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The process of tattooing could be described as mirroring the process of healing trauma. In my interview with dark surreal tattoo artist Paul Booth, we talk about how tattoos can create empowerment and provide closure from a dark past.

Booth says “survival, the endurance of pain, and ultimately an image that represents that experience as part of your past is what heals. In the [tattoo] result you feel empowered because you suffered through it and you survived.”


“So many clients were coming to me for scar cover-up tattoos.”

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma surrounding self-harm. In particular, people perceive these visible scars from self-harm negatively, often judging harshly and treating these survivors poorly.

“The stigma around self-harm scars is huge. A lot of people see people in our situation and think they’re just looking for attention, which is a huge problem because then people don’t get the help they need… Everyone expresses their pain differently.”

self-harming behavior is generally thought to be a way to release or distract from overwhelming emotional pain and anger, or to feel a sense of control. The act of self-harming may temporarily relieve negative feelings, but Emily describes how it ultimately led to remorse in her case:

“I decided that I wanted to get a tattoo to cover my scars because I felt a lot of shame and guilt for what I had done to myself … As I got older, I would look at my scars and I would feel so embarrassed, so I would try to cover them with bracelets, but I would always have to take them off eventually and my scars were still there.”

Emily explains that her tattoo represents growth and change; it has helped her to forgive herself and acts as a reminder that she can still turn her life into something beautiful despite all the pain she once felt.