Visualising Pain Workshop Experience

When the idea of “Visualising Pain” was shared by Chronic Pain India on Facebook, it evoked instant interest, as I had heard about and done an art therapy workshop long ago but had never seen it as having such a deep connection with chronic pain.

Being a writer, I am often asked how I still manage to write so much even with Fibromyalgia and single parenting, I always say writing is my therapy. Art surely can become therapy for anybody as it is both an introspective act and also helps in apt expression which most people lack ,more so when they are in pain for such a persistently long, lonely and often ruthless period.

The venue chosen was CoworkIN, Sector- 39, Gurgaon was just right as it offered a variety of space in several rooms and different seating options for pain warriors with different needs. The visiting team from UK consisting of Dr Deborah Padfield, Dr Mary Wickenden and Mariana Gomes Goncalves (UCL, London) and the coordinating team consisting of Dr Anubha Mahajan and Dr Satendra on behalf of Chronic Pain India had clearly put a lot of thinking into the whole ambiance. The sensitivity was visible in the little arrangements made for the participants as most were pain warriors themselves and needed things like ice packs, different beverages and flexibility of program.

The workshop used a lot of VISUAL media consisting of photographs and art works from the previous workshops done by these experts that were used as talking points to start conversations and be ice-breakers. Free interaction one to one about one’s pain condition and experiences was also encouraged right at the beginning to enhance team work and coordination at later stages.

Simple activities like drawing your own  a face on a human cut out made everyone get in touch with the self-image they have and how they perceive themselves. Later instead of a pain scale that is traditionally done on a number scale of 1 to 10, participants made an artwork pain scale in the form of a spiral or circle or pyramid and located their own pain in the moment, it was a great grounding exercise and helped each participant to get varied perspectives about pain.

The medley mix-gendered group that had people from various age groups and professional backgrounds also had interesting conversations to bring from their area of expertise.

Each participant was asked to bring/pick an object symbolizing their pain and then create creative photographic portraits of them which were later shown as a slideshow and some of them created quite a buzz and again lead to a meaningful long discussion about aspects of pain and how it manifests in our bodies, minds and life.

Over the well-planned and healthy lunch and tea breaks also conversations were carried on about experiences with disability and insensitivity and cross-cultural aspects were observed and analysed.

In the latter half the participants used words to describe pain as teams and then grouped those making connections between them and understanding what is the common experience of pain and what is unique. This was also an insightful exercise in introspection.

The workshop occurred on 5th May 2019. Some participants did join the following workshop later in the week which occurred on 10th May 2019, which I unfortunately could not be a part of, but this was indeed a unique experience and I would suggest to Chronic Pain India and pain warriors to keep collaborating for more such events in the future too.

Visualising Pain is a project by Dr Deborah Padfield. The workshop was part of a knowledge exchange project, funded by HEIF, UK to capture the experiences of people from both the UK and India with a range of perspectives on pain and explore what, as two nations and as people with diverse relationships to pain, we can learn from each other. This project in future can help Dr Deborah and her team build and create material on which we can build to develop a larger project offered to more people and on a larger scale in India, the UK and globally.

Visualising Pain Team/ Facilitators
My pain description (one of the activities at the workshop)