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Airing Pain 138: Dance, Chronic Pain and Self-Compassion

Is self-compassion a trait or a state of being? This edition is inspired by findings that suggest stronger self-compassion is associated with reduced impact of chronic pain.

Self-compassion, in this sense, is the ability to respond to pain and difficulties with kindness and openness rather than criticism. this episode we ask our artistic contributors, and ourselves, how to step towards achieving self-compassion and the importance of movement in looking after our bodies

This edition of Airing Pain was made possible by the invaluable contributions of our participating artists who showcased their works at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2022, and those in the academic field. We learn the motives behind using dance as a way of treating, but also expressing and communicating pain to audiences.


Dr Sarah Hopfinger, Artist and Researcher (Edinburgh Fringe: “Pain and I”)

Victoria Abbott-Fleming MBE, Founder of the Burning Nights CRPS

Dr Emma Meehan, Associate Professor, Centre for Dance Research

Tali Foxworthy Bowers, Choreographer and Movement Director (Edinburgh Fringe: “Monoslogue”)

Jenna Gillett, PhD Student, Department of Psychology, University of Warwick

The music used at the beginning of this edition was an original composition for Pain & I by Alicia Jane Turner.

Imagery provided by Sarah Hopfinger

Time Stamps:

1:35 – Miriam Introduces Sarah Hopfinger’s “Pain and I” performance during Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe, and asks what techniques from the world of dance offer those living with pain?

3:41 – Pacing as a technique. Also see 13:25 for Sarah Hopfinger on pacing.

6:34 – Emma Meehan, at the British Pain Society, on how dancers living with pain approach pain.

8:34 – Introducing Tali Foxworthy-Bowers
15:54 – A huge thank you, and invitation, for filling in our survey

16:20 – Emma Meehan and research into what somatic practices in movement can offer those living with pain.

18:20 – The importance of sharing and telling stories about pain experiences as an act of self-compassion for performers, and mutual connection. See also 25:53 for a continuation of this sentiment from Tali Foxworthy Bowers.

21:25 – Pain catastrophising, how we frame pain, and techniques for being kinder to ourselves with self-love and compassion.

27:54 – Suggestions of how to support those close to you who are living with pain.

31:34 – Emma Meehan discussing agency with pain, as showcased at the British Pain Society ASM 2023.

35:10 – The role of charities in patient support, and what else can charities be doing?

37:27 – Chronic pain is chronic strength: acceptance of pain as part of the bodies we love and care for.

Additional Resources:

Burning nights

NHS Resources

Somatic Practice

Dr Meehan’s Book: Performing Process

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