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Analysis of “The Pain Scale” by Eula Biss

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    “The Pain Scale” by Eula Biss is a very controversial and interesting piece of writing in which Bliss attempts to determine a scale to measure her pain. However, the writer begins to realize that the duty of associating pain with a number and measurement is much harder than it appears due to the fact that she is unsure what it truly means to “measure things”. The practice of giving pain a set of numbers was introduced by the hospice movement in the 1970s, with the goal of providing better care for patients who did not respond to curative treatment.

    A scale can be tremendously helpful to cure the pain, but if there is nothing to compare the numbers to, it is in most cases, useless. In addition, pain is a reference to one certain person, and that person only. That being said, two people will not have the same opinion for a pain scale. For instance, an intense migraine for me may not be the most drastic pain to another person, simply because they have experienced greater pain. The essay came off to be quite analytical, and I found Biss to criticize the idea of the pain scale in areas in which was unnecessary.

    It seems to me that she has a hard time grasping the concept that it is simply a tool to measure the pain you’re experiencing currently, to any prior uncomfortable feelings of physical pain you’ve dealt with before. She associates the pain scale with a suffering Vietnamese girl, 2 religion, and her father’s input on it, given that he is a physician. There is nothing more to a pain scale than determining a number based on past experiences, since that is all what it’s about.

    Biss shows a sense of confusion between the pains she’s gone through herself, versus what someone else in the world has experienced, that she would undoubtedly consider real pain. “I struggle to consider my pain in proportion to the pain of a napalmed Vietnamese girl whose skin is slowly melting off as she walks in the sun. This exercise itself is painful. ” (p. 175). The difficulty of her determination to pick a number from a scale arises from the thoughts of the pain and struggles others have endured. What does a Vietnamese girl have anything to do with you having to pick a number, when it isn’t about her, but you?

    The pain scale only applies to only you and your experiences, and you are not meant to be rating world suffering. If we considered the suffering and excruciating pain of another individual, then what is the sole purpose of the pain scale, to you? It serves no purpose if you don’t consider anyone but yourself. Once being told so, the writer feels frightened as she feels she is the only person in the world feeling the way she is. “At first, this thought is tremendously relieving. It unburdens me of factoring the continent of Arica into my calculations.

    But the reality that my nerves alone feel my pain is terrifying. I hate the knowledge that I am isolated in this skin – alone with my pain and my own fallibility. ” (p. 175). The writer may feel that way, but I am beyond confused and baffled of her inability to perform such a simple task. The pain scale you. You should not consider anyone in the equation but yourself and your own 3 experience. Biss over analyzes and brings up unimportant, and unrelated issues to her own problem, which is her pain. The writer’s father had raised her to believe that some things one might expect to be painful are not.

    For example, starving to death, at a specific point, is not considered painful, “At times, it may even cause elation. ” (p. 175). Such an issue would not require to be rated on the pain scale. Biss begins to discuss how she is unable to imagine the worst pain imaginable, as she is incapable of understanding calculus. “ Like the advanced math of my distant past, determining the intensity of my own pain is a blind calculation. On my first attempt, I assigned the value of ten to a theoretical experience – burning alive.

    Then I tried to determine what percentage of the pain of burning alive I was feeling. ” Sitting still in her chair after one hour, Biss chose 30% as her percentage of pain she was feeling. How can someone who had not gone through the experience, give it a set percentage as if they were truly feeling it. The writer isn’t making right use of the determination of the pain scale, as she is doing nothing with any prior harm. “Three. Mail still remains unopened. Thoughts are rarely followed to their conclusions. Sitting still becomes unbearable after one hour.

    Nausea sets in. Grasping at the pain does not bring relief. Quiet desperation descends. ” Given that sitting in a chair for an hour may be unpleasant, it is not painful, unless you have some kind of back pain or what have you, which the writer does not specify. I found this example to be not only silly but also ignorant. You cannot quantify a pain you are not experiencing, as it is not yours, especially if you’re sitting in a chair feeling no pain. The writer associates the numbers on the pain scale with “God’s plan. ” (p. 178). “Mathematics revealed God’s plan.

    But the very use of numbers required a religious faith, because one could drop off the edge of the earth at any point. The boundaries of the maps at that time faded into oceans full of monsters. ” (p. 178). To my understanding, it seems as though Biss feels that in order to put a number to your pain you must a follower of sort of religious figure. I find that absurd because doctors are not trained to help people of any certain religion, but anyone in need of a cure. She doesn’t give a good enough reasoning as to why some could “drop off the edge of the earth at any point. She is full of nonsense. Whether a follower or not, religion should not speak for your own pain scale. After reading “The Pain Scale”, I can conclude that the writer depicted the whole idea on a numerous amount of levels, that most likely another person would not have thought of. As I was writing this essay, I thought back to 3 months ago when I was sitting in the doctor’s office, and I was asked to make use of the pain scale. The only thoughts that went through my mind are those of what was the worst pain I’ve experienced throughout my life.

    Doing so helped me choose the proper number in hopes of receiving a better care. Eula Biss took a simple idea and expanded it on various horizons that although seemed intriguing, they were unnecessary and mind-boggling. She related her pain with a Vietnamese girl, religion, and the ideas given from her father. Over-analyzation played a major role in her essay, and I think next time she is asked to rate her pain on a scale of 1-10, she should map her pain in proportion to pain she’s already felt, because there is nothing more to the pain scale.

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