Nothing unites the individual parts of a body like the pain network. An infected toe nail announces to me that the toe is important, its mine, it needs attention. If you step on my toe , I may yell “That’s me!” I know it’s me, because your foot is at that moment resting on pain sensors. Pain defines me, gives me borders.
Wolves have been known to gnaw off one of their own hind legs once it has grown numb in the winter cold. the numbness interrupts the unity of the body; evidently they no longer perceive the leg as belonging to them.
I remember the baby who chewed off her own finger. Unable to feel pain , she had no acute sense that the finger was hers, and needed protection. Alcoholics and people with leprosy, diabetes and other problems of insensitivity face a constant battle to keep in touch…
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