What can we do when seeing our closest family members or friends in pain? I see he was suffering, he could not get any rest, he was cursing himself, yelling to the air. What should I do? How can I comfort him? I was the only one who witnessed his suffering at midnight. It drived me nervous and upset. I cannot feel his pain, because there is a boundary between us, our body is the boundary. Is this the reason why human beings are lonely? We cannot feel other's pain, so we cannot really understand and comfort each other although we want to. We are locked in our bodies. I could do nothing but tried to comfort him by telling that I also had the experience of constant pain. I doubt whether it was helpful to relieve his pain. At that moment, he and I were experiencing different realities. He seemed to be invisible to me. He changed into another person whom I am not familiar with. I couldn't fathom what happened to him.
I go back to read Elaine Scarry's book on pain. She says physical pain is inexpressible, and when we try to express pain, we are telling a story. As for who is telling the story and how the story is told, it involves politics and power. Pain is resistant to language, as Virginia Woolf says, "English has no words for the shiver or the headache…The merest schoolgirl when she falls in love has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her, but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry”. So it’s not his problem. When I ask him to describe his feelings, he only said‘itchy’, ’sore’. He could not describe it well because there is no language to express pain. Woolf’s account is more radically true of severe and prolonged pain that accompany cancer or stroke. Now I become more compassionate to my grandparents. They got stroke for long, they are illiterate, it’s more difficult for them to describe their pain. Their failure to express feelings/pain often makes them subject to rough treatment. They are the least powerful ones. A question follows: why is it so important to express pain?
Scarry answers, "the act of verbally expressing pain is a necessary prelude to the collective task of diminishing pain”. In other words, to diminish pain, we have to verbally express pain. Is there any successful case of expressing pain? What do you feel when being a witness of other’s pain?