Mediation and the Japanese Art of Kintsugi

Mediation and the Japanese Art of Kintsugi by Susan Ingram

{2:30 minutes to read}

Kintsugi is a centuries-old Japanese master craft for repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold. If you’ve ever been to a museum exhibit of old Japanese ceramics, you may have noticed the patterns of gold veins that run through some of the pieces. These pieces had been broken at some point, and the gold clearly shows where the repairs had been made as the master craftsman put the piece back together again.

In our Western minds, this may seem like an unusual way to repair something that’s broken. We typically would look to make the piece “as good as new” and would expect it to be repaired so that the cracks could not be detected, and the piece would appear to be identical to what it was before.

Not so with Kintsugi, which repairs the piece in a way that makes it “better than new.” With the application of the lacquer, it is as strong or stronger than before. But most importantly, it has been transformed into a totally new piece – one whose beauty is further defined by the golden threads that run through it. And, of course, no two repaired pieces are ever alike, as each was originally damaged in its own unique way.

What an extraordinary image – and one that I find extremely relevant to the work I do as a divorce and family mediator. Couples going through separation and divorce experience many emotions (including sadness, anger, despair) during the process. They can feel that they will never be able to “repair” their lives and move on to happier times. But this does not have to be so.

The beauty of the Japanese Kintsugi pottery is derived from the broken pieces having been repaired so that the pottery is transformed into something different and “better than new.” Like the pottery, relationships often emerge from mediation looking different, but having a stronger foundation, so that the parties can positively move forward with their new lives.

8 responses on “Mediation and the Japanese Art of Kintsugi

    1. Susan Ingram, Esq. Post author

      Hi Richard,
      Thank you for letting me know me about this song. I wasn’t familiar with it. The lyrics are beautiful – just like the golden threads of those wonderful Japanese bowls.
      Best,
      Susan

  1. Rosa

    Beautiful! When the realtionship is reparaired, it is not the same than before! Wow. This is a very useful quote, Susan. For me, as a mediator, the challenge with parties is know how to handle in a competent way, their emotions, feelings and concerns. If I dón´t know how to do that properly, something is lost in the session.

    Best regards from Costa Rica

  2. Pia Marinangeli

    Hi Susan, always love to read your newsletters and often forward to my clients that need mediation. This one was especially beautiful.
    Thanks

  3. Victoria Sotelo

    Susan as always a wonderful insight. How incredible that even when we are what appears to be “broken” the road less travelled can take us into beauty and strength. I have such a powerful visual of gold threads being all over my life and my clients.

  4. Linda Varro

    I loved this article and the analogy between mediation and kintsugi. How often I forget that sometimes situations have to reach a stage of “broken” before they can actually be repaired and changed into something which better serves the parties.

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