The Pain Management Programme, 2015

Kadish Morris is a London based writer and poet. She has performed her work at ICA, Southbank Centre, Rich Mix and has poetry published in Popshot and most recently in It Wasn’t My Fault.

This new commission for the Landing Site took the form of a text piece; a series of instructions, questions and exercises exploring the long-term management of chronic pain. Originally presented as a continuous scrolling text installation.


The pain management programme is designed to teach you how to live comfortably with your chronic pain

The pain management programme should only be used when prescribed pain medication results in further pain

The pain management programme will not relieve your pain but will teach you how to achieve a better Quality-of-Life

The pain management programme should be thought of as your home but with the furniture rearranged

The pain management programme should be treated as you would the making of a meringue  

The pain management programmes effectiveness is dependent upon your own individual level of commitment, positive thinking, body awareness, emotional circumference, trust threshold, growth rate and faith restoration.

Pain, though rarely discussed, is a common component of everyday life. At the time of writing, most people will be suffering from some form of physical discomfort. This could be tiredness, hunger, high/low body temperature. At the time of writing, a select few will be suffering from long-term pain that is either constantly active or periodic but almost always indefinite and uncompromising, heavy and opaque. This type of pain is something similar to a language with words that do not exist in English. Chronic pain is an untranslatable word.  

Exercise 1:

*This is an empathy exercise for the family and friends of a chronic pain sufferer*

Take a bus to your local swimming pool. Swim into the deepest part of the pool. In a controlled manner, lower your body into the water until you are faux drowning. Then, with all the gasping and panic and tightness that comes with drowning, imagine yourself doing something, anything – turning on the TV, throwing out old bottles of shampoo, visiting a contemporary art gallery, typing information into a spread sheet. Exit the water. Thank the appropriate deity for your predominantly pain-free existence.

It is important to consider definitions when discussing pain. Subjectivity is the biggest threat to the accuracy of a definition. This is also true for the definition of beauty, which relies heavily on nostalgia and of course, nostalgia is exclusive to each individual. For example, Blackpool beach, if not for its long-standing relationship with school-holidays, is quite a disturbing place to spend your annual leave.  Someone’s experience of pain is based on various factors including the location of their injury, their overall physical wellbeing at the time of trauma and the probability of recovery. The way the body receives, records and remembers pain is also dependent upon the way in which it encountered it. Being tortured and childbirth are essentially two different views of the same moon. Pain is an extremely complex artefact. It is much more of a colour spectrum or a dimmer switch than it is an island.  Or perhaps it is an island, an island that suffers terribly from hurricanes. In the first instance, you must attempt to get to know your pain personally in order to begin the process of successfully managing it.  

Please answer the following questions:

Where is the chronic pain?

What colour is the chronic pain?

Is it purple?

Can you tell me the hexadecimal notation of the chronic pain?

Is it #663366?

Where did you find you the chronic pain?

Was it somewhere wet and did you have to pull your sleeve up to reach it?

Which of these tenses does your chronic pain exist in?

  1. Future progressive? (“I will be in pain without end”)


  1. Present continuous? (“My pain is unyielding”)

Does your chronic pain have a gender or is it gender neutral?

Does your chronic pain affect your sleeping, breathing, dietary or sexual habits?

Have you named your chronic pain?

In order for you to find some form of relief from your on-going liaison with your pain, you must make space in your life for it. Whether physical space, digital space or emotional space. Chronic pain can occupy places and parts of yourself you rarely visit. Sufferers have said to have found their chronic pain at the back of the boiler cupboard, in their spam email box, in a half-finished conversation years old.

Exercise 2:

Empty out one shelf of the fridge, the bookcase, the bathroom cabinet. Reduce the amount of life you are responsible for in comparable weight – 3 houseplants and 1 cat or, 1 dog and 1 plant. Permanently delete your browsing history, cookies, bookmarks, text messages that do not end with an x. Take a memory, just one, a substantially dear one, wrap in an old Tesco bag and throw into the Thames, or any other near by river. Section off a corner of your house with a partition wall. This is your pain corner. Where you can only engage in pain related activities. This includes but is not limited to – crying, feeling apathetic, self-loathing, repenting, swearing, smashing objects made of porcelain. Set your clock an hour early. Leave every glass of water half empty.  

Acceptance is a radical act. While it is very difficult to accept the presence of pain, it is even harder to accept that its presence is potentially infinite. Naturally, we involuntary avoid pain. Reflexes, autonomic reactions, fight or flight responses are our body’s natural replies to pain. Though with chronic pain, a different, more considered approach should be adopted. One that doesn’t necessarily solicit the pain but one that has clean bedding prepared for its arrival. It has been proven that it is impossible to overpower pain, to overtake it, to overthrow it, therefore we must learn how to ease it in. How to soften for it. How to carry it without stopping for rest. How not to fight it.   

Exercise 3:

Repeat the following aloud:

I have read the terms of conditions outlined by my chronic pain and,

I agree

I acknowledge

I permit

I approve

I authorize

I allow

I welcome

I consent