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Brookes, C.E. (2015). The Importance of Suffering: The Value and Meaning of Emotional Discontent, by James Davies, Routledge, New York, 2012, 208 pp.. Psychodyn. Psych., 43(2):320-326.

(2015). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 43(2):320-326

The Importance of Suffering: The Value and Meaning of Emotional Discontent, by James Davies, Routledge, New York, 2012, 208 pp.

Review by:
Crittenden E. Brookes, M.D., Ph.D.

It has been a long time since this reviewer found himself reading every page in a book. This happened for me with this book, simply because each page is packed with important information immensely useful for a psychodynamic psychiatrist, as well as for the casual reader interested in self-learning and the way his or her psychological machinery operates.

The central theme of this book is summarized by its title. Briefly, it is that the elimination of “suffering,” that is, painful psychological symptoms, is often mistakenly seen as the goal of psychological therapy or of the attempt to address mental problems. The author relegates this approach to the realm of unproductive or nonproductive suffering. This book elaborates the idea of productive suffering in dealing with mental problems.

Such painful experiences usually do accompany the psychological issues that appear in one form or another in one's life. A major focus of this book is on the rather astounding idea that “suffering” of this nature can be functional if used properly.

Thesis: attempts to eliminate psychological pain are often counterproductive to the enterprise of psychological growth. This idea (cf. aspects of it are not all that unfamiliar—just frequently not pulled together well) is starkly contrasted by the author with the current fact that reduction or elimination of painful symptoms, especially through the use of medication, is increasingly seen as a major if not sole function of psychiatric therapy.

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