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The Language of Pain: Finding Words, Compassion, and Relief Hardcover – January 18, 2010
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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.)
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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
Top customer reviews
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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.
Biro's book provides a great window into the patient's private world of pain. Though I spend a great deal of time with my mom, I have never truly understood how she was feeling. I will admit, when she stays in bed for days I get angry at her.
After reading this book I now realize how isolating her pain must be and I now have a new way to communicate with her. It has opened up a dialogue between us so my mother doesn't feel so alone in her pain.
This book has changed my life! Not only has it made me a better caregiver- it has given us a new way to treat this misunderstood aspect of her illness.
I highly recommend The Language of Pain!!