Do Tattoos Make Us Feel Everlasting?

By on May 26, 2014

Tattoos are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around for nearly as long as human kind. From Egypt, to Africa, Polynesia, and Japan, decorating skin has been an integral part of identifying oneself and ones culture for centuries. Throughout history tattoos have served to distinguish members of various clans, tribes, religious affiliations, and social hierarchies. Tattoos have been used to symbolize lifestyles, and to forcibly mark inmates during times of war.

The uses and meanings of tattoos are all over the map, but in todays modern world they continue to be a huge cultural statement. So with traditional uses for tattoos fading away, the question becomes why have people continued to ‘get inked’ in modern society?


The answer, some psychologists suggest, lies in our consciousness and perhaps more specifically, our fear of death and inevitable forgotten memory. Whether or not we are consciously aware of our ephemeral existence we actively seek to push it from our minds. Perhaps we all suffer from “Peter Pan Syndrome” in some way and want to forget that youth is fleeting.

A fascinating book titled, “A Swim In Denial” by Kirby Ferrell Ph.D., has a particular section centered on death avoidance and how we as humans mold our minds to block out the inevitable. He suggests that tattoos are a perfect and powerful symbol of this quest to be ever present.






“As a symbol and a behavior, the tattoo has power. The quest to be better than ordinary is an appetite for more life, more good feeling about yourself and more response from others. The tattoo also promises to stop time. The tattoo implies you’re in an eternal present, willing to change your body permanently…” (Kirby Farrell, Ph.D.)


While every tattoo has a story, a special meaning, perhaps underlying them all is a desire to look the future in the eye and say, “I’m not afraid of you”. Especially for the youth of today facing difficult obstacles in their personal lives, in particular the higher unemployment rates, having a sense of control over the body gives a sense of peace.

“American culture celebrates freedom, individualism, and entrepreneurial aggressiveness. But in the current economy, the young earn up to 40% less today than a few decades ago. Aspirations go to bed hungry, scraping by on a dead end job and food stamps. Marriage, a house, retirement—these look increasingly chimerical. If you don’t have “enough to live on,” well, you’re dying. The tattoo suggests living for the present rather than emulating the traditional dream.” (Kirby Farrell, Ph.D.)



Whether your tattoo is a piece of art, a phase of rebellion or a last minute decision, there is one unifying purpose that the psychosis can derive from skin modification and that’s an opportunity to feel in the now. Modern tattoos have taken on important role in centering the self and in being both equivocal and universal.

Jessica Strickland

About Jessica Strickland

I’m a lady whose ordinary, needs that ‘extra’. With a background in corporate communications, I love the thrill of connecting with audiences and engaging with their interests. I’m fairly certain in a past life I was a mermaid…ok, I’m totally certain. One day I’ll be living ocean side again. I love animals, and my golden retriever puppy Briar, is my pride and joy. @pr_in_heels

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