Volume 17 · Number 2 · Pages 136–147
Kaleidoscope of Pain: What and How Do You See Through It

Maja Smrdu

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Context: Among the many theories of pain, the biopsychosocial explanation of pain remains the most established in medicine. However, the three components are unevenly represented, with emphasis on the biological component. From this perspective the experience of pain may considered as an epiphenomenon. Problem: I empirically investigated the characteristics of pain (especially chronic pain) and investigated how these characteristics relate to existing conceptualizations of pain. Method: A case-study approach was used to demonstrate different ways of understanding and describing pain. Case-study data were collected by two co-researchers through a series of clinical and research-focused phenomenological interviews with eleven people experiencing chronic pain. The aim of the analysis was to explore and evaluate empirical support for the 5E theory of pain. Results: The findings point to the insufficiency of the biopsychosocial approach to understanding pain and support a qualitatively different approach to its investigation. The enactivist and phenomenological approach, and the “horizons of attending to experience,” may open new perspectives on pain perception. Implications: Enactivism and phenomenology offer important theoretical advancements. A shift away from biological or biologically oriented approaches (e.g., biomedical and biopsychosocial models) is necessary to better understand the complexity of first-person experience of chronic pain. The shift is needed because of the complex and overwhelming nature of (chronic) pain, which cannot be described by (any) three components. However, understanding the process of constant interaction between somebody in pain and herself, and with her environment, meaning understanding the dynamic of how pain is embodied, embedded, enacted, extended and emotive, can bring a new level of understanding of pain and patients who suffer. “Horizons of attending to experience” are an additional offering for the holistic approach to understanding patients in pain, and to facilitate better coping. Constructivist content: When studying phenomena of consciousness such as pain, an enactivist and phenomenological approach should be considered, consistent with the constructivist approach.

Key words: 5E, chronic pain, enaction, first-person research, horizon of attending to experience, subject-object integration


Smrdu M. (2022) Kaleidoscope of pain: What and how do you see through it. Constructivist Foundations 17(2): 136–147. https://constructivist.info/17/2/136

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