I’ve come across a lot of interesting material about pain –how we process our own pain experiences as all as those of others – and now the topic is so sadly present in the news. Here’s a quick roundup to keep track of some of the issues being considered/discussed/investigated, e.g., our “deep,” or embodied, ability to simulate others’ pain; the neural overlap between physical and social pain experiences; the frequent (clinical) cultural de-medicalization of patients’ descriptions of pain; and the tensions or paradox of pain experiences (from a philosophical perspective). Overall, we have an extraordinary capacity to feel others pain and to lighten it; it’s likely that our best selves emerge in this process.
- A really seminal text for me was Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good, Paul Brodwin, Byron Good, and Arthur Kleinman’s Pain as Human Experience: An Anthropological Perspective (UC Press, 1994).
- Elena Semino’s 2010 paper “Descriptions of pain, metaphor and embodied simulation” (pdf).
- Naomi Eisenberger’s June 2012 review in Nature Reviews Neuroscience (“The pain of social disconnection: Examining the shared neural underpinnings of physical and social pain“).
- Megan Crowley-Matoka and Gala True’s terrific article in the latest Cultural Anthropology, which discusses their ethnographic research on US clinical practices (“No one wants to be be the candy man: Ambivalent medicalization and clinician subjectivity in pain management“).
- A Philosophy Bites podcast of an interview with Michael Tye (U of Texas). (For more background, see SEP’s entry on pain, and especially the idea that pain is both functional and representational).