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.