Anatomy of Suffering -or- The Body in Pain

The Philosophy of Pain -or- Empathy and Psychopathy

Pain in real life and in dreams, is a common phenomena. There are many different varieties of physical and psychological pain. The psychological fear of pain is a common occurrence. Many dreams express "psychogenic pain". Elaine Scary "The Body in Pain" uses philosophical, literary, medical, political and religious language to describe the experience of pain. Psychological suffering and pain can have many faces. Empathy and psychopathy can be based upon a philosophy of pain that we all experience. 

Below are four dreams that report "pain". The first dream, Yvonne's is most likely related to "psychogenic" pain, inflicted due to sibling rivalry. In the second dream John is uncertain what is "triggering the experience". Most likely his manual labor work is causing him to associate and remember the pain he felt when his teeth were falling out as a child. Elaine's sharp "shooting pain" is a common occurrence for those suffering from chronic pain. As for Nancy, her dream seems to indicate that she is feels like she would like to be put out of her emotional misery. As Nancy says; "I was going through a lot at the time." 

Yvonne, 21 

I dreamt that my elder sister cut me all over with a blade the bruises were deep and painful and then she handed over the blade to me i cut her too but her bruises were deeper and she bled to death in my arms. I ran upstairs to my mum who was busy but i couldn't gather myself to tell her that i had killed my own sister. 

John, 22 Construction Worker 

I have been experiencing the same dream but in sometimes different forms for about 10 years, It always has to do with my teeth, first it was like my teeth had become extremely jagged and deformed and i was un able to open my mouth and also in great pain like they were stabbing through my gums, almost as if my jaw had been wired shut, then sometimes i would have the feeling like my teeth would start to become loose and begin to fall out or break off and bleed and i would be left with just small pieces in my mouth, these dreams occur maybe 5-6 times a year and during the dream I am unaware of my surroundings no one else is present in the dream. It bothers me because of how frequent they occur and in so many different variables never exactly the same but I consider it to be reoccurring and can not figure out what is triggering the experience. 

Elaine, 41 

I was walking through a court yard, like behind brick buildings. This yard was relatively small and a chain link fence ran along the other side of the buildings with only one way to escape or get out, that was up a flight of stairs and to the right along a walk way to the door.  As I started to go toward the stairs, the door opened and men came running out. They had guns (rifles) in their hands, I could see the barrels pointing down. I could see just their legs, no faces.  I knew they were going to shoot people so I turned around and started to run for the chain link fence. I heard other people screaming, as I jumped onto the fence and began to climb, I heard gun fire,  I felt a sharp pain in my back, I knew I had been shot. I woke up and I was having a muscle spasm in the same exact spot as the shot in my back.  What does that mean? 

Nancy, 50 

My dream started with me looking down at a person sitting on the floor she had no head it had been blown off by a shot gun her back was to the doors by the sink. The police came walking in and was saying how gross. The person who had been shot was me I was a spirit above my body I was trying so hard to tell the officers that I was ok see I am right here, but no matter how hard I tried they could not hear me because I was a spirit. The dream has bothered me for some time, I was going through a lot at the time but the dream was so real and the details were amazing. I can tell you this I did not feel pain or looking at my body did not bother me, it was a free feeling.

Further Reading:

  • Nigel Spivey, "Enduring Creation: Art, Pain, and Fortitude"
  • Arthur Janov, "The Primal Scream"



All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.