A Difficult Patient Asks Who Am I? Part 6

By | August 5, 2011

Which is the real Joan, the one on the left or the one on the right?

Having dealt with the effect of chronic pain on personal identity, I would like to return to our difficult patient, Joan and look at two inconsistencies in her perception of herself. In the beginning Joan complains of not being quite herself due to the recent onset of back pain resulting in inactivity and a 10 pound weight gain and at the end she refuses to take psychotropic medication to treat her back pain for fear that it will alter her consciousness or thought processes in some way, resulting in an alteration of her personal identity.

The three part question that Joan raises in these two contradictory views of herself are whether we are who we imagine ourselves to be, who we appear to be or who we act like. Joan maintains her personal identity because she feels as though she maintains the same view of the world and same judgment processes, but recognizes that she is different because of the weight gain and because her behavior, at least with respect to exercise has changed. Finally what part does the outside world play in making these judgments? Her friends see Joan as basically the same person, even though Joan herself feels somehow different.


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