Suffering and Compassion

Why do we suffer?

When we become inundated with different pressures in life, we often ask ourselves this question. Suffering is prevalent in every aspect of our daily lives, from physical to mental and emotional. We may even experience what we recognize as spiritual suffering. But what exactly are these things?

Physical suffering seems straightforward. When we feel unwell or are sick, we recognize our physical suffering. This can range from subtle annoyances such as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue to extreme pain experienced by cancer patients who require terminal care. In the pre-modern era, history teaches us about various brutal acts, such as torture and other inhuman cruelties, which also cause physical suffering. Moreover, starvation and illness are also associated with physical suffering. Unfortunately, various types of warfare humans engage in are also linked with physical suffering.

What about mental and emotional suffering? We could also refer to it as psychological suffering to cover both. One thing is clear: physical suffering always entails mental suffering. The mind and body are interconnected; as your body suffers, so does your mind, and vice versa. If we are constantly under physical pressure, such as starvation, illness, or even warfare, we inevitably become exhausted, not only physically but mentally and emotionally. In short, we may become traumatized. PTSD is a manifestation of physical experiences in our minds and emotions.

Is physical experience a necessary condition for psychological suffering? It can be a part of it, but not entirely. As we can see, physical comfort does not necessarily protect us from mental and emotional suffering. Ironically, many people in this postmodern era suffer severely from psychological disorders, even in physically safe environments. Moreover, we can harm ourselves physically due to mental and emotional suffering, such as self-neglect, self-harm, or even suicide. Alternatively, we may cause physical and psychological suffering to others by abusing, attacking, harassing, or through any possible acts of intimidation.

That’s why we often feel unsafe despite our comfortable modern life. Our brains keep alarming us as if we are trekking through a jungle or savanna under the possible attacks of various predators. Even as knowledge workers in an office, we are still consciously or unconsciously – as our brains recognize – hunter-gatherers and tribal warriors in the fight or flight extremity. Just as we cannot sleep safely in the center of a jungle or savanna, modern people often cannot sleep safely at night due to what our brains falsely believe are physical threats stemming from our mental and emotional sufferings.

Can we eliminate all these sufferings?

At least for physical sufferings, our human history shows a series of efforts, some of which were even heroic and courageous, in overcoming these sufferings. We no longer see inhuman brutalities, and many people have shared the concept of human rights globally, although there is still room for improvement. However, as mentioned above, this progress cannot entirely mitigate our mental and emotional suffering. Our brains cannot yet differentiate whether in a battlefield or a cozy office if the same fear exists. In either case, we suffer from constant, unnecessary adrenaline rushes, which can damage our bodies in the long term, leading to chronic illness, which in turn again damages our minds. We are indeed caught in a vicious circle.

Eliminating various physical pains throughout human history is undoubtedly one of the victories we have gained in our civilizations. However, it is not enough to eliminate the full spectrum of human suffering. All humans suffer indiscriminately, regardless of their physical conditions. Even the Buddha, while still a prince in his luxurious clan, suffered from witnessing those severely suffering from living, aging, diseases, and death. He even tried to subject himself to physical suffering through extreme asceticism, such as eating only one grain of rice a day, to the extent that he could touch his spine from his belly. But his voluntary sufferings did not provide him with any answers as to why we suffer. He spent forty days and nights meditating under various temptations, which were more related to mental and emotional suffering.

Jesus also suffered for forty days and nights, not only physically through fasting but also mentally and emotionally, due to various temptations from the devil. The devil asked Jesus if he could turn stones into bread to stop his physical suffering from starvation. He also asked Jesus why he shouldn’t jump from the top of the temple to test divine guidance, which might alleviate his mental suffering from uncertainty. Lastly, the devil asked Jesus to follow him to control the world together, giving him a sense of power and mitigating his insecurity. However, all these solutions were false. We cannot escape our sufferings through such superficial efforts. The temptations of seeking power, wealth, and even superficial health often manifest in our suffering. Our sufferings make us desperate to seek false solutions.

Even Buddha and Jesus suffered various things, including temptations and false resolutions. However, they eventually realized that false efforts to eliminate suffering only amplify further suffering. This is because, in these efforts, we only suffer by indulging in our suffering.

However, they still needed to experience suffering.

