From Break Down to Break Through.

From Break Down to Break Through

Uncovering Hidden Opportunities in Challenge

Rachel Copeland for The Henry Centre


Your World Falls Apart

We’ve all been there…the relationship we thought would last a lifetime ends…the business we spent years building up folds…the exams we studied hard for earn us a fail…all of the above and more, usually topped off with a broken phone screen, flat car battery, that email meant only for your friend’s eyes, is sent to your boss… and your world falls apart. We may experience breakdowns differently, but what we all share is, we know what it is to be fragile. To be human.Sometimes terrible things happen to us seemingly for no reason at all other than the law of sod. Sometimes we make terrible mistakes and all the truths we hold close to our hearts are ripped away. 

Extraordinary Times

We are living in extraordinary times, experiencing rapid change both globally and perhaps personally. Many of us are facing the necessary reinvention of careers, relationships and identities when we never thought we would have to.

Silver Linings

So, how on earth can these breakdowns possibly offer us opportunities? How can we ever learn to see the positive in these negative things that happen to us?

The age old saying ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ could quite honestly lead even the most level-headed of people to punch whoever said that square in the face, but often these age-old adages are age-old for a reason. It’s because (like it or not) there is truth to them. Ok, we may not want to hear it when we’re knee deep in snot-soaked tissues, puffy-eyed and hoarse from shouting “Why me?!” to a seemingly empty universe, but bear with me…

It Is What It Is

There is wisdom in accepting a situation for what it is and breaking away from what no longer serves us really can provide us that profound opportunity to break through to a more meaningful life. If, instead of using our energy to fight against what is unchangeable, we focus that energy on ourselves, we can discover a resilience we may not have previously realised was there.

The Wisdom To Know The Difference

Like the serenity prayer reminds us:

Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,

The courage to change the things we can

And the wisdom to know the difference.’

we need to decipher between accepting what we can’t change and what we can. Certainly there is little wisdom in passively accepting ‘our lot’ when we are able to make positive changes. 

The Blessing in Disguise

The irony is, sometimes our life has to detonate to shock us into recognising the changes we need to make.

The field of uncertainty, though full of pitfalls, is a place of immense opportunity. Being thrown out of our comfort zone allows us to explore new territory. Life-shattering moments create space for new adventures.

Why Me?

These unexpected, unasked for and seemingly unfair breakdowns can sometimes cause us to dig our heels and resist the changes. After all, you didn’t ask for this, did you? Asked for or not, believe it or not, the breakdowns present a profound opportunity because no progress can happen without change.

When we feel the world is against us, it’s easy to fall into to victim mentality: “I haven’t asked for what’s happening! It’s not my fault!” However, there is a line of thinking which suggests we consciously or unconsciously create our reality through the choices we make. This is not to insinuate blame…more of a call to step into an empowered state of awareness and conscious choice-making.Forgiveness of others and of ourselves is the gateway to freeing ourselves from limiting victim mentality.

Even at the depths of my own despair, as I sat, defeated, watching my life come tumbling down around my ears, I found myself thinking, there MUST be some use for this.

Golden Opportunity

Amidst the apparent destruction these breakdowns cause, lies the gift of a golden opportunity. This golden opportunity was not lost on the ancient Japanese. Kintsukuroi is a centuries-old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. Rather than rejoining ceramic pieces with an invisible adhesive, the Kintsugi method involves tree sap lacquer, dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The result is stunning. Seams glitter in the conspicuous cracks, give a unique appearance to each “repaired” piece.

The history of each piece is celebrated through emphasising the fractures instead of disguising them. In fact, many view the “repaired” piece as more beautiful than its original perfection. What better metaphor exists for rebuilding ourselves, stronger and more beautiful from our experiences?

Reframing Our Story

What stories are we telling about our experience? Are we introducing ourselves as the single mother whose partner left because he/she was having an affair? Apologetic for our lack of work experience/ qualifications/ driving licence? How does the way we talk about ourselves and present ourselves to the world impact the way we view ourselves? Focus on the breakdown, the cracks, the destruction and that’s all we will see. If we reframe the story, our perspective changes and we see the beauty in the new version of who we are. How we view ourselves has power because it affects how we portray ourselves. If we present ourselves as broken, others may treat us as something of no value.

To Go Through Or To Grow Through

Post breakdown, which each step we take next is our responsibility.

Even if circumstances seem out of our control; how we respond to the situation is not. I’m unsure if everything happens for a reason, but I do know we can find reason in everything that happens. Choosing to grow through these challenges rather than just go through them is an empowering decision.

Broken But Beautiful

Like the broken Japanese vase, the fact we broke is not important; accepting we have broken and deciding to lovingly rebuild is the most important gift we will ever give ourselves. So, how do we view our restored selves? Focus on the cracks, lamenting the image of who we were and how we thought we would be, or do we see the golden opportunities within these cracks? Restoration is an art and we are our own masterpiece.

The Key

The key is learning how to accept what has happened. If we find peace amidst the changes, we find power to heal and find purpose in the pain. We are not broken, we are mosaics, abstract, Kintsukuroi…human works of art.


My Modern Met. 2020. Kintsugi, a Centuries-Old Japanese Method of Repairing Pottery with Gold. [ONLINE] Available at: https://mymodernmet.com/kintsugi-kintsukuroi/. [Accessed 25 August 2020].

Sifton , E. (2003). “The serenity prayer: faith and politics in times of peace and war.”  (6th edn.)


Whatever any of us imagined we would be doing at the start of spring, when schools had broken up for Easter and when the sun was just emerging, I think we can all agree this wasn’t it. A life most ordinary has been interrupted, and for how long we are not yet sure. In an effort to keep each other safe and ease the effect of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) on our beloved NHS we are being urged to stay indoors, avoid physical contact with those outside of our households and be vigilant about washing our hands.

The effects have resulted in empty streets across the country and whilst the birdsong seems to have been turned up a notch, any hint of human activity seems to have been muted. In a unique way much of the world is experiencing a shared occurrence, one entirely out of the ordinary and one which is forcing us to behave in ways unlike what we are used to.

Humans are, after all social creatures, pack animals. We cuddle close to those we love; we shake hands with those we don’t know yet, we share meals in each-others houses or in crowded restaurants, we flock naturally to places where other people are. And yet that has been suspended. In a strange reckoning, unlike anything we have seen before, we are being asked to stay apart.

But being physically apart doesn’t mean we have to feel alone. Now, in a time of uncertainty that plays into so many of our base fears, is exactly when we need to reach out to each other that little bit more.


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