njoying the misfortune of others: A Defense Mechanism
Many of us seem to delight in the misfortune of others. The Germans even have a name for this. They call it schadenfreude. Perhaps this is a defense mechanism meant to protect us from further loss of self-esteem.
How do we feel when we discover that something good has happened to someone we know? Are we genuinely happy for that person? On the other hand, what if we learn about a misfortune that has befallen that same individual?
Not everyone delights in the good fortune that others experience. Although, the supposed benevolent side of human nature should move us to be happy for others, sometimes this is not at all what we
feel. Perhaps we may even experience a tinge of envy when people we know have it better than us.
Why is it that the news almost always features the tragic side of life. Crime, corruption and the tragedies that befall us have become the staple of our daily news. Have we become desensitized by the constant exposure to these unseemly occurrences. It would even appear that we no longer feel revulsion when faced with these realities. In fact, some may even be driven by a morbid fascination at seeing the victims of lawlessness or the horrific catastrophes that others experience.
And when we look at the so-called teleserye or tv drama shows, there is often an element of misery that befall the protagonists in the story. Again, it would seem that viewers patronize these shows because of it.
But maybe the media is culpable for having conditioned us to see only the tragic and the criminal. At the same time it may also be the fault of the viewer for not exercising his right to a responsible choice of shows.
On a more personal level, why is it that many of us tend to engage in gossip about the negative things that happen to the people we know? Why does it seem that we love hearing about the troubles of others?
Whether we are watching tragic news and teleseryes or gossiping about other people, there is one thing in common in all of these. It is that many of us seem to delight in the misfortune of others. The Germans even have a name for this. They call it schadenfreude.
But what drives us to feel this way? Perhaps it is our own miseries, our own burdens or our own misfortunes that draw from deep within the need to feel that others have it worse than us. We want to know that we are not the only ones suffering. And we do this so that we do not bury ourselves in self pity.
Perhaps this schadenfreude is a defense mechanism meant to protect us from further loss of self-esteem. It may even be a product of an unconscious mental process for survival. After all, if we believe we have it worst than everyone else, we may fall prey to acts of desperation or suicidal depression.
However, constantly engaging in a defense mechanism is unhealthy in itself, because it causes us to disengage from the reality of our own lives. If we perceive our lives to be miserable, then we should constructively address what makes it so, instead of merely reveling in the more tragic misfortunes of others.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Frederick Fabella, Ph. D. is a research director, a dean and a graduate and undergraduate professor. He is the author of TRANSCENDENCE Essays for Personal Reflection. His blog can be found at Meanings and Perceptions.