S is for Simultaneity

| April 7, 2014

Since the beginning of March, I have been in the process of extending and revamping my half-sleeved tattoo on my right bicep. During the last two tattoo appointments, I have endeavored to engage in simultaneous physical and mental exercises to help mitigate the continual pain from the tattoo needle. Coping with physical pain comes somewhat natural to me—depending upon the degree of affliction.

First, transferring pain to other parts of one’s body actually helps ease the part of the body that is feeling the most pain. In this case, my inner bicep, particularly near my armpit, suffered some of the most excruciating physical pain: I counteracted it by biting the inside of my mouth and pinching different parts of my body, like the skin of my torso or the inside of my leg. Places that one does not touch frequently suffer more from pain. This process helped some of the most intense parts of my sessions.

Second, reading while getting tattooed somewhat distracts the mind from physical pain. Forcing my mind to grasp the concepts in The Dreamkeepers and Education for Socially Engaged Art helped my body cope with the current, sometimes enervating pain. Reading this material almost made me more engaged with it on account of an inked needle continually puncturing my skin. This act of distraction, however, does not work as effectively as transferring pain. At a certain point, reading even seized in consequence of the needle decorating the area near my armpit.

The experience of getting tattooed has a masochistic and aesthetic quality to it: The latter reflects something that one desires; that one potentially thinks holds beauty after the experience concludes and the skin heals. I find suffering for self-beautification (if under the assumption that tattoos are beautiful) and voluntary pain to reflect one’s own, to some extent, narcissistic and masochistic tendencies. Why would one suffer for something beautiful? Is catharsis found therein? Perhaps.