Friday, February 24, 2006

The opposite of schadenfreude continues

Kathleen Fitzpatrick discusses the opposite of schadenfreude, a subject of some previous musings on this blog. The Times calls it Erfolgtraurigkeit (success-sadness), where "others’ success [throws] the desolation of your life into bad relief."

(This appears tangentially related to the newly coined term "idolspize" although that word seems to imply envy, not sadness, and requires a certain similarity between the idolspizer and her target so that the comparison is more keenly felt. I don't idolspize anyone; although I do feel sad when I think about people who are very similar to me who have some of the things in life that I most desire, I don't direct that emotion at my doppelgängers.)

The emotion addressed in my original post, however, lacked both envy and idolization. A key component of what I was trying to describe is the sense of offense at a universe that would permit such persons to be showered with success, no matter how superficially deserving they might be and how little I wanted that form of success for myself. A critic points out that this is actually not the diametrical opposite of schadenfreude, since it goes beyond the basic joy-sadness/damage-success formula. The Times writer, though, also seems to think that a certain sense of injustice is required for truly intense Erfolgtraurigkeit:
if I think something’s good, and it wins prizes, or gets great reviews, I’m Erfolgtraurigkeit-free: at some level, in fact, I subconsciously consider these prizes and reviews a tribute to my own good taste. When I think something’s shite, however, and it’s garlanded, I get the most terrible, the most awful Erfolgtraurigkeit: I get Erfolgtraufigkeit with Ich mö chte sie mit einer Axt im kalten Blut ermorden-keit on top.
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