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The Reflective Practice Before Tattooing

The psychological drive behind tattooing was my keywords for research in the last few weeks. As I have discussed earlier, tattooing is much popular than it used to be. Affected by celebrities or social media [1], the number of people fall for tattooing is growing faster than ever [2], as well as the demands for tattoo-erase.[2]

Although some people might argue that tattooing is simply an aesthetic preference [3], reflective practise is still necessary for those who want to be responsible for their bodies. Getting to know yourself could be the hardest thing in the world. The motivations behind the decisions are complex and diverse. My practice is aiming to generalise a ‘reflective practice’ for anyone who is planning for a new tattoo, or willing to develop their self-awareness through tattooing.

The practice is a summarise from Under the Skin, written by Alessandra Lemma[4].

The Reflective Practice Before Tattooing

Tattooing could be the existence of an unconscious mind. The design, the pain and the meaning are three essential components of a tattoo. The aesthetic trend change with time, the pain will pass, only the meaning behind the tattoo lasts.

1. Which one is the reason for you to get this tattoo?

• Recording the characteristic features of our life

• Spiritual enlightenment

• Protest against (parental) authority

• Decorate the body (desirable appearance)

• Seeking for belonging

• To visually attack the other with its refigured, and sometimes disfigured form.

2. Does it link to any of the phantasies in below? Have you aware of this?

• The reclaiming phantasy (rescuing the self from an alien presence)

• The self-made phantasy (reborn, showing independence)

• The perfect match phantasy (ideal/desirable body image)

Getting tattooed has an impact on both internal and external relationships. We could be a completely different person in the future and we could never know what will happen in the outside world. The reflective practice is trying to build a strong mindset for you to prepare for the uncertainties. So please give yourself a chance to let the right tattoo grow with you.


[1] Statista Research Department (2017) United States - tattoo/piercing inspiration in 2017, by gender, Statista

[2] Chris Jackson (2019) More Americans Have Tattoos Today than Seven Years Ago, Ipsos

[3] Frances Perraudin (2018) How tattoos went from subculture to pop culture, The Guardian

[4] Alessandra Lemma (2010) Under the Skin, A Psychoanalytic Study of Body Modification, London: Routledge; Alice Snape (2018) Tattoo Street Style, Ebury Press

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