1st Edition

Suffering and Psychology

By Frank C. Richardson Copyright 2023

    Suffering and Psychology challenges modern psychology's concentration almost exclusively on eradicating pain, suffering, and their causes. Modern psychology and psychotherapy are motivated in part by a humane and compassionate desire to relieve many kinds of human suffering. However, they have concentrated almost exclusively on eradicating pain, suffering, and their causes. In doing so psychology perpetuates modern ideologies of individual human freedom and expanding instrumental control that foster worthy ideals but are distinctly limited and by themselves quite self-defeating and damaging in the long run.

    This book explores theoretical commitments and cultural ideals that deter the field of psychology from facing and dealing credibly with inescapable human limitations and frailties, and with unavoidable suffering, pain, loss, heartbreak, and despair. Drawing on both secular and spiritual points of view, this book seeks to recover ideals of character and compassion and to illuminate the possibility of what Jonathan Sacks terms "transforming suffering" rather than seeking mainly to eliminate, anesthetize, or defy these dark and difficult aspects of the human condition.

    Suffering and Psychology will be of interest to academic and professional psychologists and philosophers.


    1. Stories of Suffering

    2. The Denial of Suffering in Psychology

    3. Disguised Ideology

    4. Early Religion and the Axial Age

    5. Modern Approaches

    6. Toward a "New Wisdom of Limits"

    7. Transforming Suffering


    Frank C. Richardson is Professor of Educational Psychology (emeritus) at the University of Texas, Austin. He is author or coeditor of several books, including Re-envisioning Psychology, Critical thinking about Psychology, and the Routledge International Handbook of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology and the author of many articles and chapters in theoretical psychology and the philosophy of social science. His current interests include topics in psychology and religion. He is a past president of the Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology (Division 24 of the American Psychological Association) and recipient of a Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society.