How Kintsugi Helped Me Overcome Childhood Abuse

Kintsugi making

Putting the years of abuse into words is not an easy task. For me, it means reliving all aspects of my life that were most horrific. To some extent, it means having to accept the neglect I suffered at my own mother’s hands. It requires that I face the fact that my mother denied everything that was happening under her eyes. It is not an easy feat to accomplish. Yet this is what Kintsugi teaches.

An ancient Japanese art, Kintsugi uses gold and resin to reconstruct broken pottery and create something new. Rather than just discarding the broken pieces, they are reassembled with new and perhaps an even better function. Nowhere is this concept more applicable than in the reality of tragedies in human life. It promotes the idea of reaching deep within oneself to find the strength to transform and change what a dark shadow was. It shows how to remold gruesome sadness into a window full of brightness and hope.

At the tender age of five, the one person who I should have been able to run to for safety became my tormentor. My stepfather started to abuse me at the tender age of five sexually. The first attack came on the night of my mother’s bridal shower. My nightmare continued for the next twelve years. My mother refused to acknowledge the physical evidence, the bruises she saw as a matter of routine throughout this time. The worst part, when she found me naked in his bed at the age of 9, it was I who got a scolding! Tenderness or essential adult responsibilities like taking me to the dentist or ensuring that I had personal hygiene items like a toothbrush were a foreign concept to my mother.

My parents are well known in our town. It was the type of place where everyone knew everyone else’s business. If someone in our town sneezed, the whole town discussed it. Yet everyone turned a blind eye to the filth that encompassed my whole body. 

There wasn’t a single person I could confide in and no safe place to run to.        

My ordeal continued throughout the 1980s. While society was becoming more open and talkative, no one dared challenge the monster that was my stepfather. Each night I lay in fear and hoped against all odds that he would not find his way into my room. I particularly remember one night, when in an attempt to avert the molestation, I wore my brother’s pajamas and pretended to be him. I endured two hours of beatings for that little antic! Over time I became accustomed to the violence. It took me down of path of more than twenty years of domestic violence. Each relationship was just another opportunity for someone to use me as a punching bag. 

I never needed to come across Kintsugi, nor was I aware of any such philosophy. That is until, through the recommendations of some acquaintances, I learned about it. 

In one of the initial lessons, all attendees were asked to take a bowl and break it. Horrified at the thought of just picking up a perfect piece and breaking it, it did not make any sense to me. However, as time passed, the pieces came together, and I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. That class made a significant impression on me. It started my healing process. 

The Kintsugi Philosophy: 

Kintsugi is a Japanese art of fixing broken ceramics by patching the breakage with gold. Wabi-sabi is an ancient Japanese philosophy with roots in Zen Buddhism. It is more specifically linked with the tea ceremony. In this ritual, the uneven and haphazardly shaped tea bowls were highly valued by the masters.  

This age-old philosophical concept underscores imperfections rather than trying to eradicate them. It teaches humanity to be optimistic, even when everything goes south, and to embrace the flaws and injustices in life. The philosophy states with patience and tolerance, we can learn to see the aberrant beauty in an imperfect life.

My Revival with Kintsugi:

Kintsugi did wonders for my life; it taught me to remain calm and dig deep into my strength. It taught me to accept what I cannot change and view the events in my life differently. Over time it allowed me to gain my confidence again. Initially, when I started making my Kintsugi pieces, the art released my stress and increased my hope. I felt pride in making something excellent for myself, regardless of whether anyone else saw it or not. I was not sharing my craft with anyone. 

Eventually, I acquired that degree of wellbeing where I was able to communicate my actual sentiments. As time passed, I opened up to show some of what I made. When individuals saw my bowls, vases, and dishes, they remarked how dazzling my pieces were. It made me immensely happy. The ability to create something worthy of praise went a long way in regaining my confidence and self-worth. Finally, I reached the point where I was confident enough to educate others about Kintsugi.

I always try to convince others that the force of exploring your life is within you. You can broaden your horizons by getting advice from counselors. Gather information, motivation, and mindfulness, but it is your life at the end of the day, and you will be living with the results of the moves you make.

person doing handcrafts