Pain and pushback

The way Lieberman talks about how pain that comes from physical wounds is not as respected as pain that comes from emotional ones reminds me of what we call “psychosomatic” symptoms, where the physical pain comes from an emotional or mental source. (Sidenote, isn’t physical also ‘mental’? like the pain of a phantom limb, which is recognized as ‘real’ but also in one’s head?) This reminded me of Hustvedt’s discussion of hysteria. I could fall down a rabbit hole of language, from hysteria to lunatic, for example, but I will just say that pain is not always validated, especially when experienced by women. He says that Tylenol can help with the heart ache and the head ache. This is becoming more widely accepted, as with the drug Cymbalta: Depression hurts. Cymbalta can help. (This is weirdly a meme that I found when I tried to find an image for it.) In fact, I wonder about his thoughts towards depression in general. The Harlow monkey experiments are terrifying.

Generally, I dislike pop-psychology. I dislike the binary Lieberman sets up between the analytic brain and the social brain, that one must turn off for the other to function. I do find the social aspect of learning argument compelling, especially that the social brain performs the analytical brain’s function better than the analytical brain usually does. But this leads to the question: Why establish a binary? He also says we do not value the social. I see this in some leadership development and some academic environments. So why are we so fixated with Facebook and Instagram? Maybe because we are not being sated in our daily lives?

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3 Responses to Pain and pushback

  1. Jason Tougaw says:

    You might be interested in Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain:

    . . . when one speaks about ‘one’s own physical pain’ and about ‘another person’s physical pain,’ one might almost appear to be speaking of wholly distinct orders of events. For the person whose pain it is, it is “effortlessly” grasped (that is, even with the most heroic effort it cannot not be grasped); while for the person outside the sufferer’s body, what is ‘effortless’ is not grasping it . . . So, for the person in pain, so incontestably and unnegotiatingly present is it that ‘having pain’ may come to be thought of as the most vibrant example of what it is to ‘have certainty,’ while for the other person it is so elusive that ‘hearing about pain’ may exist as the primary model of what it is ‘to have doubt.’ Thus pain comes unsharably into our midst as at once that which cannot be denied and that which cannot be confirmed.
    Whatever pain achieves, it achieves in part through its unsharability, and it ensures this unsharability through its resistance to language. (4)

  2. Jason Tougaw says:

    And what about those puppy experiments with the morphine? I respect my neuroscientist friends very much, and I’m glad they do so much good work, but some day I’m going to write an essay about the various forms of torture to which many of them subject animals–sea slugs, chimps, puppies, rats…. Harrowing is the word.

  3. Andrew Ude says:

    I think the core of the problem is as society we are skeptical and what we cannot see must not be real. In the case of emotional pain, there are no physical symptoms that can be quantified. I think emotional pain should be certainly be taken seriously, but then there is always the “how bad does this hurt from 1-10” type of question. We are all aware that a shot at the doctor hurts as large as the needle is. The more muscle behind a punch, makes the punch hurt more. With emotion, this varies so drastically for each individual and as much as I would like to say “lets begin to take this seriously,” its difficult because what kind of heart break or what kind type and amount of bullying calls for a soctor visit, a prescription for social tylenol or counseling?

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