Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Freudian Psychology

Tales from the Tattooed Shrink, Episode 1

I was almost a tattoo star.

It seems I was given a second chance at pop-culture stardom!

The first came several years ago, when a nascent reality show contacted me asking if I would be interested in performing psychological evaluations on would-be contestants. Seems they wanted assurance that these willing-to-do-anything folks were not a liability. You know, not lose their minds in the course of participating on the show. I turned down the offer, saying that I could not ethically do the job within their constraints. Oh well, so much for that 15 minutes of fame.

But, as fate would have it, I got a second chance and this time I was all in. Seems there was a tattoo-based reality show startup looking for, you guessed it, a therapist who was tattooed. I was interviewed several times, instructed to be the most Hollywood I could and sell myself. I was pumped. The tats I had already accumulated were actually coming to life in my dreams, finally speaking their secrets, revealing their origin stories to me through unconscious and forbidden channels. I wanted the gig so badly, I could taste the ink.

Didn't get the gig. F**k. I coulda been a contender. I was ready. Doomed to obscurity, again.

So, what does a frustrated psychologist do when twice denied access to the kingdom of fame? You guessed it. I began planning a new tattoo. Please bear in mind that I am not prescribing tattoos in place of other self-regulatory coping mechanisms or as a go-to for dealing with feelings of frustrations, anger, sadness and existential longing. Sometimes, as Freud never said, a tattoo is just a tattoo.

I had some prime dermal real estate, a whole forearm just waiting for the nod and it didn't take much time to figure out what I wanted to place there.

Remember that scene from "Stand by Me" when the boys were sitting around the campfire talking about what favorite food they would choose if they could only have one for the rest of their life? Vern says something like, “that's easy, Cherry Pez."

Well, for me, it was the NCC-1701, aka The U.S.S. Enterprise (Refit) from Star Trek (TOS, of course). I won't go into the details of the amount of work, pain, healing, and anguish I experienced in the planning, acquisition, and actualization of the image, but there it is, on my arm, forever. The image that is iconic to this now-out-of-the-closet Trekkie and to millions who spent their childhoods wondering what it would be like to travel at warp speed, to go where no man (boy at the time) has gone before, and to transport my molecules around the galaxy at the speed of light.

I am transported, (pun intended) each time I look at it. And once again, I am not prescribing tattoos to work through childhood or any other issues. These indelible images are just that, indelible and should not be done casually and lightly. Save your impulsivity for something a bit less permanent (talk about an oxymoron).

Is this tat enough to heal the wounds opened by the loss of the two reality show opportunities? Is it an adequate substitute for those 15 minutes I will never have? Hell no! But fame is not necessary at this point in my life, or so I convince myself. Hmm, what's next on the mental tattoo runway? Something from Terminator. Maybe.

I'll be back.

More from Lawrence Rubin Ph.D, ABPP, LMHC, RPT-S
More from Psychology Today
More from Lawrence Rubin Ph.D, ABPP, LMHC, RPT-S
More from Psychology Today