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The Shattered Vase Metaphor

Events can disrupt our personal stories. From personal tragedies, losses to collective traumas like a pandemic, terrorism, natural disasters and so on the only certainty is that things change. Nothing stays the same. The philosophy behind the 'shattered vase' is that people have a natural impulse to grow and adapt in the face of adversity. So far so good, but in reality this impulse can stall; it can malfunction in each biological machine. But it is then, when the assumptions of everyday life get totally shattered, that we need our inner forces the most.

How does one harness this so needed inner life force (or resilience)?

Even when surrounded by many, we are an active agent in the creation of our own lives. So, when our engines dry out and intrusive thoughts and memories flood the mind at night or emotional numbness creates desires for avoidance and withdraw it becomes hard to visualise a different future. When the vase gets shattered we do not see how the pieces can come together to form a new whole.

In those times, good professional help can serve to reinforce and to contain all the brokenness in you. Therapy can help clear the fog and the pathways ahead. But even then, you remain the ultimate storyteller of your own lived experience. Therapy can only help you make sense, it can identify the emotions and beliefs that block personal growth. However, you remain the expert of your own life and the designer of your own future. This in itself is empowering to know.

As humans, we may strive to adapt but we also try to comprehend, to make sense of the meaning of events. Perhaps, that is what can cause stalling. When we ask 'Why?' or we try to accept the unacceptable, when we cannot make sense. In those cases, a therapist can be a unique companion alongside those who search for meaning.

"Another tree bends in the wind. It does not break, and when the wind dies down, the tree returns to its original shape. For trees, the motivation towards growth is inbuilt. The same is true for humans." Stephen Joseph

For people who have encountered any form of adversity, The American Psychological Association (APA) advises:

  • Make connections with others;

  • Try not to see crisis as absolute;

  • Develop acceptance that change is part of life;

  • Create goals and move towards them;

  • Take decisive actions;

  • Look for opportunities for self-discovery;

  • Nurture a positive self-view;

  • Learn from the past;

  • Maintain hope;

  • Engage in self-care;

To the above valuable advice, I would encourage to connect with gentle patience and gratitude. Make appreciation and gratitude of special moments alone and with many others a daily habit.


American Psychological Association (APA) Help Centre

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