Freudenfreude for the Other

Freudenfreude for the Other
Freudenfreude or Schadenfreude — how do you relate?

Freudenfreude for the other — I will admit it, I had never heard of this term. Of course, I know about its opposite — Schadenfreude — essentially taking glee in another’s bad news, misfortune, tragedies, and more. Why do people get so much satisfaction from secretly seeing someone come upon problems in her life?

We probably have felt it ourselves and we certainly have been on the receiving end — that comment, that lack of empathy to our plight, and more. We can sometimes pick up that someone is actually happy about our troubles. It is troubling to pick up on this when it happens, but it is a phenomenon. Interested to learn more? Check out this book.

So, I was very surprised to learn another — more uplifting concept – Freudenfreude, when I read this article in the New York Times recently. This is a term that is about cultivating joy for another regardless of our own circumstances. Some very solid examples are highlighted in this article. The author describes Freudenfreude for the other as based on being joyful regardless of our own circumstances. This is why it can be so difficult — easy to do when we feel good about our lot in life and very difficult to do when we feel envy, jealousy, and other negative emotions when someone’s success feels threatening to us in some way.

A concept such as this one provides us an opportunity to reflect and see how we feel about another’s success? Is it a threat to you? Are you genuinely happy for someone else’s success or is it a mask? When someone is doing poorly for any reason, do you delight in it in some way? How do you orientate to the other when their news comes up. Do you hold a consistent pattern or does it change based on what is going on in your life.

The article is all around cultivating more Freudenfreude in one’s life. Some solid suggestions, but a couple of them advise “seeing other’s success as a community success” and “your own success as a communal effort.” I will say I have an issue with these pieces of advice. Why must it be about you and why must what you do be about the other? Isn’t the point to feel good for another for what she has done and also owning our own accomplishments as ours. Of course, both often involve the other, but it feels like we should be able to stand on our own two feet with feeling pride for ourselves and for the other as an individual. These pieces of advice remind of current parenting techniques, where everyone gets a prize.

The truth is not everyone gets a prize all the time. Being able to sit back and genuinely feel good for another no matter what is going on in our own lives and to expect others to feel this for us in turn is a mark of maturity and something to strive for — and it may cultivate more joy in your own life.

Fredenfreude for the other — and for ourselves.

Book Review: The Little Book of Hygge

The Little Book of Hygge seemed to take America by storm a few years ago. In typical fashion, I just bought the book. I admit I am behind the fads, but I was still interested in how the Danes seek to secure their happiness. I have often noted in these world surveys of happiness, it is the Danes who are the happiest people on Earth. Wow! They must have some secrets in this Hygge lifestyle that I needed to know about.

So, what exactly is Hygge? Well, come to find out it’s simply the embrace of universal values that are lived out well by the Danes. Some of these values include:

  • Being with the people we love
  • Feeling safe
  • Embracing home
  • Access to the great outdoors too
  • Good design

The list can go on and on actually. It is not something that is unfamiliar to Americans in the least, but more difficult to secure for ourselves given the difficulty in balancing all that must be done by Americans to get through the every day with working as much as we do and keeping up with our busy family life.

What I appreciated was looking at all of these various elements through the lens of a different culture and country that allows for these universal values to flourish given much of what Americans have to spend time earning for themselves is given by the government – albeit the people are paying taxes for this support. Without having to scramble so much to work so hard there is more time for a hygge lifestyle to be embraced.

At the very least, we can observe ways that other cultures make room to care for themselves and create a happy life in their communities. Much of it is dependent on the time we have to create such an atmosphere, but even on a limited time and budget, finding ways to care well for ourselves and those we love is important. Whether it will always lead to a happy state strikes me as a fallacy, but, let’s face it, the author is trying to sell a bunch of books so he too can have more resources to enjoy more Hygge.

So, give it a browse — even if only at your local bookstore and take an idea or two that strikes you as interesting.

May the Hygge be with you! May we all create our own little Hygge!

Tis the Season

Tis the season to be jolly…

Or so the popular holiday song goes. What exactly is “jolly” anyway?

I took a moment to look up the meaning of “jolly” in the dictionary and read,(1) “in good spirits, lively, merry; (2) cheerfully festive or convivial; (3) joyous; happy.” Yes, this holiday song reminds us we are now in that time of year where we are to make merry and be lively, happy, joyous to make the festive season — well, festive, of course.

As such, many of us have this expectation well and truly ingrained in our minds and bodies for as long as we can remember. Yet, the pressure and stress to be jolly can lead us to being anything but merry and bright. This season arrives during the darkest days in the northern hemisphere as well as when natural light is seriously lacking in our days.

When I lived in Oz for a year, I will never forget the unusual holiday season I experienced where it was hot – about 100 degrees on the Gold Coast – and the days were at their longest. Well, it was all upside down – the light was with me, but the heat made me feel like Santa was definitely going to melt on his sleigh. Still, the natural light added a joy to the season that seems to lack in the north.

How are you feeling today as the jolliest time of the year kicks off?

Perhaps you are festive and merry – ready to make it the happiest season of them all!

Perhaps you are anything but and are looking for places to honor the dark spaces and feelings within you this season.

I am curious if you aren’t a mix of both — a little happy and a little sad? Holidays can often lead to many special events and traditions that we look forward to all year round and, simultaneously, evoke in each of us a poignancy of what has been lost over the past year or anxiousness over a season that often feels overwhelming and stressful.

It’s a mixed bag to be sure. Honoring where you are as the season kicks off and staying true to however you are feeling allows you to lean into the holiday season with a connection to your authentic self. Probably one of the greatest gifts you could give yourself this season and throughout the year.

Check out this article from the NY Times for an interesting article on being sad over the holidays.