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  • michelle m. davis

The Invisible Tattoo

Tattoos have always intrigued me. I think that’s because there’s often an interesting story behind people’s body art. Perhaps it’s someone’s way to remember a loved one. Or, maybe it’s symbolic of a life triumph. Regardless, I suspect that many of these permanently inked designs tell a significant tale.

Then I read about the invisible tattoo in Light Watkin’s “Daily Dose of Inspiration.” Invisible tattoos are not located in private areas nor are they covered by clothing. In fact, they can be even more permanent than ink embedded into the top layer of our skin. The difference is that invisible tattoos are the result of others' hurtful comments and reside deep in our psyche, frequently inflicting self-doubt or pain. Whether a deliberate dig or an off handed remark, people’s words can wound and traumatize our emotional bodies. And unless we are willing to identify then recognize the hurt, we cannot begin to heal the damage.

Being a sensitive person, Light Watkins’ blog resonated with me. No doubt I have invisible tattoos which have affected my self-esteem. And, I’m guessing that I’m not alone in this. Don’t we all have at least one symbol of hidden suffering?

So, if invisible tattoos are real, then how can we remove them? After all, we can’t laser the emotional body. Perhaps RAIN, a technique taught by Tara Brock, may be helpful in lifting these hidden scars. Here is how RAIN works:

Recognize what is happening; 

Allow the experience to be there, just as it is; 

Investigate with interest and care; 

Nurture with self-compassion.

Let’s say that you have an invisible tattoo from a high school teacher who sarcastically ridiculed you for asking a question during his history class. This man’s action may have impacted you to the point where you are uncomfortable speaking in groups or are hesitant to ask questions. Employing RAIN could help erase this invisible tattoo:

Recognize - Now I know why I rarely ask questions or speak in group settings. I remember how that fear started. I simply don’t want to be embarrassed for asking a stupid question or not saying the right thing.

Allow – Wow – thinking back to that incident, I was mortified. It was my sophomore year in high school, and half of the football team was in that class! And, what made it really painful is that Mr. Smith was one of my favorite teachers. (Then sit with that feeling – try to see where in your body the sensation resides.)

Investigate – I wonder if this has affected other areas of my life – like my career and relationships? Maybe that’s why I’m always quiet during team meetings or why I avoid large groups, especially if I don’t know the individuals well. How would my life change if I became more comfortable speaking up when I am unsure of something?

Nurture – Like everyone else, I have a right to use my voice and ask questions without fear of being ridiculed or thought of as stupid. No one can know everything. And my questions are usually valid. No wonder I’ve been hesitant to share my thoughts for all of these years. Maybe I can start small – with trusted friends and colleagues – and slowly build to speaking up in larger settings.

If you can identify with the concept of invisible tattoos, play around with RAIN and see if this technique helps to soften the impact of another’s unkind words. Remember, just because someone said something, it does not mean that it’s true.

While we cannot prevent what others say or do – we can only monitor our own words and actions – perhaps there is a way to help counter the invisible tattoos in our lives. Consider the impact if we truly focused on building up one another. It’s been said that ten positives are necessary to erase one negative. So maybe one of our intentions for the upcoming year could be to use our words to empower one another, eventually overriding the self-doubts that so many of us have embedded deep within. What if each day of this new year we complimented one person? I bet that in less than two weeks, we’d notice a difference in how we see ourselves as well as those around us. By searching for the good, instead of focusing on the “less than,” we can help lift our family, friends, acquaintances, and even those we do not know. And in the process of elevating others, we rise as well.


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