Autobiography and Chronic Pain: Reflections on the Unity of Soul and Body


  • Adaora Onaga Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos Nigeria
  • Omowumi Ogunyemi Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos Nigeria



pain, narratives, autobiography, body-soul, self-understanding


Classical philosophy and contemporary neuroscience recognize that chronic human pain involves conscious experience, emotional reactions, and physical sensations. With the advent of advanced imaging in pain research, corporeal and nervous system involvement in chronic pain are now better understood. Consequently many scholars today see pain as a combination of micro-processes rather than a simple event. This bottom-up vision of human pain explains it through a combination of its objective and subjective elements.

Chronic human pain, which is pain that lasts for more than three months or persists without reason following acute pain, goes beyond consciousness, emotional reactions, and physical sensations. Its subject is urgently moved to seek meaning and fulfilment. That search, while involving cortical and other bodily processes, is not limited to these. Narrative self-understanding and autobiographical thinking takes into account the faculties of intellect and will and can situate pain within a broader context of a meaningful life story. In this way, a top-down approach is adopted. The micro-processes involved in a painful event are thus integrated into the understanding of the self.

One’s experiences and how one narratively understands pain and its place in life can contribute to the debate on the union between the body and soul. This article contributes to that debate by exploring the role of narratives and autobiography in chronic pain while seeking to understand corporeal and psychical unity and cooperation in the human’s quest for wellbeing and fulfilment.






Human nature, soul and body. Convergence of perspectives