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The tattooed client

tattooed-clientBody Modification is an ever-expanding form of expression with the skin being a canvas for a more artistic form of personal expression and revolution.

Clients in everyday life explore a variety of topics in the counselling room – grief and mourning; transition; examining Self and identity. Tattooed people in everyday life talk about similar topics, but through non-verbal embodied semiotics.

If our identity Narrative (story) is informed by our Sense of Self, a tattoo could be explained as a visual presentation of this.

Twenty years in America ago tattoos were mostly worn by the lower-class, deviant, sailors or tribes but the nineties saw a cultural shift to mainstream middle-class America. Tattoos became a symbol for counter-culture or resistance to middle-class values with the skin becoming a canvas for a more artistic form of personal expression and revolution.


Four Tattoo Narratives


Tattoos are individual especially if it is unique. Although an individual may get a sense of belonging by having a tattoo and becoming part of the tattoo community.


Some describe the experience of being tattooed as spiritualistic or ritualistic and in some cases call it an erotic experience as their skin is penetrated by the needle.

Personal Growth

Tattoos are often seen as an expression of personal growth: empowerment, spiritual growth, overcoming adversity or trauma.

Memorial Tattoos

Memorial tattoos has seen a massive influx over the last 10 years and can represent a myriad of things including celebration and reminders.


In a post-modern culture, the body has become a “body project” – space for self-expression and transformation.

Meaning can be found in all elements of tattoos – from design, to location. Meaning is connected to the permanence of the image and serves a meaningful purpose.

What does all this mean? For some a tattoo gives us a way to express our self in a way that gives us meaning. Having meaning is important as it leads to purpose – without purpose and meaning one does not have a reason to live. For others … well they find other ways to do this.

This article was based on a Masters Dissertation: The tattooed client – a phenomenological exploration of symbolic representations in Self-concept

About David Lawson

Finding the Light is a locally owned and operated counselling and life coaching business based in Bundaberg. We seek to empower our clients to find their way forward to a better life by using the approaches of counselling or coaching. If this blog article has raised more questions please contact us by email or call us on 0407 585 497 to arrange a time for us to discuss the article. Mention this blog and we will give you a FREE 30 minute session to discuss.

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