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Weiss, E. (1934). Bodily Pain and Mental Pain. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 15:1-13.

(1934). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 15:1-13

Bodily Pain and Mental Pain

Edoardo Weiss

As a general rule we do not feel impelled to observe and account for the most ordinary phenomena of every-day mental life, until some experience brings home to us that the clue to special processes which have always been a mystery to us lies in the thorough understanding of precisely those every-day phenomena. Amongst these we may assuredly reckon bodily and mental pain.

We might be disposed to imagine that bodily pain presented no psychological problem, since the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system teach us that the feeling of pain is a specific sensory feeling, associated with special nerve-endings, conducting paths and brain-centres, just like the sensations of sight, hearing, taste, touch, etc. On the other hand, the pharmacology of the nervous system teaches us that opiates, for example, deaden not only bodily, but also mental pain and feelings of unpleasure in general. This is not the place to enter into a discussion of various discoveries, in themselves extremely interesting: for instance, the fact that the dose of opium necessary for the alleviation of a specific degree of bodily pain is in numerical proportion to it. Or again, that the calming effect on the mind—the production of euphoria—is generally absent in people who, without being addicted to opium, take it for bodily pain of a non-neurotic nature, people, that is to say, who are able to abstain from the drug again at once. In by far the majority of cases in which opium is solely used for the relief of bodily pain, not neurotically conditioned, the dose need either not be increased at all or only gradually.

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