Kintsugi your life: Is your perception of your history holding you back?

Kintsugi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer, highlighting the beauty and the history of the item instead of concealing it. It perceives breakage as a part of the history of the object and embraces the object’s imperfections. How much better would your life be if you could apply some Kintsugi to your perception of events that still now affect how you feel day to day?

As with many customs, there is the reality and there is the myth. The reality of this particular custom comes from a 15th century, Japanese emperor who had a favorite tea cup that had somehow broken. Distraught, he sent it away to the craftsmen of the palace and they did as he wished and mended the cup. Only with ugly metal staples as was the procedure of the time. Angered by the ugliness of his once beautiful cup, he charged his servants to invent a new method that would both fix and beautify his treasure. Eventually they came upon the idea to weld the pieces back together with gold, making it nearly better than before. Whether the story is true or is simply a morality tale, the essence of it tells us a lot about the culture it came from, and a mindset that is universally useful in the modern world.

Kintsugi - embracing the beauty of imperfection that comes about from the history of an object. This practice accepts the history of an item and turns it in to something unique and beautiful.
Kintsugi – embracing the beauty of imperfection that comes about from the history of an object. This practice accepts the history of an item and turns it in to something unique and beautiful.

Embracing your history and accepting your imperfections

As a philosophy, kintsugi can be seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect. Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. For many people, incidents and events in their past have caused them issues in the present, and often this is more to do with their thinking about the events than the event itself. Negative feelings about past experiences, left unresolved, will show up in your day to day reactions to events, causing stress and limiting your decision-making.

How we usually react to situations is largely determined by our past conditioning, however, we can choose how we want to feel and how to respond differently than our past habitual tendencies. No matter what you experienced in your past, you have the ability to change your perceptions and beliefs regarding the past so that you can feel better about it right now.

Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears – Marcus Aurelius. How much better would your life be if you could apply some Kintsugi to events that still, now affect how you feel day to day?
Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears – Marcus Aurelius. How much better would your life be if you could apply some Kintsugi to events that still, now affect how you feel day to day?

Your perception of events affects how you feel

A powerful technique in the toolbox of a good NLP Coach is a technique called Change Personal History. The technique allows to re-examine a past event that causes you distress, and observe it with all of your hindsight and wisdom that you have today. It’s a powerful technique that is very effective at lessening the hold that a past event has on you, giving you more control to handle similar or related events with greater grace and control in the future.

You can experience this technique by following these steps, somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed:

  1. Bring to mind a feeling or reaction to an event that you would like to change. This could be, a lack of confidence, snapping at someone or overreaction.
  2. Take a few calming breaths to clear out that state of mind.
  3. Think about what you want to happen instead. Make sure this is positive and compelling. Fantasise a little and play it out in your head. Notice how you feel.
  4. Take a few more calming breaths.
  5. Let you mind go back to the very first experience that you had where you reacted that way.
  6. Imagine being there now as your younger self inside that situation, but with all of the experience and wisdom you’ve acquired since that first event.
  7. Notice how your perception of that past experience is different with. Then imagine yourself moving through your life toward your current age with your new resources colouring all significant past events up to present time.
  8. When you reach now, keep moving forward in to the future and see how you’ll react positively when events occur. Notice the options that this gives you and the increased level of calmness you feel from being more in control.

This process doesn’t actually change your history, what it does is change how you feel about that history, and let your nervous system learn a new way to respond to these events in the future. Repeat the process each time a reaction is triggered that you’re not happy with, until it doesn’t feel like a problem any more.

Embracing your imperfections through mental kintsugi will prevent others from being able to exploit them (and you), and give you greater control and calm in any situation.

He is most powerful who has control over himself – Seneca

 

Further reading

Weinberg, R., Richardson, P.,  Using mental rehearsal to prepare for officiating, 1990, Psychology of Officiating, Leisure Press. Link here.

Bandler, R. , Grinder, J. , Andreas, S. (ed), Frogs into Princes: Neuro Linguistic Programming. 1979. Real People Press. Link here.

Matt

Experienced business leader, mentor and coach, with fascinations for technology, psychology and ancient philosophies. A self-confessed techno hippy with a unique talent for bringing the best out in people.

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