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Pain and the Skin-ego

The skin is the body’s physical envelope; Didier Anzieu suggests the skin-ego is a psychic envelope, containing and defining the self: a projection or metaphor of the body’s surface. Using interviews and an online questionnaire, this research project explores participants’ individual experiences of the physical pain of being tattooed and its interaction with the ego. The responses indicated physical pain was considered to simply be a temporary process facilitating the more significant end result of the tattooed image. For the participants, the image worked to express aspects of their ‘self’. A theoretical mechanism is proposed outlining the interplay between pain, image and the skin. It serves to present the skin-ego as a medium of exchange, mimicking the function of the skin, through which the injected ink under the skin, forming an image, facilitates a projection of the ego outwards onto the surface of the skin.


Elspeth Strike