Type: Research
Pages: 4 | Words: 1001
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It is the wish of every human being to live a good life without any pain or suffering. However, this is inevitable as the world is filled with uncertainties, thus making them extremely unavoidable. Although the term “pain and suffering” places suffering in secondary position, it should be noted that suffering is much broader than pain due to the fact that it encompasses several aspects of life which take place after injury (Amato 10). Davies (5) defines suffering as a state of mental and emotional distress arising when an individual experiences pain. Suffering can also be defined as an aversion and unpleasant experience linked to perception or threat of harm to an individual and can manifest itself physically or psychologically (Mayerfeld 20). Physical sufferings include tiredness, injury, sickness, pain, old age, and death. Psychological suffering includes depression, disappointment, frustration, fear, and sadness. This paper will candidly examine the concept of suffering and the way it relates to other aspects of life.

Empathy and Suffering

Empathy is a concept that refers to the ways in which individuals relate to and recognize other people’s feelings. Empathy can be defined as a phenomenon which aids an individual to comprehend the perspective of another individual. In order to be compassionate towards others, there is the urgent need to develop empathy. There is a common concept that, when people suffer, other people should sympathize with them although this is not psychologically possible. The extent to which an individual can suffer is extremely limited to his or her personality. For instance, in case of a disaster such as earthquake, drought or typhoons among others, it is the general perception that all members of the society should suffer the same as the rest of the victims. However, this is not possible due to the fact that the extent of physical or psychological suffering depends on the personality of an individual. For example, in case of a disaster affecting thousands of people, an individual may find it hard to suffer with all the victims. This can be attested by the verity that the people who have suffered possess different personalities implying that it not realistic for the individual to suffer with or to suffer for all the people affected. However, it is possible for an individual to suffer for other people, especially those whom they relate to in one way or the other such as workmates (Mayerfeld 22).

Suffering and Intrinsic Value

Intrinsic value in philosophy or ethics refers to philosophic and ethical value of a given object. The value is owned by the object as an intrinsic property for its own sake or within itself. It is notable that suffering in itself has its own value which is supported by various reasons. For instance, most people try all what they can to ensure that they do not undergo suffering, and in case this happens, individuals strive to terminate it as soon as possible. According to Mayerfeld (22), suffering has both intrinsic and instrumental value. However, the intrinsic and instrumental value of suffering can only be understood by individuals who clearly understand what suffering entails. This translates to the fact that people who understand suffering ought to carefully consider the value of suffering. This way, they will be able to know how suffering has affected their attitudes and behaviors towards individuals undergoing suffering. The other way in which suffering has value is through the fact that when individuals endure suffering, they are extremely able to understand their strengths and weaknesses. This way, they are able to effectively deal with similar events in the future, thus becoming well-equipped with the necessary survival techniques. Further, suffering serves as an educating tool, especially to the victims. For instance, victims can educate other people on the ways of dealing with similar events in the future thus leading to a strong and cohesive society.

Empathic Catharsis

Emotional activation is one of the vital factors of enduring suffering. Davies (7) argues that the way in which people respond to suffering is extremely dissimilar, a situation referred to as catharsis. When the suffering is physical, people will use different reactions to cope with it. For instance, crying is one of the ways used by people to cope with this kind of suffering. The other method is through tears; it is mostly used to protest against the cause of suffering. However, it is crucial to note that tears can be used for acceptance purposes such as when an individual wins a prize among other reasons. The other form of reaction to physical suffering is through anger. Anger includes such aspects as displaced anger, anger to another entity, development anger, paranoid anger, and acted out anger. Another reaction to suffering is depression and sadness (Amato 34). For instance, individual suffering from chronic or terminal diseases such as heart attack or cancer among others may suffer from depression and sadness.

Emphatic catharsis refers to a situation where an individual will react to the suffering of another person (Amato 13). This implies that the suffering of another person can lead to individual having reactions towards the suffering. This is attributable to the fact that the person may have been attached to the suffering of the other. However, unlike the usual empathy, there is no limit in the extent to which emphatic catharsis can be expressed. For example, people are known to cry uncontrollably for the suffering of another regardless of whether the individual is known to them or is a complete stranger.


Based on the above study, it is evident that suffering is inevitable to all human beings. This is attributable to the fact that the world is filled with uncertainties, thus making it hard for us to avoid suffering in totality. In our daily activities, eventualities such as retrenchments resulting from shrinking balance sheets in companies, raised tuition fees brought about by austerity measures by governments among others have brought about human suffering across the world. Generally, when well managed, suffering results in a more cohesive society thus making the world a better place to live in.

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