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We Are So Afraid to Appear Negative That We Forget what it’s like to be Human



Today I laughed inside my head while my face expressed sympathy and the words coming out expressed concern.  Nothing serious happened to this person. What I felt was Schadenfreude.


( “ohhh, realyyyyy?”)

Schadenfreude is a German word for pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune. We all feel it and either repress it, push it away or make it personal. We all know that this tendency is not admirable so we hide it. However, when we hide these things not only from others, but from ourselves, we hide a flaw that is inherent in us as humans. We all like to believe that only bad people do and think bad things and that good people do every so often, but must feel guilty about it. Schadenfreude is part of who we are. It is the reason we laugh. We must not indulge in it, but we also must accept it. Who knows? Schadenfreude might be what brings us closer together.


(Again, accept.. not indulge in it)

Feeling joy in the misfortunes of others is in fact healthy and natural as long as that misfortune is not life threatening. In fact, this is part of evolution.  When we smile as a response to another’s misfortune our brains are sending us signals that make us feel good. These signals also serve to remind us that life is somehow fair. Once the smile is out of the way and our mental state is taken care of we are able to actually feel sympathy.  What most of us do is deny the Schadenfreude and go straight for the sympathy. This sympathy is of course not fully genuine, because it is coming from a repressed place.  We do not feel Schadenfreude all of the time, but when we do, we must not repress it. We must let it live and examine it. In the end, its purpose is to allow us to feel grateful for our lives. Its outcome is that we actually feel more sympathy for ourselves and others.


( ” I’m sorry we don’t have fat free, dairy free, organic milk.” )

This is also the reason why we shouldn’t brag, boast or constantly look for pity. You can go ahead and throw a pity party, just remember to take me off the guest list.  Those who brag constantly are the same people who throw a pity party whenever something goes wrong.  This pity party is their shield from Schadenfreude. This person may not realize it, but they subconsciously know that many will smile slightly at their misfortunes; therefore they make sure to point out that others should feel sorry for them rather than do what comes naturally.  This pity party serves as a mirror to project their own feelings of guilt and failures on to others.  Pity is something that American culture is known for.


(Some poor souls fall victim to the pity party and show up)

There is actually no English word for Schadenfreude. In American culture, Schadenfreude is so repressed that we keep ourselves from learning who we truly are as human beings.  This makes it extremely difficult to connect with others. This shameful tendency might actually bring us closer together. Schadenfreude is what makes the world feel fair. Those with low self-esteem experience this feeling more than others because they need more reassurance.  But we all need reassurance, not just those with low self-esteem, because the fact is, life isn’t fair. When everyone is told to repress these “shameful” emotions, what they are taught to do inversely is to express false empathy.


(Look at that sincere empathy. Side note: Meerkat Manor is my cats favorite show)

We are so afraid to appear negative that we forget what it’s like to be human. The true meaning of positivity is not the absence of negativity, but optimism in spite of it. When imperfect beings do not accept their imperfections, they become robotic and defective in the process.



  1. Pingback: We Are So Afraid to Appear Negative That We Forget what it’s like to be Human | Quarter Vida

  2. Thank you Maia! I will be looking into your course. It has been difficult to find good courses online. I appreciate this a lot.

  3. ChristopherinHR

    What an interesting idea… Genuine feeling runs both side of the ledger if you will: wanting to be genuine then means accepting some feelings certain cultures might repress. A brilliant write

    • Thank you for reading and understanding Christoperin! We need to be able to accept who we are fully before caring for others. I think there is a huge problem in American culture with guilt and lack of understanding.

  4. beastjones

    I agree, we are afraid of negativity, and at the same time we create a negative space when we pretend that we are not doing what “flawed” human beings, but instead point out that others are. In this case, we are all guilty of Schadenfreude. Your right Quarter Vida we should not suppress it, but it would be in our best interest to control it as you say. Beautifully put, from one flawed individual to another. -BEAST

    • Thank you Beast! We are constantly searching for happiness, but are unable to accept ourselves as human beings first and foremost. This is very counterproductive in our growth.

  5. Pingback: Best Blogs 16 May 2014 | ChristopherinHR

  6. “The true meaning of positivity is not the absence of negativity, but optimism in spite of it.”–so well said! I enjoyed this post a lot because I know of people who always try to put up a positive face in public but it just doesn’t feel real to me. Accepting and embracing our human conditions–the good, the bad, the ugly… all of it–is the first step in understanding our true selves and in spiritual evolution.

    • I am very glad that you understand where I am coming from. I think with a lot of things in life the first step is acceptance. However, cultural norms do not allow us to fully accept at times.

  7. TheMewlingQuimpanzee

    Reblogged this on The Mewling Quimpanzee and commented:
    I completely agree with this. Whenever this happens to me I always start thinking “OMG! I’m a terrible person. Only a Psychopath would laugh at that!” but I never knew there was a word for it and it makes me feel better knowing that there are so many other people that feel this way too.

    • Thank you for reading! Yes, we should not feel guilty for regular human emotions. Once we can look past the guilt we are able to truly love.

  8. What a great post. I especially like what you said here: “We are so afraid to appear negative that we forget what it’s like to be human. The true meaning of positivity is not the absence of negativity, but optimism in spite of it. When imperfect beings do not accept their imperfections, they become robotic and defective in the process.”
    I have a blog that I developed in order to help myself and others learn to be positive or find the positive even in the negative. It is so hard sometimes and I get weighed down and don’t post because I don’t want to be a hypocrite and have a blog about positivity when I don’t feel so positive. It was nice to read this and be reminded that it is okay to acknowledge that it cannot always be rosy.
    And I am so glad I have learned a name for this terrible affliction that has caused me embarrassment more than one time. I do try to control it and feel terrible after it happens, but boy it happens more than I like.

    • There are other names as well for our bad thoughts. It is part of the human condition. As long as your actions and intentions are good there is no need for guilt. All you can be is yourself. Once we are able to be more open to others, there will be less of a stigma and less criticism. I love that my personal experience is able to touch others with the same goal in mind. Good luck! I will continue to read your posts as well.

  9. Reblogged this on Because I can… and commented:
    I have had this happen to me before. The situation was horrible and I just started laughing. I and everyone around me thought I was crazy. I felt horrible and it is a nightmare I still have sometimes.

    • Don’t feel bad. We all have those thoughts and lie to ourselves. Thank you for reading my inner feelings and sharing yours.

  10. Very nice post, quartervida. While we may sometimes feel like smiling at others’ ‘unserious’ misfortunes, it is not every emotion, as you say, that should surface. What I’ve learnt is to, in context, fuel the appropriate emotions and quell the inappropriate ones. In this you and I agree. Thanks for liking my post.

    • Very well said. It is not every emotion that should surface, but I do believe that we should all learn how to express them. Unfortunately it might hurt others in the process, but it will teach us a lot about ourselves and if we concentrate on growing as a person it can make us stronger and kinder.

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