Rate your pain from 1 to 10. Does it matter that your 6 is not the same as another’s? It does not: this number is your pain. It contains your memories, hopes, fears … the unique, variable experience of your thinking- feeling self. Are you part of an experiment to compare the relief afforded by drug A with drug B? Off your pain will go, carrying in its number the imprint of your memories, hopes, fears ... to join others’ pain as modulated by their unique subjectivities. Collected in sufficient numbers and under the right conditions, the numbers are aggregated as a collective barometer of relief from which differences between your pain and another’s, but not your own judgement and experience, are flattened out. In the early 2000s, pain scales — simple tools using numbers, words or images to quantify experiences of pain — have become commonplace in clinical trials, nurses’ toolkits and specialised health journals, at least in some parts of the world and especially in the USA. Their pervasiveness can be said to authorise pain as an ‘inherently’ subjective experience, permeated by affect and calculable only by the sufferer herself, in processes of allocating and evaluating treatment and care.
- Pain Threshold
- Drug Addiction
- Pain Sensitivity
- Psychosomatic Medicine
- Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
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© 2014 Noémi Tousignant
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Tousignant, N. (2014). A Quantity of Suffering: Measuring Pain as Emotion in the Mid-Twentieth-Century USA. In: Boddice, R. (eds) Pain and Emotion in Modern History. Palgrave Studies in the History of Emotions. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137372437_7
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London
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Online ISBN: 978-1-137-37243-7