John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD


What is the Purpose of Suffering?

What is the purpose of suffering?

This is not a question psychologists can answer. We can establish that suffering exists, in all its various forms, but no psychological theory can explain why it exists in the universe. This is the bailiwick of theologians and holy persons, I suppose.

And yet.

And yet, in my role as therapist, listening to people in psychological pain, I’ve come to believe that suffering has something to teach us. At least if we let it. Suffering teaches us about compassion. Because if we did not suffer, if we ourselves never knew distress, how would we ever feel compassion for our fellow man? If would be too easy to ignore him, dismiss him, judge him.

There is nothing quite so heart-warming as watching one panic-attack sufferer, or depressed person, helping another.

Come to think of it, therapists are people, too. Which means we’re not exempt from suffering, pain, or loss. Which is why we listen with our hearts, not just our minds.

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