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Listening to Pain: Finding Words, Compassion, and Relief Paperback – June 13, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (June 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393340252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393340259
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,810,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Here's a pain medication you can't get at the pharmacy. Biro, an M.D. with a Ph.D. in literature from Oxford, asserts that language itself can alleviate pain—particularly its daunting power to isolate and silence. Illness and especially pain give rise to a wall that separates a person from the world, because pain literally leaves us speechless, Biro finds. What sufferers must do, he asserts, is find the words and images to describe what nobody else feels in exactly the same way. We need to think like Joyce and Tolstoy, Biro declares, and search for metaphors that are universal. His thoughtful, lyrical challenge is, in essence, a study guide to some of the last century's most powerful writers, their metaphors of pain and suffering parsed and pondered. Biro even turns to evocative artist Frida Kahlo to illustrate the look of pain (portraying herself as a wounded deer, for example). And here's why we should pay attention to Biro's difficult, complicated lesson: as long as the conversation lasts, we are not alone. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

At the outset of what looked like a rewarding career as a dermatologist, Biro became incapacitated by a devastatingly painful illness. In a matter of months, he went from an articulate physician with a PhD in literature from Oxford to being muted by pain. It wasn’t that he couldn’t speak. He could utter words, but they fell flat when he strove to convey to his wife, family, and physicians the degree to which he was suffering. Trying to understand, they heard him, but his words floundered. In his second book since recovery, he regards pain as a landscape accessible to only one person at a time. Yet giving a voice to pain can be therapeutic. Rather than relying on medical experts, Biro turns to those he views as premier standard-bearers of expression and arbiters of personal feelings, the lions of literature, from Joyce to Didion, from Tolstoy to Plath. With their aid, he explains how those in pain may use metaphor to heal suffering and loneliness when merely descriptive language falls short. --Donna Chavez --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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It was the best thing that could have happened to me!
adele ruocco
David Biro brings us into this world, helping us to appreciate how pain is experienced, articulated, and understood.
Juliet J.
Very helpful to me as a clinical psychologist with many chronic pain patients in my work at a rural hospital.
Dr. Brenda

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Marc Neal on January 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Simply stated, this is a remarkable book. Dr. Biro is able to merge his considerable expertise as a doctor of medicine and letters with his own personal experience with a life threatening illness. The result is much more than an exploration of the concept and reality of pain. It is an exploration of what it is to be a human being in the world: thinking, feeling, communicating, and living.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on February 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is fluid and lyrical with insightful cultural references throughout. It is as good as his first novel , 100 Days, and in spite of what is a difficult topic to communicate he manages beutifully. Highly reccomend it and not designated for just those that have dealt with illness or death.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on May 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Biro reminds us that pain, like taxes and death, is just around the corner for all of us. Maybe the inevitable is uncomfortable - all the more reason to talk about it. It seems like common sense to explore a language for pain, so we won't feel as isolated when it hits, but apparently not. Biro's book is one of a kind on this subject. He offers us a new understanding of this primal state, along with the hope that by using metaphors to better describe pain, the sufferer can find some way to keep connected to the world. It'd be nice to know the medical community might perk up its ears and listen differently to their patients in pain. It'd be nice to know this groundbreaking work might get some attention. For that unlucky day, when I'm in pain.....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Juliet J. on April 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who has not experienced pain, it is impossible to understand the experience. Part of the problem is that pain is so difficult to describe and talk about. David Biro brings us into this world, helping us to appreciate how pain is experienced, articulated, and understood. An invaluable book for caregivers, patients, and family members, but also anyone interested in the cultural and historical insights into this most vulnerable of human moments.
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By D. Pupo on September 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After seeing "The Language of Pain" in a doctor's office waiting room, I went home and purchased the book. I felt the need to read Biro's perspective to help create an openmindedness when it came to coping with my ailing (or so she claimed) mother. After countless doctor visits, hospitalization stays and innumerable tests, it is safe to say I began doubting each and every complaint of illness, pain and aching she expressed. I began thinking that the pain was simply just in her mind and at times a cry for attention. After reading Biro's many references of artistic expressions portraying the lack their of language to describe pain, I started to realize just how quickly I was to dismiss my mother's cry for a pain free world.
Reading Biro speak about how difficult it was for himself, a medical professional, to find the words sufficient enough to describe his pain to his own family was eye opening. He makes the reader understand every perspective, beginning with the patient on to the physicians and lastly, all of the friends and family of the patient who in turn have the hardest time watching and caring for the patient pre and post operatively. The book spoke directly to me when reading the chapter about the husband who is caring for his wife suffering after an accident and continues to need more and more narcotics. The husband is skeptical that her pain is that extensive and clearly can never fully understand what her body is enduring.
Lastly, Biro's book, although difficult and very academic to read, I continued to the end taking away much needed education on pain, the suffering of patients and how precise verbalization can help the medical field extend the most beneficial care possible.
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Listening to Pain: Finding Words, Compassion, and Relief
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