Hurt by Johnny Cash
While I believe that the entire song Hurt is representative of physical pain, there are certain lyrics that stand out more than others. I believe that the song expresses how individuals with chronic health conditions or constant physical pain start to view him or herself and one’s life.
“I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real. The needle tears a hole, the old sting.”
For those with chronic or intense symptoms, pain becomes a part of who they are as individuals- whether this is how they view themselves or how they believe society views them. Physical pain can be immersive and all consuming. If the pain is constantly present, it may begin to take over one’s thoughts and lead the individual to obsess over it. Thus, the presence or absence of the pain can impact one’s view of reality since it has become his/her norm.
“Try to kill it all away but I remember everything. What have I become? My sweetest friend.”
Pain can take a toll not only on one’s physical health, but additionally one’s emotional and mental health as well. While the pain may lessen or subside, those with chronic conditions are constantly aware of the impact the disorder has already had. Such impacts may include friendships, family relationships, education, and employment. Therefore, while the patient may be willing to do anything for symptoms to be relieved, he or she will still remember the influence that such pain has already had on one’s life.
Additionally, pain and chronic conditions have a huge impact on self-image. A change in self-image may be due to physical alterations, loss of confidence, hopelessness, or how much other members of society attempt to understand the pain. The reference to “what have I become” may also relate to how the individual has chosen to cope with the pain or any changes in one’s life due to such coping.
“Full of broken thoughts I cannot repair. Beneath the stains of time, the feelings of despair.”
If pain cannot be relieved or subsided, a person can be driven to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and depression. These emotions strongly impact one’s thoughts about the situation and the ability to continuously suffer through the pain. Therefore, I believe the lyric relates to how a person will progressively lose hope of recovery as more time passes without success.
While interpreting the song Hurt by Johnny Cash, I became aware that pain is a consuming experience that can impact a person’s self-image and self-confidence. For those with chronic conditions or long lasting pain, the feelings of pain can become one’s sense of reality; since the pain is constantly present, having pain allows the person to know that he/she is awake and alive. Furthermore, for many, pain is not a single experience that ends without having an impact on one’s life. Instead, people are reminded of how the pain impacted their lives physically, emotionally, socially, and mentally. Lastly, the song demonstrates the concept that if left untreated, such pain can lead to despair, desperation, and depression.
Questions: As healthcare professionals, what role do you believe PT plays in impacting how physical pain impacts a patient’s self-image? What are ways PT can help prevent feelings of despair in patients with continuous pain or chronic conditions (especially those that are uncurable)?