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Pleasure In Another's Misfortune


Schadenfreude is a German word that refers to the human capacity to experience pleasure in another person's suffering. It's an unhealthy form of envy that is highly damaging to the person who feels it.

All of us have the capacity to take some pleasure in another person's misery, particularly if the person who is suffering has hurt us in some way.

The general consensus among social scientists is that schadenfreude stems from an instinct to want to believe that life is fair - the theory is that since we suffer at times, it's only right and even satisfying to see others suffer, too. A bit dark and dirty, but humans are capable of all sorts of maladaptive behaviour, and the road to a better place begins with acknowledgement of this capacity.

Those who have a healthy sense of self worth have less potential to experience schadenfreude. Common traits shared by people who have healthy self esteem include:

- No need to see others struggle to feel better about their own life.

- Little boasting with hope of being recognized as a special person.

- Lack of paranoia, suspicion, or uneasiness when others are complimentary.

- Desire to take ownership of mistakes and shortcomings.

- Ability to offer a heartfelt apology without conditions or excuses.

- Tendency to feel inspired by rather than jealous of excellence in others.

Rather than experience schadenfreude, people with healthy self esteem are more inclined to feel freudenfreude, which means to genuinely enjoy another person's success. When our sense of self worth is healthy, we tend to be truly happy for others when things go well for them.

If we don't already have healthy self esteem, what can we do to build it?

First, we can work to identify any limiting self beliefs we may be carrying, and strive to replace them with healthier beliefs about who we are and what we are capable of.

Second, we can strive to take better care of ourselves, beginning with what we put into our bodies and how we move throughout the day.

And third, we can curate our circle of loved ones in a way that supports a spirit of freudenfreude rather than schadenfreude - personally, I aim to do this by not spending regular time with people who place high value on appearances.

Our true value is what we would be left with if the world were to take away all of our tangible possessions - in my view, when we live with this as a core belief, it becomes more natural to experience freudenfreude rather than schadenfreude, and we are ultimately healthier for it.


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