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Tattoos and the Body Connection

I’ve gotten quite a few new tattoos during this quarantine. And when I say quite a few, I actually mean three.


What is this about? I haven’t gotten a tattoo in quite some time, so why three, seemingly all at once? The answer came to me as I was sitting getting my last one two Fridays ago…


Something to know about tattoos and myself—I have to wait for the idea of what I want to come to me, I can’t really plan for long periods of time and perseverate over it. Which is odd, because in other parts of my life I do just that. I kind of have to wait for the inspiration to hit, so to speak. I may have an idea of the style of tattoo that I want to get, but the actual tattoo image itself needs time to develop.


Back to my original thought. This thought was helped by something my husband said to me when I told him I was going to get another tattoo and that this time my tattoo artist (Mandy Peeke who is fabulous) was just going to “draw on me and then we would see where that would take us”. Well, he thought this was the craziest idea he had ever heard and followed it up with, “you’re going to get something permanent on your body and you don’t have any idea of what it’s going to look like?!”.


Yeah that’s right. Me, who basically plans everything ahead of time and has gone through most of her life with an avoidantly-structured and rigid relationship with her body, is going to play this one by ear. Crazy indeed!


That’s when it hit me. Tattoos are probably the one thing more than anything else that connects me to my body. It’s hard to avoid being “in” your body when you are sitting on the table for a few hours, hearing the buzzing from the tattoo machine and feeling the pain from the ink going into your skin. There is a connection during that time. My husband has never had the challenge of “not being in” his body. He doesn’t understand how it is to spend most of your life trying to be “smaller” or even non-existent in your body. He doesn’t understand how the more you “feel” yourself inside of your clothes, the more you want to avoid feeling altogether. He doesn’t understand what it’s like to hate parts of your body, hate them so much that you become disgusted even looking at them.


Tattoos help me to like parts of my body better. One of the tattoos I got is part of the Mary Oliver poem “The Journey” in beautiful old-fashioned cursive, on a weather scroll. I purposely put this tattoo on my leg—the part of my body that I hate(d) more than any other part. The part that was commented on the most in my narcissistic family system. The part I was once told that if I wanted to I could have it “liposuction and it would be paid for”. Now all I see when I look at my leg are those meaningful verses which help me to remember how far I’ve come in my journey.


I shared my idea for this blog with Mandy after she had completed my newest tattoo. She voiced agreement, and shared some of her own story about the parts of her body that she “likes much better now after getting tattoos placed there”. She stated that she believes tattoos can be “cathartic and can really help someone heal their love/hate relationship with their body”. I couldn’t agree more.


*My tattoo artist is Mandy Peeke at Dakini Tattoo Art Collective in Philly in case you want to check her out. Awesome with watercolor! Email her at: mandypeeke@gmail.com.






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Alisa Stamps, MSS, LCSW

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484.416.1160

100 S. Broad St., Suite 1515
Philadelphia, PA 19102

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