Common Denominators

My work and social life often include long periods of time lingering around in tattoo studios and the subsequent interactions with the people passing through them. One of the reasons the self harm aspersion un-nerved me so, was because I perceived an increased prevalence of self harmers in that tattoo studio environment. Whilst it could be said tiiat the evidence of self harm is more difficult to conceal in this environment, I must point out that a similar prevalence was not as evident in my work in health clubs as a fitness professional, given that similar amounts of usually covered flesh was on display here too. Anecdotal it may be, but self harm and tattooing appear related in some way. Like many areas of society and culture, there seems 0

to be a cross over point where self harm and tattooing meet.

One of the most frequent motivations for acquiring a tattoo is as a means of taking ownership of our bodies, in reclaiming ourselves from the constraints of what is, or is not, socially acceptable. Tattoos and body modifications of the various sorts are a definitive means of retaining control of the one thing over which we have absolute ownership. Conventional society can take many things from us, but our bodies are always ours to use as we wish.

Given that self harmers experience a loss of control as part of the psychological turmoil they feel, it is not surprising to find some common ground with the world of tattooing. For those yearning some kind of ownership and responsibility, those who wish to reclaim themselves from other influencing forces, tattooing makes perfect sense. Many of the people I interviewed whilst researching this article stated that tattoos were a reward to themselves, a positive re-affirmation of their self worth, a display of their strength and their convictions. These appeared to be common sentiments of both the tattoo fan and those wishing to be free of their compulsion to self harm.

If someone is looking for some correlation between the art of tattooing and the psychological profile of self harmers then this is the closest they are likely to get.

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