tattoos and hasty conclusions

I think I mentioned briefly in a past post that I had just got a tattoo–and if I didn’t, well I just got a tattoo. Not going into too much detail, I’m a fan of  dialectics–thesis, antithesis, synthesis–so I got a tattoo of a dragon, some waves, a peaceful river, mountains and a sun–all done in Japanese style–each representing a phase of the dialectic process, on my right arm.

Anyway, during my first tattoo session, which by the way was my first tattoo session for my first tattoo, I felt nervous/anxious/excited/etc./etc. I took an Ativan to help calm my nerves, which did very little if anything.

I had to take off my shirt, and even before the tattooing began, I was, to put it mildly, sweating horrendously (I brought a rag to wipe up the sweat from my underarms), not much worse though than any other social interaction. I was also wincing and wasn’t talking much to the artist who badly wanted to talk. Thankfully my girlfriend did most of the talking. Being a twenty year tattoo vet and slightly insensitive, about halfway through the session, he looked at me and asked, “Why is this so much harder for you that for everyone else?”

Shocked and caught off guard, I said, “It really hurts.” I left it at that.

I didn’t think much of this until a few days later when it hit me–I was pissed. Him saying that seemed akin to a therapist asking, “Why can’t you be like my other patients?” On the surface what he said was not only insensitive but extremely hurtful as well. It’s my job to sit as still as possible while getting a tattoo. The experience itself is mine, though. If I don’t want to talk that should be fine. If I want to wince that should be fine too. Shouldn’t that be somewhat expected, especially from someone who has been tattooing for that long? As soon as I started thinking about it, I realized just how angry I was. I also knew right away that that anger had been building and was ready to burst. I didn’t really know what to do with it so I just put the anger aside for a few days.

And that’s exactly what I did. Inspired by Layara, I came back to the issue when I had some time alone to think a day or two later and came to the conclusion that perhaps I had been jumping to hasty conclusions on what exactly he meant. He could have just been having a bad day and did in fact take it out on me. Maybe he really was just trying to ask if I was doing okay and it came out wrong. Whatever the reason, it’s not my fault. I did nothing wrong. It’s so easy for me to blame myself in situations like that.

Further, I tend to jump to huge conclusions based on the most minute types of behavior. For example–

  • If someone gives me a tired look while I’m talking to him or her then it’s my fault. They find me boring. They would rather be doing something else.
  • If someone doesn’t say hi to me and smile then I’m probably just not worthy of it in the first place and he or she really doesn’t like me.
  • Etc.

My point is that I have programmed myself to jump to very negative conclusions based on outward behavior, which has not served me. My hope is that one day I can catch myself making those hasty conclusions and and provide arguments or other scenarios to counter my irrational thinking. For now though, I’m doing my best to go back and look at situations and try to re-frame them, in order to attempt to objectify the situation more.

I go back to get my tattoo finished on Sunday. I’m excited, and the experience will be mine. If he’s not okay with that, I have the confidence now to let him know.

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17 responses to “tattoos and hasty conclusions

  1. It’s awesome that you’ve been able to reframe the situation and take control over how you’re going to move on from it. Your tattoo sounds interesting. Any chance you’ll post a picture of the final product?

  2. It shouldn’t have hurt all that much, I’m wondering if the artist did something wrong? Before I got my tattoo, the artist told me it would feel like a ‘hot cat scratch,’ and it did. Believe me, I’ve had worse pain in my life, this was not a big deal for me.

    • LOL Now you sound like the artist. I don’t think he was doing anything wrong. I just think I have a very, very low tolerance for pain.

  3. Nice post. Your tattoo experience sounds like how I imagine mine will be whenever I work up the guts to do it (profuse sweating, social discomfort, etc.) Congrats on getting the tattoo, though, sounds really cool!

    Your post made me think of an acquaintance of mine who routinely freaks out about social interactions, sharing with me the thoughts she has about people disliking her based on an inocuous glance or what have you. When I’m talking to her, it seems obvious that she’s overreacting–so why can’t I take that knowledge and apply it to myself!?

    • It’s easy to “solve” other peoples’ problems.But when it comes to ourselves, it’s so much more difficult. What we experience is illogical, obviously. We know that. But what’s really happening is deeper than logic. Besides it happens so fast–we make judgments at the speed of light–so it’s not easy to counter. The trick, in my opinion, is to look back at our own negative situations and pinpoint the irrational thoughts we have, and then slowly, over time, we can start doing it more automatically.

  4. That’s awesome. :D

    My therapist says that situations tend to repeat – with slight variations, of course – and that one needs to break the cycle of repeating the same flawed patterns over and over again. If you analyze your past behaviour, you are prepared the next time the situation occurs and have a chance to behave differently, so that the outcome will be more satisfying. And for me, it has definitely worked; that doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes anymore, but I had indeed a couple of situations that did mirror the past and where I performed better this time around. You feel less helpless, which reduces depressive tendencies, and you feel a little more confident, which counterbalances the social anxiety.

    Congratulations, and I hope the next “tattoo session” will be great. I’m excited for you. :)

    • Thanks! If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of therapist are you seeing? Are you doing mostly CBT? Or what therapeutic approaches does your therapist use?

      • My therapist is a medical specialist for both psychiatry and psychotherapy, but I’m only seeing him in his role as a therapist for CBASP (short for “Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy”), which does not count as CBT, even though on many levels it is similar.

        I think one of the biggest differences compared to other approaches is that you get more involved with your therapist on a personal level. He tells me about his own experiences with situations similar to mine, for example – the goal is that through building a relationship with your therapist, you learn to overcome your personal social problems and that you realize that not every person behaves the same way.

      • That sounds interesting. I like the part about how the therapist actually opens up about his or her experiences. My therapist is like a wall. I know very little about him. I often think that if I just knew a little more, it would help me open up quite a bit more.

  5. Good job Mike, the tattoo sounds absolutely beautiful. The comment made by the tattoo artist was insensitive. He put you on the spot. Maybe that wasn’t his intention, but I think it sounded rude and unprofessional, in my opinion. Be that as it may, it sounds like you processed the whole thing very well. Good luck tomorrow. Maybe you can post a pic of your tattoo when it’s done! :)

  6. livingvictoriously

    Mike, maybe the guy wanted to distract you from your intense feelings buy saying something shocking. It doesn’t matter. Reading all your answers shows that you have a good handle of the situation. Congratulation on your tattoo. Marie.

  7. I never had experience with tattoos but I did have my microdermal piercings done months ago. For me, the blunt of my social anxiety appears in social circles in which I feel I have to assert and prove myself. So at the piercing parlor, I was fine. I just try to pass the time by asking the piercer the usually questions like how long they have been doing this, what made them become interested, etc. Even if the conversation drains, at least you proved you can make some small chit-chat. If it helps any, remember that it’s really not your responsibility to be social in this kind of situation. You are his customer and it’s probably more important for him to get you engaged in what’s he’s doing. I’m glad you assessed the situation positively. And yep, I agree the experience is all your own and because of that, whatever you may feel is not in any way wrong.
    I hope the last session went well. =)

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