I’ve been doing therapy in a correctional setting for just shy of a decade, so to me, facial tattoos are as common as sunsets. For the second time in as many weeks, however, I’ve had two insightful, ink-faced fellas share a fascinating perspective with me.
Last week, a man with “Authentic Psycho” sloppily scrawled across his forehead in Old English candidly told me his tattoo was a tough-guy front designed to keep people at bay so they wouldn’t hurt him emotionally.
Today, a guy with teardrops and eight balls liberally spattered across his face shared this perspective: “In lock up, you get so caught up in the negativity and hatefulness of what’s going on that you end up doing things to yourself physically and psychologically you wouldn’t normally do. You don’t stop to consider the long term impact because prison is such a dark place. My tattoo doesn’t define me. I’m not a tough guy, I really am normal. I hate how people look at me because I know what they think. I’m a nice guy.”
It makes me wonder how often these intimidating looking people really are just hiding a side to themselves they don’t want others to see. A lot of them aren’t the psychopaths we assume. From what these guys tell me, prison isn’t a place where it is safe to outwardly express vulnerability, so I guess behind bars you put ink on your face to keep people at bay.