new pieces is forced to consider whether the flaw is actually creating more beauty.

Some have described this technique as representing how we can strive to exist more fully in the moment, or even of having an openness in the midst of changing conditions.

I would be hard pressed to find better symbolism for the work that my psychotherapy patients accomplish. Mistakes become treasures! Messes become a message!

So much of life is about discovering a new pathway through and beyond the previous damage people experience.  I get how hard it is to believe this! It is very difficult to be able to see your brokenness as possibly something that adds value.

The kintsugi pottery confronts you with the possibility that damage can be transformed.  Sometimes our flaws are a pathway to seeing beauty.  And, at times our mistakes lead us towards redemption and acceptance in a manner we least expect.

Shawn Hales is a Psychologist in Towson, MD.

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