“Beautifully Strange”: Understanding the Experience of Tattooing and Piercing in Women Who Engage in Non-Suicidal Self-Injury
AdvisorRobertson, Sharon E.
AuthorMatos, Paulo Daniel
Committee MemberCairns, Sharon L.
Moules, Nancy J.
Education--Guidance and Counseling
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractNon-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is defined as the deliberate and intentional damage or destruction of parts of one’s body, without the intention of committing suicide (Klonsky, 2009a; Shenk, Noll, & Cassarly, 2010; Whitlock, Eckenrode, & Silverman, 2006). NSSI is most often performed through cutting, burning, or scratching one’s skin (Briere & Gil, 1998; Conterio & Lader, 1998; Favazza & Conterio, 1989; Klonsky, 2007a, 2007b). The self-injury literature routinely distinguishes between NSSI and behaviours that are deemed socially acceptable, such as tattooing and piercing (Claes, Vandereycken, & Vertommen, 2005; Eberly, 2005; Heath, Toste, Sornberger, & Wagner, 2011; Walsh & Muehlenkamp, 2013). As a result, the relationship between NSSI, tattooing, and piercing is rarely acknowledged or explored in the research literature, leaving tattooing and piercing generally ignored in the discourse surrounding NSSI. In an attempt to understand the relationship between these acts further, I conducted a study to offer some possible answers to the research question: How might we understand the experience of tattooing and piercing in women who have engaged in NSSI? In this study, grounded in Gadamer’s (1960/1989) philosophical hermeneutics, ten Canadian and American women between the ages of 21 and 33 were interviewed about their experiences of engaging in NSSI, tattooing, and piercing. Their responses revealed a complex relationship between these behaviours. NSSI, tattooing, and piercing were explored and discussed in relation to a number of topics, including psychosocial integration, emotion regulation and dysregulation, tact, spirituality, art, impulsivity, embodiment, communication, harm reduction, and suicide. I found that NSSI, tattooing, and piercing have similar cultural and spiritual roots, can be ways of managing emotion dysregulation, can feel therapeutic, and can serve as forms of communication. Additionally, I found that tattooing and piercing can serve as substitutes for and forms of NSSI. Limitations, implications for practice, and directions for future research were also discussed.
CitationMatos, P. D. (2018). “Beautifully strange”: Understanding the experience of tattooing and piercing in women who engage in non-suicidal self-injury (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB
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