THE WORD FREUDENFREUDE, “pleasure’s pleasure,” is a feeling of happiness encouraged by another’s success. It evolved from its opposite Schadenfreude, the German word describing the malicious joy resulting from another’s failure. As both are not uncommon human emotions, English has wisely adopted the latter (without the obligatory German noun capitalization).
Juli Fraga says, “Sharing in someone else’s joy can also foster resilience, improve life satisfaction and help people cooperate during a conflict.” She also addresses the opposite: “… moments of schadenfreude, like when a movie villain gets their comeuppance or a nemesis faces scrutiny, can be comforting and serve a purpose.”
I confess to luxuriating more in the latter than in freudenfreude.
Gloating. For one thing, gloating is more fun than mutual celebration. Consider, for example, my emotions resulting from the recent 2022 Midterm Elections.
It’s more fun to display my pachyderm icon than simply a picture of a smiling winner.
Authoritative References. Freudenfreude and schadenfreude remind me of Gore Vidal’s line: “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.” And of my search for John Kenneth Galbraith’s citing the Hindi word describing the positive feeling of basking in the glory of another. I’ve never found his citation, but note that this “joy in glory” is a shade different from “joy in joy.”
Empathy. Back to Juli Fraga’s essay: She writes, “Erika Weisz, an empathy researcher and postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Harvard University, said the feeling closely resembles positive empathy — the ability to experience someone else’s positive emotions. A small 2021 study examined positive empathy’s role in daily life and found that it propelled kind acts, like helping others.”
“Empathy isn’t always an automatic reflex,” Dr. Weisz said. “It’s often a motivated process.” Fraga says, “To help people strengthen joy-sharing muscles, [Ursinus College psychology prof] Dr. Chambliss and her colleagues developed a program called Freudenfreude Enhancement Training (FET), featuring two exercises.”
DIY FET. Fraga suggests, “If you’re interested in enjoying a little more freudenfreude, try some of the tips below, culled from FET and other experts.”
SHOY—FET For Share Joy: “Show active interest in someone else’s happiness. View individual success as a communal effort. Share credit for your successes with others.”
I do all of the above in savoring the 2022 Midterm Elections as a positive act of our democracy. And, as already confessed, I also gloat in the losers following the promptings of the biggest loser of them all. (Gee, schadenfreude is good fun.) ds