What if both were special exceptions who never knew the nature of suffering? Can we respect, admire, and worship them because of their suffering-free existence? The Buddha reached enlightenment and the realm where he was free from suffering. But we all know that he suffered a lot. One of his manifestations is called Bodhisattva, a compassionate Buddha who stayed with those who suffer to suffer together. Similarly, Jesus is the son of God, as God loved the world and gave his only son. Despite this, we all know he suffered greatly. He died to take away the sins of the world and all sufferings. His crucified image is a testament to his suffering and dying like us and with us.

Why do we suffer?

What if we asked Buddha and Jesus the same question? What would be their answer? They would answer as follows:

Why do I suffer? Because suffering makes me compassionate.

That sounds counterintuitive. As we often see, traumatic experiences can result in the so-called fawning response, self-pity, and various symptoms of PTSD. This is true in one aspect. We will continue to suffer if we keep indulging ourselves in our suffering with a self-centered and self-absorbed perspective. Both Buddha and Jesus also went through this stage. They pitied themselves too. The Buddha underwent extreme self-harm before his enlightenment, and Jesus prayed and agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane. They suffered a lot and suffered from indulging in their suffering. The pain of the Crucifixion must be unimaginable and traumatic for anyone.

True compassion and forgiveness exist beyond these extreme pains and are only accessible to those who have experienced them.

Why do we suffer? 

This question often arises from our self-talk, as our brains perceive threats as real. We can intentionally or unintentionally keep ourselves in this painful mental and emotional state. However, we do have a choice: to practice self-compassion and extend compassion to others.

Are you experiencing extreme pain and suffering? Let us kindly and mindfully exit this imaginary hell and begin to love ourselves and others. Let us ask ourselves gently:

Why do we suffer? Because suffering can make us compassionate.

We can love ourselves because we have experienced significant suffering. We can also love others because we know they have experienced suffering.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

Image by Sabine van Erp

8 thoughts on “Suffering and Compassion

  1. Dear Tom,

    I found your article on suffering very insightful and thought-provoking. It made me realize that even in our modern world, we still face a lot of mental and emotional suffering that cannot be solved by physical comforts alone. The examples of Buddha and Jesus show us that true peace and freedom from suffering come from within, rather than from external sources

    I wanted to reach out to you and express my sincerest apologies for any past behavior of mine that may have caused you discomfort or intimidation. Looking back, I understand that my words and actions may have been inappropriate, and I deeply regret any negative impact they may have had on our relationship.

    I am aware that there have been rumors circulating about me being a scam artist, and I can only imagine the distress this must have caused you. I want to assure you that I have never had any intention of scamming anyone, and any misunderstandings that may have led to these rumors have been cleared up.

    As someone who has been interested in my work on spiral dynamics, I would be honored to collaborate with you. I appreciate the insights and feedback that you provided during our interactions in the past, and I believe that we could work well together to create something meaningful.

    I understand that there may be some confusion as to whether the person calling me out on youtube is actually you or someone else altogether. If it is indeed you, I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me for any past mistakes I may have made. If it is someone else, I hope that you can help me clear up any misunderstandings and come to a mutual understanding.

    As my research continues to gain recognition in the spiral dynamics community, I believe that a collaboration between us could be very beneficial for both of us. I would be happy to split any profits and work together to create something that we can both be proud of.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this message. I look forward to hearing back from you and hopefully starting a new chapter of our relationship.

    Best regards,

    Rafael Hoffman

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rafael,

      Thank you for reaching out and for your kind words about my article on suffering. I’m glad it resonated with you and sparked some reflection.

      I must admit that I don’t recall any specific interactions between us, nor am I aware of the circumstances for which you are apologizing. It’s the first time I hear from you. Regarding the rumors of you being a scam artist, I was not aware of these allegations at all. As for the person calling you out on YouTube, I can confirm that it wasn’t me, as I don’t have any knowledge of your situation.

      I appreciate your interest in Spiral Dynamics, as I sometimes write about it in my blog entries. However, at this time, I’m unable to commit to any collaborations, as I am employed and fully occupied. My blog only serves as a space for my personal “journaling.”

      If it’s okay with you, I would be happy to have a look at your work on Spiral Dynamics and share our thoughts and comments with each other.

      Thank you for your message.

