Don’t Be Discouraged by Malevolence

On October 2, 2020, Merriam-Webster.com reported that searches for the word “schadenfreude” on the site increased by 30,500%, making it the most popular word of the day. Of course, it was announced on that day that Donald and Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19.

The term gloating makes sense. First, there is its meaning: “the pleasure gained from the trouble of others,” according to our friends at Merriam-Webster . Whether we like to admit it or not, this feeling is familiar to most people – sometimes it is followed by some form of guilt for our wicked joy.

In German, schadenfreude comes from Schaden (damage) and Freude (joy) and is an example of a word that entered the English language without translation . In fact, this is probably one of the people he is most familiar with (and possibly the only one they don’t know at their own pace).

The fascination with the occasional use of a German word in conversation – especially one that so accurately describes an ordinary feeling – can sometimes be too strong to resist. As it was for many on October 2, 2020. But what does this say about us? Can gloating be experienced in a healthy and / or productive way? If so, how? Here’s what you need to know about how to deal with gloating feelings using several different approaches.

What does gloating say about us?

First things first, yes, it is perfectly normal to be gloating. “Gloating is not the same as evil because many people feel that way because of insecurity, parenting, temperament, and other factors,” says Lifehacker Dr. Leela R. Maghawi , adolescent and adult psychiatrist and regional medical director for community psychiatry.

And while Maghawi emphasizes that gloating is a common feeling that should be normalized, she says people who “struggle with low self-esteem and self-doubt” are more likely to experience it, noting that it may be due to jealousy or jealousy. …

Meanwhile, a 2015 study published in the journal Psychological Reports found that people with mild depression experienced more schadenfreude and less Freudfred (i.e., pleasure from other people’s success) than their mildly depressed peers. Dr. Catherine Chambliss , chair of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and one of the study co-authors, explained these findings to US News and World Report :

When you are depressed and inadequate, other people’s successes become unbearable because it leads to comparisons that make you worse. It is true that unhappiness loves company. The problem is that gloating in depressed people ends up poisoning their friendships.

Such situations can lead to the fact that someone already feels depressed, to further social isolation and, as a result, to aggravate their depression. This is definitely not the outcome we want, and luckily there are many different approaches to dealing with the gloating feeling. Here are two of them.

Psychology how to overcome gloating

When Magavi works with patients who are worried that they have experienced malevolence, she recommends using it as an opportunity to look within. “Introspection and self-awareness can help people identify these feelings, understand the cause, and rethink their thinking,” she explains.

If you are not used to this, Magawi suggests talking to close friends and family members or a therapist who can help you deal with your emotions. Also, keeping a diary of your emotions is a helpful way to better understand your thoughts and feelings. Reflecting on a situation that made you feel gloating gives us the opportunity to “remember that everyone fails and struggles at certain points in their lives, and that excellence is just a social construct,” Maghawi said.

In a similar vein, Maghawi reminds his patients to avoid thinking in black and white because we all exist in gray areas. “We can laugh when our friend falls, but at the same time run away to help him or her and take care of our friend’s well-being,” she explains. “By talking about our emotional flexibility as humans, we can get rid of guilt and shame.”

Finally, if you are looking for a way to help reduce the intensity of anger, Magavi recommends “practicing self-compassion, eating healthy, exercising, using positive affirmations, and engaging in mindfulness activities.”

Overcoming malevolence with philosophy (in particular, Nietzsche)

There are countless ways to apply different philosophical approaches to gloating, but we’re not even going to do that. For our purposes here, we’re going to focus on the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who has several interesting and potentially useful views on the topic.

“It’s tempting to think that gloating might be a morally fair reaction when a bad person finally gets their desserts or karmic retribution,” says Lifehacker Dr. Michael Baur, assistant professor of philosophy at Fordham University. “Thus, many Americans are pleased to learn that President Trump has contracted COVID-19.”

But according to Nietzsche, gloating is not really a sign of moral rightness or moral superiority. “On the contrary, it is a sign of resentment, which in turn is a symptom of feelings of weakness or powerlessness,” explains Baur.

In fact, from Nietzsche’s perspective, only those who are frustrated and resentful feel the need to resort to exaltation of themselves by humiliating others or finding satisfaction in their failures. For Nietzsche, a truly excellent person does not view achievement or success as a zero-sum game, according to which “I can only be a winner if someone else loses,” or vice versa, Baur explains.

“So whenever you are tempted by a feeling of gloating, just remember that life is not a zero-sum game and that other people’s misfortunes should not bring you joy,” says Baur. “After all, the pain or loss of others does not make you better or more successful as a person.”

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