Concepts Within the Chinese Culture That Influence the Cancer Pain Experience

Lih-Mih Chen, RN, PhD; Christine Miaskowski, PhD, RN, FAAN; Marylin Dodd, PhD, RN, FAAN; Steven Pantilat, MD


Cancer Nurs. 2008;31(2):103-108. 

In This Article

Definition of Pain

The Chinese dictionary defines pain as a hurt or an unpleasant feeling in common daily living.[5] This definition is quite similar to those found in Western references.[6,7] From antiquity, pain was viewed as a simple idea or, from the perspective of dualism, as either a sensation or an emotion.[8] Ancient philosophers considered pain to be an emotion. For example, Aristotle called it a passion of the soul. In contrast, Descartes saw pain as a sensation, like heat or cold. A more contemporary writer suggested that pain could be described as an extreme aversiveness, as having the ability to annihilate complex thoughts and other feelings, as having the ability to destroy language, and as a strong resistance to objectification.[9]

From a physiological perspective, pain is defined as a strong discomfort of the human body,[10] as a perception or response to noxious stimuli,[11] or as a protective mechanism.[12] From a psychosocial perspective, pain is more broadly regarded as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.[13] Philosophers have interpreted pain as a punishment,[10] as evidence of existence,[14] or as a trial before becoming successful.[5] Furthermore, philosophers and religious leaders have suggested that pain is the result of innate sin, that it is punishment for evil.[8] As Livingston15(p25) wrote, “The chief difficulty encountered in a search for a satisfactory definition for pain, is the fact that it can be considered from either a physiologic or psychological perspective. Any consideration of pain, by one approach alone, without due regard for the other, is incomplete.”


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