We don’t talk much about physical pain, it’s almost gone for us unless we feel it. But in the inevitable fate of being human, pain befalls us all.
“Feeling pain that can be partially defined by human sciences knowledge, literary testimonies, and especially testimonies of the sick or injured, is first of all a personal and private phenomenon that avoids any measure, any attempt to define and describe it, and it is impossible to tell one another its degree and characteristics. Bitterness is the radical failure of language, sunk into the darkness of the body, it belongs to the individual’s internal debate. It absorbs the body in its own halo or gnaws at it like a predatory animal, but it is not possible to name this tormenting privacy. It is not a continent for the most daring explorers to draw a concrete geography. Under its blade, the unity of life shattered, leading to the disintegration of language. Screams, whining, groaning, crying or silence, that is, the inadequacies of words and ideas…; pain mutes the voice and makes it unrecognizable.” David Le Breton – Anthropology of Pain
Suffering dramatically makes man grasp the subjectivity of our experience. In our daily life, where we always forget that we are finite, a spark flashes. It confronts the fact that it is only “me” who lives this life. It puts our loneliness in our face. It terrifies people. Presumably because of this, it is something that is avoided to be talked about. Of course, we wouldn’t be able to move forward if we thought about it all the time. In the chatter of daily life, it is necessary and healthy to live as if pain does not come to us. However, to deny it absolutely can put us in an inextricable situation with the horror it brings when it comes to us.
Such powerful experiences (experiences of spiritual and physical pain) can be a good opportunity to stop and think about one’s own life and, presumably, give the strength to take steps to do justice to the life we live. Because the experience of pain brings a person closer to himself, to his own existence in a powerful way. It returns us to ourselves with its inexpressibility to the other.
David Le Breton – Anthropology of PainLet’s continue with another quote from the book:
“Pain is not proven, it is felt. In this sense, it reveals a human condition trait that it tries to deny your connection to the social world: loneliness, or rather introversion. The devastated, suffering person sometimes experiences a drama because of the misunderstanding of his suffering or the suspicion of its severity. And there is nothing that can prove the sincerity of a torment that is hidden in the body and escapes the eyes. People say that they have very severe pains, but they know beforehand that there can be no other person who feels or shares them as they do.
‘I can tell about my aches and pains, another can do it, or we say we can, but how can it be verified that we can reflect them fully and accurately and with what level of absoluteness?’ says Wittgenstein. And he continues: ‘I can certainly know that N. is suffering, but I do not know how much he is suffering. It’s pain he knows for sure, but his outward signs don’t tell me anything about a totally special situation.’
Words scatter and name an escapist reality, despite the torments of the body in its introversion. It takes a glutton to understand the severity of the other’s pain. The difference of bodies, the forced separation of identities make it impossible to penetrate the pain and pain consciousness of the glutton who is chained to his own pain, freedom or personality. ‘I’m depressed, I’m in pain.’
‘Depression can be verbalized, it can produce symptoms, it can turn into signs and phantasms, or it can be dispelled by action. It can even be transmitted; pain belongs only to man himself.’ In order to understand what a burn wound is, it is necessary to be burned. However, there is no way to understand the extent of the pain of another person who is burned again. For example, although he can create a unity of destinies beside him, he cannot save a person from the loneliness of his pain and from his own intention alone.
Undoubtedly, a person who suffers is never so alone in this sense.”
Experiencing pain is probably the most tactless harbinger of final loneliness. We are alone with the inadequacy of words in every expression of the experience of pain; We are alone in the fact that our pain can never be experienced as our own from another side.
We are all helpless about the incomprehensibility of our suffering by the other as “me”. But one thing still brings us closer to the other; this desperation is inherent in all of us.
We are faced with a dilemma. Loneliness makes us feel helpless, and the fellowship of this helplessness creates the feeling that we are not alone.
It is never possible for me to understand the “other” in an absolute form, yes. The other will never be able to understand the “me” as I understand myself, as I want to express myself…
But this meaning and effort to explain is admirable and it is the most valuable element that binds us together and makes us stronger. Ultimately, I relieve the helplessness brought about by my inability to express my pain, by understanding that the pain of the other cannot be spoken about. Our effort to understand each other is one of the most valuable assets that add meaning to our lives; and it is customary that we ourselves…
We need each other a lot; we are doomed to togetherness and this is sometimes a curse that makes people say “hell is other people” in Sartre’s words, and sometimes a blessing that makes people say “good thing they’re with me”. It is up to us to determine which one we will be closer to in our lifetime. Therapy, on the other hand, is the surest way to establish an understanding bond with both the “me” and the “other”.