The Importance of Suffering : The Value and Meaning of Emotional Discontent book cover
1st Edition

The Importance of Suffering
The Value and Meaning of Emotional Discontent

ISBN 9780415667807
Published December 31, 2011 by Routledge
208 Pages

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Book Description

In this book James Davies considers emotional suffering as part and parcel of what it means to live and develop as a human being, rather than as a mental health problem requiring only psychiatric, antidepressant or cognitive treatment. This book therefore offers a new perspective on emotional discontent and discusses how we can engage with it clinically, personally and socially to uncover its productive value.

The Importance of Suffering explores a relational theory of understanding emotional suffering suggesting that suffering, does not spring from one dimension of our lives, but is often the outcome of how we relate to the world internally – in terms of our personal biology, habits and values, and externally – in terms of our society, culture and the world around us. Davies suggests that suffering is a healthy call-to-change and shouldn't be chemically anesthetised or avoided. The book challenges conventional thinking by arguing that if we understand and manage suffering more holistically, it can facilitate individual and social transformation in powerful and surprising ways.

The Importance of Suffering offers new ways to think about, and therefore understand suffering. It will appeal to anyone who works with suffering in a professional context including professionals, trainees and academics in the fields of counselling, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, psychiatry and clinical psychology.

Table of Contents

Introduction. An Enquiry into the Nature of Human Habits. The Relational Perspective on Suffering. Positive and Negative Models of Suffering: A Battle for Supremacy. Anaesthetic Regimes and the Unproblematic Life. The Consequences of Avoiding our Primary Problems: Unproductive Suffering. Productive Suffering as a Ritual Process – As Useful Descent. The Period of Transition in the Ritual of Productive Suffering. Concluding the Book. Appendix One: Distinguishing Between Productive and Unproductive Suffering. Appendix Two: The History of the Concept of the Drive for Realisation.

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James Davies is a senior lecturer in the departments of psychology and anthropology at Roehampton University, London, UK. He obtained his doctorate in social anthropology from the University of Oxford, UK, and is also a qualified psychotherapist. He has practised in various settings including the NHS, and has delivered lectures at many universities including Yale, Brown, CUNY, Oxford, London and Harvard


"James Davies offers a highly original and insightful approach that restores the vital place of suffering in human development. Drawing from anthropology, philosophy and psychology Davies weaves a rich narrative that deserves to be widely read." - Alistair Ross, Oxford University, UK

"This book, fluently and engagingly written, takes us back a number of decades to the exciting times of Szasz, Laing and others, and the revolutionary assertion that the origin of suffering is due to an unduly oppressive social environment. It asks us to take our leave of the pathologising foundations of most current therapies, and resist complying with that ill-considered theorising... Such a prodding enlivens one's critical stance to what we as therapists do, and places the book next to classics like Philip Rief's The Triumph of the Therapeutic, and Ian Craib's The Importance of Disappointment." - R. D. Hinshelwood, University of Essex, UK

"The Importance of Suffering is a brave and creative work that will change how we think about human suffering. Critiquing the ideology of anesthetization that characterizes modern-day life, Davies demonstrates – with great sensitivity and depth – how suffering can be leveraged for positive growth and change when not exiled from human experience. This is a bold and hopeful book; a major contribution." - Rebecca J. Lester, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, USA

"This book offers a deeply informed and nuanced understanding of the value of suffering, when productively engaged. Elegantly written in crisp prose, it offers an incisive critique of the medicalization of suffering when narrowly conceived as disorder to be treated by anti-depressant medications and prescriptions for "positive thinking". Rich in insights of value to psychoanalysts, philosophers, psychologists, and the broadly educated European and North American public." - Janis H. Jenkins, University of California at San Diego, USA