Japan has this really beautiful art style called kintsugi. Kintsugi is the art of taking broken pottery or masonry and instead of throwing it out or trying to restore it to a lesser version of its former self, you restore it and highlight the repair, usually by using gold adhesive.
I find this beautiful, and end up turning to it as a metaphor a lot.
This is not actually a good metaphor for “anxiety as an adhesive force”, because I generally think that’s bad, whereas kintsugi is both beautiful and functional. That horse is nonetheless the visualization that comes into my head when I think about how anxiety sometimes glues two pieces together when they’re not meant to be.
A while ago a once-boyfriend-now-friend described the reason for our breakup as our badbrains playing poorly together. His depression made him withdraw, which made me worry he didn’t like me and get very anxious, and we broke up because that was unpleasant. I can see why he thought that, it’s pretty logical but… I’m not sure exactly how to describe my internal response. It’s like the following sentence appeared fully formed in my head, except it wasn’t a sentence, it was a core concept like “blue” or “bicycle”.
“My anxiety isn’t why we broke up. My anxiety is why we stayed together so long.”
The anxiety was around what his withdrawal indicated around his feelings for me. It was incorrect: he loved me, he just had gremlins that prevented translating that into action that represented that love to me. But the existence of that love didn’t make us compatible. Forget all symbolism: my internal processes require certain things to feel or act certain ways. His withdrawal meant he was not doing the things that make me feel like I was in a relationship. The fact that we loved each other and were in many ways very good for each other were reasons to stay in each others lives, and perhaps to get back together some day when circumstances were different, but they did not make the horse statue whole. What we had were a bunch of pieces. My anxiety was acting like kintsugi’s golden glue, holding the pieces into a pattern they couldn’t hold naturally.
I’ve seen this with jobs too. I get anxious about being fired, but rather than drive me away it inhibits me from noticing that something isn’t actually a good fit, and I either need to fix it (file down the pottery pieces?) or leave. Again, anxiety is filling in the gap between is and ought.
I’m still uncomfortable with this metaphor because kintsugi seems like it should represent healing and acceptance, not emotional turmoil that maintains the status quo. But it’s what it looks like to me.
Honda Civic Tourer Active Life Concept, 2015. A prototype based on the Civic wagon with a loading rack capable of transporting two bicycles, along with a retractable arm which can be extended from the rack, for maintenance and repairs