Schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.
Okay! Time to laugh at all the bad shit that happens to other people! I know, that’s not very nice, is it? It’s an unfortunate human emotion and one that I like to think I rarely experience – but of course you won’t believe me if I tell you that, so I guess I’ll go with the truth instead.
Here Are Some of My Own Personal Instances of Schadenfreude:
1. Watching Mr. Bean. Because, let’s face it, who has more misfortunes than this poor guy? He’s a walking disaster. And yet his misadventures and crazy debacles never fail to make me laugh. He’s a moron with bad luck. I don’t know why that’s funny, it just is.
2. Proving an arrogant know-it-all wrong. The key word here is arrogant. Some know-it-alls are very humble and don’t feel the need to convince everyone around them of their brilliance. It’s the ones who are blatantly deluded about their superior intelligence having some of the arrogance knocked out of them so that they must admit to not actually knowing everything after all, that afford me some kind of smug satisfaction. I guess you could call that pleasure, however fleeting.
3. Driving by a speeder who has been pulled over by the cops. HA! YES! And now you’re even MORE late, you jerk. You could have killed somebody. And I’m also very happy it’s you and not me who got caught.
4. Watching a hockey game where the Oilers win. This one happens so rarely, perhaps I can be forgiven for thumbing my nose at the other team.
5. Witnessing Karma first hand. Seeing someone who has been mean and vindictive and just plain nasty have her actions come back to bite her in the ass. Okay, we seem to have come back full circle to smug satisfaction once again. I am a horrible person.
Instances In Which I Don’t Understand the Schadenfreude of Others:
1. Funniest Home Videos on tv. This is the worst show ever. I can watch the whole thing without once cracking a smile. If I don’t leave the room in disgust first. Because in most of these ‘funny’ shots some poor sod barely avoids serious injury and maiming being an idiot on a trampoline or a skateboard or flying off a slippery dock. I don’t get how near death experiences are entertaining.
2. Traumatic things happening in the lives of celebrities. I wonder why we care so much about the rich and famous, and why we are expected to take such delight in the fact that things can go wrong for them. And why we’re so obsessed with their weight gains and losses.
3. The Three Stooges, and slapstick in general. Getting bonked over the head or slapped or kicked or being made to fall flat on your face or your butt is all stuff that I don’t find particularly funny. Also violence in cartoons. I want to cry for Wylie Coyote.
4. Bullying. What strange satisfaction does a bully experience by inflicting pain? When there is no self-regard, there is no regard for others. How incredibly sad, if this is the only way a person can experience pleasure.
5. Internet Trolls. Posting inflammatory, derogatory messages, purely for the purpose of eliciting an emotional response. I don’t understand how creating unnecessary drama and feelings of outrage in others can give the instigator pleasure. How desperate does someone have to be for attention to stoop so low?
Most feelings of Schadenfreude are probably accompanied with a great sigh of relief because whatever misfortune someone else suffered has not happened to us. It’s not that we’re joyful about it, so much as satisfied and complacent and feeling lucky to have been spared the same disaster.
It’s not a lasting pleasure simply because feeling it usually exposes our own lack of self-esteem. Someone else has to be worse off than we are for us to feel good about ourselves. Much better to work on the opposite of Schadenfreude, which is Mudita, the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being. Better that happiness makes us happy rather than misery and bad luck. Let’s delight in the optimistic, feel good stories with happy endings, and pay less attention to all the pessimistic doom and gloom.