Psychoanalysis of the Tattoo Part- II
A) The tattoo can have different purposes and meanings according to the stage of the individual’s development, the family dynamics, and the cultural and societal environment at large. In Erikson’s fifth stage of his psycho-social development he states that the individual is faced with a phase called ‘identity vs. role confusion’ where the individual is challenged with configuring and forming a sense of identity. Perhaps the tattoo can serve as a tool for the individual’s ‘expressive- identity’, coupled with a sense of ‘separation-individuation’ from the rest of the environment. It becomes his working ‘internal environment’ and ‘self-expression’ of his ‘going-on-being’. The tattoo includes a form of ‘rebelling’ against the outside environment which creates the ‘separation-individuation’. Although Margret Mahler speaks of infant’s developing separation-individuation as an early development phase, nevertheless there is an ongoing ‘separation-individuation’ that comes in the later stages of development as well. ‘Identity’ is especially intermingled with the ‘separation-individuation’ one enhances the other. The tattoo serves a ‘dual role’ in the process; first it serves the role of ‘identity’ and self-expression of the individual, and second it serves the role of ‘rebelling’ against the other, the tattoo induces the separation-individuation. The need to rebel is necessary for true emotional growth. Winnicott calls this the need to kill off the other in order to love them. He talks about the concept called ‘object survival’, which is when the other survives the rebellious acts without retaliating and thus there becomes a harmonious relationship between the two separate entities which are no longer one big ‘extension’ anymore. The act of rebelling severs the extension and creates individuation. In the role of identity the tattoo needs to ‘fit’ in with the ‘personality’ as a part and parcel of the expression of the ego structure. It’s not outside nor inside it is placed as the ‘togetherness’ of the body. It can be seen as an ‘expression and identity of the body’. The body can be experiencing the tattoo.
B) The actual procedure can be of tremendous excitement, rush, and thrill and it can also entail a masochism, pain inducing, and aggressive act. The pleasure and fear need to be allowed and experienced in order to develop a ‘united self’ which includes hate and love. The tolerance of experiencing both love and hate is the creation of the whole being.
C) There are two parts to the significance of the tattoo 1) the actual having ‘something-anything’ on your body irrelevant as to what the content is, and 2) having a specific content with a meaning and reference. When there is meaning to the actual tattoo the tattoo begins to develop a ‘personality’. There is a kind of ‘aliveness’ to the tattoo and we can even say the tattoo has a ‘personality with attributes’. The tattooist, the creator of the tattoo, is not merely an instrument for printing an image onto the body; rather it’s a creation of art which includes the tattooist’s personality and projections. His entire personality is reflected in the creation of the tattoo. Furthermore the body onto where the tattoo is drawn is not merely a canvas where the tattoo is placed; rather the body receives, accepts, joins, and participates in a reciprocal manner in the tattooing procedure. The tattoo holder has a ‘joint relationship’ in the ‘aliveness’ of the tattoo. Its creation is a ‘joint process’ between ‘two creators’ the ‘tattooist and tattoo-ee’.
The personality of the tattoo is not an abstract concept; rather it’s a combination of collective-art of personalities. It serves as a reference to several concepts.