Exhibiting Pain: Creative Representations of Life with Chronic Pain

Main, Susanne Amanda (2020). Exhibiting Pain: Creative Representations of Life with Chronic Pain. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00011737


This work provides an exploration of the effects of sharing creative representations of life with chronic physical pain. Social media platforms (Facebook and WordPress) have been used to carry out the research, hosting two online galleries of creative works depicting life with chronic physical pain. Comments on the works, and discussions surrounding them, have been examined to show how different audiences respond to the works, according to whether or not they have pain. In keeping with the postmodern epistemology underpinning this research, issues of interpretation and multiple interpretations have been considered. In addition, responses have been assessed to consider how effective such works are in communicating the experience of living with this invisible and subjective condition. My role as a researcher with chronic physical pain is explored in relation to the use of reflexivity in carrying out the research. The conflict involved in seeking empathy and recognition of experiences living with pain, while balancing this with the desire to keep this personal experience private and the feeling that other people do not want to hear about the condition, is discussed in relation to the concept of public-private dualism. Issues regarding the elicitation of empathy and understanding with the creators’ experiences are considered in the light of the creative works. In addition, the benefits arising from sharing such works in online exhibitions are highlighted, demonstrating the potential for creative approaches to the expression of pain to facilitate the effective communication of the experience.

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