The Mystery of Misery: The Psychological Effects of Living with Chronic Pain

Scheving, Anthony (2013) The Mystery of Misery: The Psychological Effects of Living with Chronic Pain. Doctoral thesis, Meridian University.


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This clinical case study explores the topic of the psychological effects of living with chronic pain as experienced by a 50-year-old man who suffered a career ending injury. The study considered the complications created by the conflicting approaches of medical and psychological interventions in the treatment of chronic pain. Literature reviewed within this study discussed the topic of chronic pain within the framework of five perspectives: biological, cognitive/behavioral, psychodynamic, sociocultural, and imaginal approaches. From the biological perspective, the theories of Gate Control and Neuromatrix Theory are examined, as well as chronic pain being defined as a subjective experience. In the cognitive/behavioral section, concepts of the "onion model" of pain, relaxation, an distraction techniques are discussed. Additionally, the technique of systematic desensitization are reviewed. The psychodynamic section reviewed developmental and personality characteristics involved in chronic pain patients. The sociocultural section examines chronic pain in relation to social power structures, and the disempowering of suffering groups. Finally the section on the imaginal approach considered chronic pain as a limnal state, which can be affected by personifying pain to make it responsive, thus affecting the experience of pain. Over the course of a year and a half of therapy, the client was engaged in the cognitive techniques of relaxation, distraction, systematic desensitization, and imagery. Later in therapy, he experienced the acceptance of his chronic pain condition, and the befriending of pain using imaginal approaches of focusing and reflexive dialogue. The primary learning of this study has to do with realizing that the confusion and contradiction that currently exists within the field of chronic pain study can be clarified and unified by the imaginal approach. The key to this integration is the focus on the client's experience. The tools, techniques, methods, and theories of the various perspectives are validated by how they affect experience and restore imagination. The mythic lens of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" symbolically speaks to the barrenness of imagination, and complexity inherent in the experience of chronic pain. This study offers hope to chronic pain sufferers in restoring a future with imagination and possibility.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Psychology > Critical Theory
Depositing User: Anthony Scheving
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2017 22:35
Last Modified: 30 Jun 2017 23:55

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