The untitled poem describing pain by Emily Dickinson has largely been used to interpret the feeling of emotional pain, and the numbness that goes along with it; however, I think it also provides some insight to the feeling of physical pain and how it affects the sufferer. When Dickinson describes “the nerves sit ceremonious like tombs,” I think of how physical pain can often make us feel numb or even disconnected from everything else going on in our lives because it is all we can think about. She goes on to mention “the stiff Heart” and when experiencing pain, it is not uncommon to feel tense and we can feel pressure due to a pain that simply doesn’t seem to go away. This poem then once again describes the disconnectedness that comes with physical pain as it describes “The feet, mechanical, go round…Of ground, or air, or ought.” It can symbolize how physical pain can make us feel lost, like there is nowhere to go or nothing to do, and that there is nobody to understand our pain. This is an insightful way to describe pain because pain is highly subjective and often not understood by anyone and it can be frustrating. The last line of the poem describes the process of freezing, but I think does a great job describing physical pain, specifically chronic pain which is often slow. As Dickinson writes, “First chill, then stupor, then the letting go,” I think of pain because you have to first learn to live with the feeling, and how it affects your daily life, that it can make you numb to everything else. However, the poem also provides a sense of hope of “letting go” and one day getting better or being able to manage life with pain.
This poem does a great job describing the human pain experience and various aspects of pain because it is often more complex than we think or can understand. As a future physical therapist, I need to be able to understand how differently pain can present and affect individuals to be able to help them. I know one of the hardest things to deal with is chronic pain because it may not seem like there is a solution after suffering for a long time, but it is also important to not discourage patients or remove their hope because living with pain is possible as we continue to work on pain management skills and improving the quality of life of individuals. I also think that art pieces like this poem can further help me as well as other individuals understand pain to better help those around us who might be dealing with pain. This poem repeatedly circles back to the feeling of numbness from an unexplained pain, how do you interpret this numbness and how can it affect the individuals we may encounter that are suffering from pain?