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Anthropology of Pain & the Clinical perspective

By Glenda Jensen

The surgical look.

In modernity, the pain is perceived with a cold, almost inhuman look, where we could almost say
that pain is definitely trapped: we know of it, although we miss many diagnoses of terrible diseases
and their corresponding healing treatments. We look pain as data, but not as experience.
Modernity opened a space to the construction of the technical world, which is guided by the idea of
progress and its intrinsic logic. Technological advances led man to live in a world immersed in a logic
of unlimited progress. Ernst Jnger, addresses in several works the problem of pain from his
representation and his relationship with man.
This work, as many of my texts, are driven by a query. This query is driven by questioning the
fundamental dynamics that constitute us as human beings; connection, vulnerability. The link Ive
found in the contemporary man and the pain, is deeply implicated with the problematic of
technique. In this analysis I will try to account for the symbols of aggression that arose thanks to the
technique- tekne- and its organic construction. The result is the pain and its pure fusion in a
technical world. There, the pain is left aside and the pain is not seen as a determining element of a
specific relationship of the man with the pain, but ends up being a simple category of significance.
Starting from the perspective presented by Ernst Jnger in 1939, the man is signified through his
particular relationship with pain. Pain is an immutable, unchanging category from which we cannot
escape.
Each of the significant changes that occur in the basic temper also changes in the relationship with
pain. The particular relation that man has with pain can be seen in the new type of man who forges
the technique according to Jnger, in the figure of The Worker ( The Arbeiter).
There is nothing that determines us more than pain, because we cannot escape from it. Pain is
present at all times, in times of war and peace, as well as in all spheres of life. The human being is
increasingly close to catastrophic visions of reality, where mechanical death is celebrated under the
control of technology as it happens in concentration camps, and where scientific technical mastery
knows no limits.
Pain was the protagonist of the twentieth century in two wars, and was always a tool of political
torture:
"Extreme pacifism alongside a monstrous increase in war equipment, luxury prisons in the
neighbourhoods, abolition of the death penalty cut off white and red necks - all of which seem to fit
the fables and that Reflect a world full of evil in which the veneer of security has remained only in a
serious hotel lobbies. This makes the human being seek refuge in an area of security that can
provide an idea of hope, tranquillity and well-being, which is the result of the idea of progress1i
The idea of Welfare and Comfort that accompanies the idea of Progress of the twentieth century,
makes up the problems of misery in the human being, unlimited power ambitions. The perfection of
technical means still has, according to Jnger, a character of pure comfort, but this cannot overcome
the exigency of life itself.
The essence of technique only emerges slowly in the light of day. That day is the night of the world
transformed into mere technical day. That day is the shortest day. He threatens us with a single
infinite winter. Now, not only is man denied, but he is saved from all beings that remain in the
darkness. The world becomes without salvation, loses all sacred character ... Technique is our
uniform.2

1
(Ernst J. , Uber den Schmerz, 1995)
2
Ernst J. , Uber den Schmerz, 1995)

1
No doubt the essence of the technical world has made the human being one of the main
components of the man as a human projectile idea. In World War II, the soldier is converted into an
instrument for war and his body is turned into an element. Our ethos is not prepared for such modes
of conduct, which makes its appearance in nihilistic boundary situations. This permanent offensive
produces effects against individual freedom and is through the Education civil, military- that
technique finds its environment to enter the area of sentimentality. Compulsory military service
serves in many countries to educate and discipline man from the earliest years of school. There they
control individual freedom and that results in a closed, rigid, unilateral man. There you see a
hardened face, rigid gestures, and the irruption of the discipline.

It is not only the objectification of the individual as an end, but also of the objectification of life from
the discourse that deploys the technique. The look that the technical world offers us, objective and
waterproof us of pain and reality.
Pain was and is a central problem for the thought of Modernity. The paradox that presents the pain,
which unites us and separates us at the same time, from the metaphysical point of view to the
technical focus of their analysis, both aim to ensure predictability and find a meaning. When the will
dominates the space of metaphysics, the technique seeks means that act as waterproofing against
pain. Both in the West and in the East, philosophy or religion sought ways to mitigate pain or to give
it meaning. From these perspectives, every technique that deals with pain brings with it an ethic and
an interpretation of pain of a metaphysical or religious nature. Religion, such as metaphysics,
medicine and psychology start from the need to cure ailments. The question that drives these
therapies - body pain treatments or emotional pain therapies- is about what type of behaviour must
be adopted to avoid or mitigate suffering. And if it is impossible for us to encounter pain, we must
live with it in the best possible way. Diagnosis, calculation, predictability and interpretation help the
human being to survive in distress. It is not always possible to flee from pain. The human being is
forced to know how to suffer and to adopt a position of what to do with pain, with a failure or with a
loss. The pain in those moments renders futile to all technique and interpretation for therapeutic
purposes to mitigate the suffering. The pain becomes flesh.

