Schadenfreude is a German word used to describe the experience of pleasure, joy or a since of self-satisfaction a person has when they hear about or see a person go through a negative experience.  More often experienced by children, but it can still happen in adults.  In psychology it is believed that there are three reasons behind the complicated emotion:  aggression, rivalry and justice.  I often hear people say, “sweet justice” when they hear of a person they dislike having a “karmic” negative experience.  Usually the less self-esteem a person has the more often a person experiences schadenfreude. Everyone has had moments of schadenfreude and I actually experienced it last night.

I am a positive person and thrive on the idea of motivating, inspiring and supporting others.  However, I am also human and admit that I had a moment that made me feel joy and a bit of guilt for feeling that joy.  When I saw this particular person I didn’t even recognize her at first.  This person who has always been a bossy, know-it-all who has never been a pleasant person towards me has been just a dot on my radar in the passed few years, so I had not seen her in a while.  I took a moment to fully take in the fact that she had gained a lot of weight since I last saw her and… I smiled to myself.  When I caught myself I felt guilty, because what you put out into the world does come back around and I have had some weight gain in life and definitely do not want to invite that struggle to increase.  My first thought…{all the hate and anger inside her is swelling! What an awful person I am to think such things!  I should definitely pray for her and go on about my life.}  The struggle within me was one I had not experienced in a long time and it made me think a bit deeper.  First of all, these thoughts and feelings have more to do with me than they do her.

The truth is…my fears and insecurities about weight caused me to feel a bit of joy and relief when I saw her doing worse than me in the struggle against aging and weight gain? Obviously my reasons were based on a bit of rivalry and justice.  I consoled myself with the fact that she is younger, taller and never had children and was still overweight.  Later, I realized becoming overweight must be a very real fear for me and I need to pay more attention!  The experience of seeing her motivated me to want to work harder on my diet and exercise goals. Often what we judge, pick apart or dislike about others are the very things we fear most within ourselves.  Realizing and accepting this is a very humbling and eye-opening experience.  We are not perfect beings, we all have people in our lives that we don’t particularly care for and it is human nature to have emotions and thoughts that are just reactionary and out of our control.  The key is being aware when we have those thoughts and emotions and forcing ourselves to explore them.

Discovering your fears and facing them can be one of the hardest, yet most rewarding challenges you will ever experience in your life.  Once we all start conquering our fears the sky is the limit on the success level we can reach in any goal we set because most failure is fueled by fear.  So ask yourself three questions next time you find yourself having a moment of Schadenfreude:  is this fueled by anger, rivalry or justice?  What is it about this person that I am picking apart or judging?  Is this quality that I am picking at or judging something I fear within myself?  These questions can be the first step in discovering your core fears.

With love, health, happiness, and lessons in conquering our fears


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