Whether you have many tattoos or would never consider getting one, you may be surprised to learn that 40% of Americans between the ages 26-40 and 36% between ages 18-25 have at least one tattoo.
Once associated with marginalized, oppressed, victimized or transient groups in the population, tattoos are increasingly part of mainstream culture.
Americans spend $1.65 billion dollars annually on tattoos.
While the reasons for tattoos are as varied as the people who choose to get them, certain trends have been identified. One is the choice of a tattoo in the aftermath of trauma.
- Across generations and wars, those in the military have used tattoos as tributes to fallen comrades.
- In the aftermath of 9/11, civilians and firefighters throughout the world choose tattoos as an indelible reminder of the terrorist assault, the courage of First Responders and the loss of so many.
- Sociologists, Glen Gentry and Derek Alderman estimate that there are thousands of Katrina and New Orleans-related tattoos reflecting both horrific images of crumbling buildings and gushing floodwater, as well as signs and symbols of a beloved city.
- In the wake of the unprecedented destruction from Hurricane Sandy, tattoos and tattoo fundraisers have emerged. The message of one seems particularly meaningful- “ Hold Steadfast.”
Do These Tattoos Have Healing Potential?
A close consideration suggests that both the reasons and the choice of tattoos reflect many of the factors associated with recovery after trauma.
Healing From the Body Out
- Whether a traumatic event involves a car accident, escape from freezing floodwaters or the loss of a child, it is registered in our body in terms of the survival reflexes of fight, flight and freeze.
- Encoded under these conditions, our memory of the traumatic event is not registered as narrative, but as fragments of highly charged visual images, bodily feelings, tactile sensations or sensory reactivity to reminders of the event.
- As such, trauma experts encourage us to work from the body out in the course of recovery and healing—to attend to the sensations, senses, and images that carry the imprint of trauma.
The tattoo’s use of the body to register a …