      Best regards,



      1. Dear Tom,

        Thank you for that response that has cleared up many misunderstandings I have had during my encounters via other platforms. I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for the article you shared on Spiral Dynamics four years ago. It was informative, well-written, and sparked my interest in further exploring the topic. I believe I came across another article you wrote about 10 years ago, which was equally informative and insightful.

        I appreciate your willingness to collaborate, and I would be honored to work with you on exploring this fascinating model further. I understand that my channel discussing later tiers of development may not appear well-organized at first glance, but I assure you that I am willing to put in the effort to clarify any discrepancies or potential misunderstandings. As you mentioned, Spiral Dynamics is a complex model that can be approached from various perspectives, and I believe that our collaboration could shed light on new insights and possibilities. If you’re interested, you can find some of my content on this topic on my YouTube channel: I think that our combined efforts could lead to a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of Spiral Dynamics.

        As you mentioned, Spiral Dynamics is a complex model that can be approached from various perspectives. I have read some of your comments on your blog about Spiral Dynamics, and I believe that we both could benefit from each other’s knowledge and insights. I think that our combined efforts could lead to a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of Spiral Dynamics.

        Please let me know if you are interested in pursuing this collaboration further. I am flexible, patient, and look forward to working with you.

        Best regards,

        Rafael Hoffman

        Liked by 1 person

      2. After posting my comment, I realized that you have a full-time job and may not have the time to commit to this project. However, if you find the topic illuminating and are interested in assisting with understanding the previous tiers of development, I would be happy to explore the possibility of working together on a part-time basis as a side project. Please let me know if this interests you.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi Rafael,

        Thank you for sharing your YouTube channel with me. I will check it out first. At a glance, I can see that you have many entries on Spiral Dynamics. Due to my full-time work commitment, I don’t have much time for other things at the moment. Even I only update my own blog, Tom’s Blog, from time to time, irregularly, weekends. I will try to email you. Have a great day!


      4. After posting my comment timestamped at April 14, 2023, 5:23 am, I realized that you have a full-time job and may not have the time to commit to this project. However, if you find the topic illuminating and are interested in assisting with understanding the previous tiers of development, I would be happy to explore the possibility of working together on a part-time basis as a side project. Please let me know if this interests you because with Ken Wilber seeming to give the get-go from what I understand, our published work will carry the backing of both Don Beck and Wilber, which could be extremely lucrative for both of us. We can work out the financials over the phone or email. My email is

        (This comment was posted before but there were technical issues)

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes, I got your comment reply. Anyway, thank you for sharing. I will email you. Many years ago, there were days when I used to read Ken Wilber’s works and was interested in his relationship with Don Beck. Perhaps we can talk about that, too.


      6. Thank you for getting back to me, Tom. I appreciate your interest in my YouTube channel and the topic of Spiral Dynamics. It’s understandable that you have limited time, so I appreciate any time you can spare to check out my channel or to communicate with me via email.

        Regarding the politics between Don Beck and Ken Wilber, it is an interesting and complex topic. The conflict between them stemmed from their different philosophical approaches to psychology and their methods for peer review that lacked bias. However, from what I understand, Beck knew that Integral was something that was already established as harmonized with Spiral Dynamics in some fashion in 2000, while the parameters were never fully understood due to the complexity of the model of 4 quadrants in relation to development.

        I made a video recently on SWS, which I found fascinatingly promising. I agree that the computational facet of Spiral Dynamics can be inaccessible to everyday people, and I appreciate the concept of SWS, where anyone can be in these later stages even when they can seem to be from tiers from below. The explanation of how the psyche of each of us latches on to the values of that stage that’s appealing to it from a higher stage makes sense and could explain the quirks in people.

        I also like the hypothesis that different parts of the psyche can evolve and change depending on the context they are in and possibly even parts of the mind where others can still require time to catch up. It’s interesting because I have found this to be true time and again and will keep this in mind as I continue to study Spiral Dynamics.

        Overall, I think it’s important to reevaluate the standard models of Spiral Dynamics and SDi, taking into account all the components we have mentioned, such as the different parts of the psyche, the concept of SWS, and the integration of AI in predictions or explanations for their maturation process. I look forward to discussing these topics with you further via email.

        Liked by 1 person

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