Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another Person's Invisible Pain

This Citizen Dog reminds me of a long time pet-peeve of mine: people cannot see most of the pain a person can suffer. Unless there's a cast/bandage/missing limb, the pain is invisible. And many of our words for ailments or injuries are not menacing enough: headache, allergy, a cold, and depression. These terms each have either a range (headache can go from mild to migraine), or are used colloquially (when a person is feeling 'depressed' it can mean either they are feeling the blues or are clinically diagnosed and can be a suicide-threat).

Bellyaching personally [warning: the next paragraph is wangsty], I suffer from many problems that are invisible: allergies, stomach weakness, back pain, etc, that make me appear normal but on the inside can render me inoperable. And, self-conscious that I am for appearing as a malingerer, I have fantasized that as a type of super-power to throw my maladies onto another person for a minute. And, as part of this fantasy, once the person is suddenly stricken, he will collapse stunned and agonized. In fact, this led to my enacting a basic curse: for anyone who thinks I am lazy/shirking or making my problems up/exaggerating, my curse is that they should suffer my pains for a minute, like in the fantasy.

OK, enough unseemly ranting. But this observation comes from a greater point which is the need to exaggerate a self-description in order for your listener to take you seriously. See the Dilbert above for my point; transcript (from here):
That's right...cough-cough! ...I won't be in to work...cough-wheeze-cough... - Bad cold? Well, no, actually I have a bad headache... - But I don't know how to make a headache sound over the phone.
[I actually worked on this idea, within semiotics, for my Princeton JP and one day I will publish it BE"H.]

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