Pain – From Physical Pain to Social Suffering

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Pain is part and parcel of the human being in and experience of the world. It is impossible to go through life without, at some point and in certain measure, experiencing pain and suffering. Often when we talk about pain, we have in mind a physical or bodily sensation that is the outcome of some sort of accident or injury. Other times, pain accompanies certain chronic conditions and illnesses. Yet other times, however, pain relates to feelings associated with psychological or emotional distress. In this way, pain is a multifaceted experience. For obvious reasons, sociologists – being mostly concerned with social factors and social conditions – have not been prone to study pain as a physiological phenomenon, but there is an ongoing interest in human experiences of different forms of suffering. In this chapter, we will explore, elaborate on and exemplify a number of different forms and dimensions of pain and suffering, including ‘physical pain’, ‘chronic pain’, ‘total pain’ and finally ‘social suffering’ primarily but not exclusively from a sociologically informed perspective. In this way, the chapter attempts to provide an overview of a number of concepts, theories and studies resulting from the exploring, mapping and understanding of the vast and multi-dimensional landscape of human pain and suffering by other researchers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring Emotions in Social Life
EditorsMichael Hviid Jacobsen
Number of pages22
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication date18 Aug 2023
ISBN (Print)978-1032305233
ISBN (Electronic)9781003305552
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2023


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