Does "After Great Pain a Formal Feeling Comes" by Emily Dickinson suggest that after a certain amount of sorrow, the human mind no longer reacts?
"After Great Pain a Formal Feeling Comes" by Emily Dickinson
Yes. Dickenson recreates the suffering we go through after a terrible shock. She does not say what the specific pain is --- but it really doesn't matter, it is a terrible psychological pain. She is talking about the reaction to the pain.
Many people go into a terrible depression. She talks about "nerves sit ceremonious like tombs" --- like places for the dead. The heart is stiff, not pumping; the feet mechanical and wooden, operating without thought; and she compares contentment to a stone. None of these images have a life of their own. The human mind has become lifeless and distant.
She terms this the hour of "lead". Lead weighs you down. If you outlive this part of the trauma, you will remember it as a freezing person remembers the snow, first the chill (the initial feeling of pain), then the "stupor" --the anguish of the pain at its worst. Notice she uses the word "stupor" which is defined as "mental dullness, apathy, stupefaction" (see below), and then the "letting go" or the reemergence into the world of the living.