Interpretations of Pain

The intense pain, especially the physical pain, denies any kind of repair, as for our body, a pattern
that regulates all the designs and comfort artefacts that surround us. Pain as Jnger says is
omnipresent and something we cannot escape. Here is one of the ambivalent characteristics of pain:
it tears and slits but at the same time it tends to impose itself as a totality, aspire to be a totality. In
this way, suffering is then the impossibility of nothing and its rigor feel cornered by being and life.
That is why techniques are necessary to prevent the living and suffering being exposed without any
mediation before it. Extreme suffering transforms sensitivity into vulnerability, hostility into hostility.
Shamanism, or mystics, are those who know techniques appropriate to convert pain into the key of
access to places hidden and inaccessible to the common mortal. It is also a gateway to knowledge.
The sufferer is alone with his pain and little can be done to access that feeling so personal and
intimate. Compensatory interpretations, as well as the West's reliance on religious truth or
metaphysics as a remedy or rationalization of pain, have left their negative imprint in several
cultures. Myths, and philosophies provide narratives to integrate pain into a cosmogonist or
systematic order, to make sense of it, and also to place it in a hierarchy of reasons. Shamanic
techniques used to cure evil narrate cosmogonic avatars, and tell the creation of a habitable order
from chaos. In various non-Christian religions, conceptions have been developed to understand and
give meaning to pain.

2
In Hinduism, the cause of suffering is "karma," which originates as a consequence of the painful or
bad actions that have been committed in the present life or in Previous reincarnations. Someone is
released from "karma" by knowledge of the truth and the proclamation of the word of God. God is
the remedy. In parallel, other causes of pain are mentioned, which are: the gods, the world,
ignorance and suffering. In Buddhism, the problem of pain is expressed in "the four noble truths": 1)
all is suffering. 2) Its cause is egoistic passion-anxiety. 3) Only Nirvana can eliminate the cause. It is
already done in this life, but it will be full in the future. 4) The path leading to nirvana is "the
eightfold righteousness": that is, the righteousness of vision, of thought, of word, of action, of life, of
effort, of attention, and of meditation. In Islam, pain is caused by opposition to the word of God. It is
God who can remedy the pain. In the "Shiite" current the solution is affirmed by compensation;
According to this current there existed a redeemer, named Al Hally, who died crucified in Baghdad in
the year 922. In the traditional African religion, suffering is provoked by spirits or ancestors who
have been offended by crimes committed against life or other Moral faults, such as robbery, slavery,
etc. The solution to the pain will be to first identify the spirit to which it has been offended and then
offer sacrifices. In these schemes we find a certain constant: the cause of the pain is the fault
committed: in Hinduism is the bad action or "karma"; In Buddhism, it is egoistic passion-anxiety; In
Islam it is the opposition to the word of God; in traditional religions afAre the crimes committed. In
this aspect we are not far from Christianity, which also fixes as a cause of pain a very special lack as
original sin. In Christianity, Christ in his mortal life suppresses pain with miracles, takes pain Of all
and consciously suffers it in his cross. The only answer can come only from the love of God on the
cross. The solution to the problem of suffering is given by God the Father: it consists in "giving" to his
Son. Evil is sin, and suffering is death. With the cross he overcomes sin, and with his resurrection
death. The only way to decipher the riddle of pain and suffering in Christianity is the way of love. A
love that is capable of transforming nothingness into reality. Disorder, helplessness, isolation are
qualities that come to us through the experience of pain and deprive us. They produce a tear, in the
body and in the mind, and pain disturbs a vital pattern by virtue of which we project into other
spaces. There are, in the words of Enrique Ocaa, three basic experiences that could overflow the
dam of containment built by man and they are: the bewilderment of the intelligible, the intense
suffering and the moral unreason. Going through these situations would involve transcending the
limits of our cognitive ability, as well as crossing the limits of our physical resistance and the
coherence of our morals. The death or intelligibility of pain, disease, and the ethical irrationality of
the world were part of the set of related evils and gave rise to the religious origin of culture to the
configuration of theodicy as a genre of philosophy. The same theological structure of Western
metaphysics and its ultimate objectification as a will to technological power is part of that challenge
posed by Ocaa in the three elementary experiences. The objective is to insure against pain and to
ensure truth and foresight with the highest possible basis. The principles of philosophy, such as the
principle of no contradiction, the principle of sufficient reason or the nomination of a true god,
would not stand on nothingness, but on a being who wound us with his unreason. These three types
of pains are the background to the ability to establish a regular order and give significance to reality.
These three principles open an abyss between the knowable and unknowable, between speech and
silence.