In the last post we looked at the research on the human body as a carrier of meaning, with a discernible history with lessons to teach us. Let’s look at this idea more closely.

The work of Steen et al., “Generalized chronic musculoskeletal pain as a rational reaction to a life situation?” explores the perspective that the “body” with chronic musculoskeletal pain is a carrier of meaning. “Helping a person with chronic pain to become aware of knowledge embedded in the body, and letting her/him make interpretations of the pain, might…challenge both the traditional health expert role and patient role.” (Steen et al. 2011) This approach poses both epistemological and methodological challenges and clearly necessitates a review of the patient-doctor relationship.

“The theoretical implications of the scholarly discovery that the body has a history, and is as much a cultural phenomenon as it is a biological entity, are potentially enormous. Also, if indeed the body is passing through a critical historical moment, this moment also offers a critical methodological opportunity to reformulate theories of culture, self and experience, with the body at the centre of analysis,” explains Chordas (1996, p.4)

When a patient is able to gather meaning and attribute an understanding to their health status, this enhanced awareness is a high motivator to participate in their health reconstruction and improvement. Bannister and Fransella state that “methods to enhance reconstruction, and thus new meanings, range from those of the artist to those of the scientist, and that many techniques for achieving these kinds of changes have not yet been invented.” (Bannister and Fransella, 1986, pp.117-133)

Researchers concur that what is needed is methodology that allows the individual to elaborate on his personal meanings of events and the possibilities of alternative constructions.