Tattooed narratives : a psychoanalytic perspective.
Du Plessis, Jonelle.
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Literature suggests that people do not only acquire tattoos for explicit motivations such as fashion accessories or rebellion, but also because they express implicit meanings, needs and motives. The aim of this study was to: a) use a psychoanalytically-informed framework to understand the symbolic and representational process of the tattooed narrative, b) explore what core psychodynamic factors appear salient in the subjects’ experiences and history. A case study design was adopted, focussing on the narratives of the subjects in relation to their tattoo(s). Narratives were elicited using psychoanalytic research interviewing techniques (PRI). Six subjects were interviewed (4 females, 2 males aged between 23-42) who had existing permanent tattoos. Results of this study indicated that tattoos served an adaptive function and act as transitional objects to facilitate transformative relationships. This was particularly evident in the process of mourning and spirituality. Further, the concreteness and permanency of the tattoos assisted the subjects in reducing anxiety during the period of transition. Results suggested that tattoos may also serve a defensive function when associated with themes of destruction. A general motivation for ‘asserting’ an insecure part of the self by making it permanent was also identified.