You will probably have heard of Schadenfreude; taking pleasure in others’ misfortune, you know the videos of people slipping on ice or tripping up steps? When I was younger I thought the TV show ‘You’ve Been Framed’ was hilarious. I still have a chuckle every now and again when posts do the rounds on Facebook of misspelt texts and other calamities.
Slapstick comedy was based on the whole concept of Schadenfreude because it is a fundamental human emotion, a part of all of us.
But have you come across Freudenfreude? No?
Neither had I until recently when a friend told me about it.
Freudenfreude is the term used for taking pleasure in other people’s joy and successes. A much nicer trait than its cousin Schadenfreude. In 2019 I had the pleasure of speaking at the Women’s Economic Forum on this very topic but I didn’t have a word for it. At that time I referred to the importance of us being each other’s cheerleaders.
As very young children, we bask in Freudenfreude, encouraging each other and cheering each other on. How many times do little ones clap at relatively minor achievements-both their own and others? If Ava is around when I go to the toilet, I get a full round of applause, we all need more of that in our lives (maybe not the live audience for toilet trips).
I remember when Ava was learning to walk, I shared a video of her on social media and there were so many people cheering her on in the comments, willing her to take those next independent steps, so even as adults, we have it in us. But, somewhere along the way, we can get too comfortable with hiding our Freudenfreude away. Is the competitiveness that’s encouraged by society partly to blame?
Maybe you resent the friend who is getting married while you sit on the sidelines waiting for Mr or Mrs Right, maybe the colleague at work who really did deserve that promotion but you feel like it will take forever for you to get there, possibly the new mum down the road with that perfect little bundle of joy. The struggle to balance empathy and competitiveness is real.
Does it really serve you to resent any one of those people? Do the feelings you have in each of those moments actually help you? If you always find that competitive streak overrules the empathy you may find that relationships fall away, it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom and gloom.
How about you Freudenfreude it? Ok, maybe it can’t be used as a verb but, hey, who cares?! Bask in my joy of a new word!
Over the last year, I’ve had the pleasure of spending time in the virtual company of some amazing people, they are all Freudenfreuders. One thing we have in common, we’re all writers. The reason we’re Freudenfreuders too? We get so much joy from seeing each and every one of them publish their books, the outpouring of love and joy in sharing their success is second to none.
You have probably heard time and time again to surround yourself with like-minded people, or successful people to help you continue on your pathway to success. I genuinely believe we should surround ourselves with Freudenfreuders. Success, joy, happiness is contagious. If you are happy for someone else’s success, you feel an element of that joy and success for yourself too, that can only be a good thing. It’s like a never-ending circle of warmth and fuzziness which keeps on taking you to the next level of wherever you want to be.
Over the next week, keep this idea in your mind in each situation you find yourself in. Given that you have both schadenfreude and Freudenfreude within you, what balance of the two have you got? Which do you tend towards most?
Why not come and join my lovely group of Freudenfreuders, Be More, Give More, Get More