This chapter offers examples of the vicarious experience of excruciating pain—often chronic pain—that is felt by many patients but almost “invisible” to everyone else. The vignette, an excerpt from Inside Chronic Pain: An Intimate and Critical Account by Lous Heshusius, offers a harrowing first-person account of decades of chronic pain; a chapter from Herman Melville’s White Jacket describes surgery before anesthetics; and Emily Dickinson’s poem “Pain has an Element of Blank” attempts to provoke the bewildering and overwhelming experience of pain. These texts attempt to create a sense of the experience of pain beyond its comprehension as a symptom of some underlying condition.
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