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  • Writer's pictureJoe Riley

The Pain/Pleasure Paradox in Life and Tattoos

Updated: Jun 4, 2020

Do Tattoos Hurt?

There's no doubt that were living in strange times. With COVID-19 bringing most businesses to a standstill it's given me time to think about some things regarding life that also translates into tattoos.

A common question we are often asked about tattoos is "does it hurt?" Yes it does, but to what extent is different for each individual. I believe this has to do with the Pain/Pleasure Paradox which I will explain in detail below.

For the sake of this blog, when I refer to "pain" I do not just mean physical pain, rather a whole spectrum of painful states of life ranging from the low level states such as boredom, frustration, or sacrifice to the excruciating states of extreme physical, emotional or mental pain.

Similarly, when I refer to "pleasure" I am using a broad range of emotional states ranging from satisfaction, gratitude, accomplishment, peace, love and all the way up to physical ecstasy.

I want to start out with a quick history lesson. For those of you who haven't heard of Roger Bannister, he was the first person in history to run a mile in under 4 minutes. In today's day and age that is somewhat common among top athletes but lets take a look at what it was like back in Roger's day.

At the time, running a mile in under 4 minutes was considered physically impossible. Can you imagine what it must have been like to have a goal or purpose that nobody believed in? I know I can relate, and there is a level of pain associated with that.

Roger didn't let other people's opinion stop him though. He was relentless in his training. Whether you are a professional athlete or someone who rarely exercises, pushing your body past it's physical limits comes with physical pain.

Day in and day out Roger continued to push himself harder and harder. He pushed through the pain of the mental obstacles, through the burning muscles, through the soreness afterward. And he woke up and did it all over again the next day. Over and over again he would wake up and put himself through this pain but why?

The answer is Pleasure. On May 6th, 1954, Roger Bannister made history. He did the impossible by running a mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. All the sacrifice, all the pain he endured payed off, and that payment was pleasure.

His pleasure came in many forms, from doing the impossible, to the fame that comes with that, the high paying job offers, being knighted by the Queen of England and even having his name and face on the 50 year anniversary 50 pence coin. These are just a few of the pleasures that Roger enjoyed.

Roger Bannister is an extreme yet inspiring example of what is possible. There are tens of thousands more like him that understood the Pain/Pleasure Paradox and accomplished the impossible and experienced the extreme levels of pleasure that come with it.

What all these great men and women knew is that anything worthwhile in life, any great pleasure requires you to pay with pain first and receive the pleasure later. Again, anything worthwhile in life requires you to pay with pain before you receive the pleasure.

We see examples of this Pain/Pleasure Paradox in our everyday lives. There's the pain of sacrificing time and money to go to school and get a degree in a rewarding job. There's the pain of raising children, sleepless nights, sacrificing time, frustration. The list goes on but ultimately the pleasure of raising a loving child, watching them learn and grow, each new development far outweighs the pain.

These are just a few examples of how we pay with pain first and gain pleasure later. I'm sure you can think of at least 10 examples in your own life that relate to you personally.

On the other end of this spectrum is gaining pleasure first and paying with pain later. Sometimes we look for instant gratitude without realizing or caring about the painful consequences. Whenever Pleasure comes first, Pain ALWAYS comes later.

A good example of Pleasure coming first would be abusing drugs or alcohol. It may feel good in the moment, but the repercussions of addiction can spiral you into a very painful life. Over indulging in food is another example. Some people want to change the way they feel, and the get pleasure from over eating, or from eating totally unhealthy. In that situation they are faced with the pain of obesity, low self esteem, and health problems. Even people who win the lottery end up miserable, broke or dead within a few years.

Up until this point I've discussed the Pain/Pleasure Paradox, and now you might be wondering Why? I believe it all boils down to purpose. The stronger our purpose is, the more pain we can handle leading to more pleasure in the end.

Roger Bannister had strong purpose. How else could he be crazy enough to wake up and push his limits everyday for something everyone told him was impossible. As a student, a parent, a significant other, a teacher, a business owner, an artist, a role model - the stronger our purpose is, the easier it is to get through the pain.

In fact, with a strong enough purpose we see past the pain. With strong purpose we focus on the pleasure we will receive at the end. It is up to each one of us to discover our purpose because our purpose will be unique to each one of us. And our purpose will change over time. The bottom line is that the way through any pain is by having a purpose.

This brings us back to the idea of tattoos. Do they hurt? Yes. Is it worth it, will there be pleasure? Yes, but- and this is a big one - Tattoos will bring you the most pleasure when you seek out a reputable tattoo shop, with reputable tattoo artists to do the tattoo for you. By doing your homework (pain) and seeking out the best tattoo artists who are skilled in the style your looking for, you will find the perfect artist for your tattoo (pleasure).

Some people want the pleasure that they think a cheap tattoo will bring, and are often times faced with the pain of a poorly done tattoo. The pain of a bad tattoo comes in many forms. Maybe it's embarrassment of an ugly tattoo, maybe it's the possibility of infection because the "cheap guy" doesn't practice proper cross contamination techniques that trained professionals do. The pain may also come in the form of having to pay even more to have the tattoo covered up with a new one or even lowered self esteem.

The pleasure of a good tattoo is that you know you got the best. You have a piece of real artwork on your body and it's permanent. You may find pleasure in fitting in or you may find the pleasure of standing out from the crowd. I personally find pleasure when I show people my tattoos and they say "OH WOW!!!" It's a subtle feeling but it brings a smile to my face and makes me feel good inside.

When it comes to purpose for getting tattoos, we all have our own. It could be to celebrate something in life, to commemorate a loved one, cover up an old mistake, or to decorate your body for the sake of decorating it. There's so many possible purposes but when done right, your tattoo can provide a lifetime of pleasure.

To sum it up in a simple way, I heard an old timer say "The more you want it, the less it hurts." I think this simple phrase relates to tattoos as well as to life.

At Inner Visions Tattoo we pride ourselves on our exceptional service. We take the time to listen carefully to your tattoo ideas and design a unique custom tattoo that is made to fit your body specifically. We stay away from the one size fits all motto and we put in the work to give you the best tattoo possible. We are well versed at many styles and will always get you in with the right tattoo artist for the piece you are looking for. And if we can't do the style you want, we will refer you to someone who can.

Getting back to the Pain/Pleasure Paradox, the artists at Inner Visions Tattoo take the time (sacrifice/pain) to research and design something custom specifically for you instead of taking the easy way out. We do this because as artists who constantly push ourselves we get pleasure from doing something unique, pleasure from pushing the boundaries of tattooing, pleasure from the collaboration between client to finality of the tattoo. My all time favorite pleasure is seeing the smiles on peoples faces when they look at their new tattoo in the mirror for the first time. That's a feeling that's hard to explain but one I seek to find every single day.

If you have any questions about your next tattoo, I'll drop a few links below. You can visit our tattoo artists page and familiarize yourselves with our artists and there is also a link to contact us! Stay healthy my friends and remember to wash your hands!!

Best Las Vegas Tattoo Shop

Inner Visions Tattoo

4225 S. Eastern Ave, #9

Las Vegas, NV, 89119

(702) 732-2200

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