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Schadenfreude adds to your daily stress

Do you have all the support you need from friends, associates, and loved ones?

I am going out on a limb here and say, I will bet you do not have all the support you need from friends, associates and loved ones. On the surface, people will talk about all the support they are getting from others; however in most cases this is just not true.

One major reason is a concept called schadenfreude.

What is schadenfreude?

Schadenfreude is a German word meaning “pleasure taken from someone else’s misfortune.” It derives from schaden, meaning “damage or harm,” and freude meaning “joy.”

From Answers.com I found some interesting facts about Schadenfreude.

The concept of schadenfreude is not uniquely German, however. Almost every language in Europe has a word with the same meaning. There are even words that have the same meaning in Greek and Arabic. “Som nam na, can be translated as “I am laughing at your bad luck,” in the native Thai language. Go so ha da, in Korean translates as one who is pleased about an event involving the misfortune of another.

Schadenfreude had been mentioned on the following television shows and movies:

Boston Legal, Sarah Silverman, Gigli, the Colbert Report, Two and a Half Men, and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

On Boston Legal, one of the characters, Alan Shore, talked of an experiment that demonstrated that the pleasure centers of the brain are stimulated while experiencing schadenfreude. Endorphins kick in and people feel good, at least temporarily.

Why do people gossip? Because it makes them feel good!

Think about all of the reality shows on television. What keeps us entertained up until to the last two people competing? When you are watching America’s funniest videos, do you ever notice much of the humor is about people are falling off of horses or off of roof tops or other things that can create physical harm?

I love to watch Adam Sandler’s movies and the movies made starring some of his buddies. But have you ever noticed that there is always someone getting thrown to the ground, punched, or beat up in some way in those movies? Yet they are funny to me and many other people.

People respond to these movies because of the concept of Schadenfreude.

In almost any comedy today you see produced for television or the movies you will experience taking joy in the misfortune of others.

Where does stress fit into the concept of schadenfreude?

Stress, sometimes called “core stress” begins when your actions and your fundamental belief systems are in conflict.

For example: Your best friend asks you to take illegal drugs. Let us assume that your fundamental belief system is such that you would never take illegal drugs. However, this is your best friend, and you want to please your best friend. Whether you take the drugs or walk away from your friend, you will be experiencing stress, as your actions and belief systems came in conflict at the first insistence that you take drugs by your best friend.

Back in 1959, I was entering the 7th grade. In October of 1959, our physical education teacher, Mr. Zange, began class on the track located on Spain Field, outside of our junior high school.

Mr. Zange had set up low hurdles as his lesson for the day was to teach us how to run the hurdles.

At the same time he was setting up for class, I was just about ready to leave my house for school when my Mother cornered me and gave me a quick lesson to take with me to school.

She said, “Wayne, never laugh at someone else’s mistake.” “It is very unkind to make fun of people when they fail at something.” “By laughing at someone else’s mistake, you will end up making the same mistake.” “It all evens out in the end.”

As I got on the school bus that morning I thought about those words and I really didn’t know why she even mentioned that lesson to me. I figured this lesson must be important or she would not have made such a point to tell me just before I was getting on my school bus.

Once I arrived at Dundee Junior High School, I reported to Mr. Zange’s PE class. Once dressed, I went outside and Mr. Zange led us out to the track located around the football field. He told us to form a line and I lined up first. Behind me was my friend, “Bob.” Now Bob really is not his real name as I do not risk hurting his feelings as he is still alive.

Mr. Zange gave a quick demonstration on how to jump over the low hurdles. He asked me if I was ready to try it first and I thought it looked pretty easy so I said, “yes.”

Behind me, Bob was laughing, saying I would never be able to jump the low hurdle.

I ran and jumped and knocked over the hurdle. Bob was laughing so hard he was doubled over in hysterics. (Or schadenfreude as I will call it now)

I was embarrassed but I returned to the end of the line to get ready for a second try.

Now it was Bob’s turn to jump the hurdle.

At that moment I wanted to begin laughing. After all, I was 11 years old and that is what 11 year olds do. I should laugh at the expense of others, experience joy or pleasure from the misfortune of others. I could feel my endorphins beginning to kick in.

Just as I began to laugh at Bob, I remembered what my Mother said to me on the way to school. She said, “Wayne, never laugh at someone else’s mistake.” “It is very unkind to make fun of people when they fail at something.” “By laughing at someone else’s mistake, you will end up making the same mistake.” “It all evens out in the end.”

Now I actually had a frown on my face as Bob made his attempt over the low hurdle. Bob not only tripped over the hurdle but he fell so hard he broke his arm. His arm ended up being the most hideous thing I ever saw either before or since.

It was a compound fracture and his arm looked like the letter “Z.”

Mr. Zange, quickly came to Bob’s aid and carried him to the nurses office while they waited for an ambulance to take Bob to the emergency room.

I learned a lesson from my Mother about not practicing “schadenfreude.” It was a lesson well learned as Bob had a severe consequence as a result of the accident at school.

In society, we value being fair to others and we are told to support one another.

My belief system became one of not saying things to hurt another person, however I have said things both before and after this incident that have hurt other people. I have experienced schadenfreude, and thanks to my Mother, the stress associated with conflicts between my beliefs and my actions.

Schadenfreude Stress Annihilation Exercise:

Think about situations in your relationships where what you believe in differs from your actions? In what situations in your job do you experience “schadenfreude?” What television programs do you find examples of “schadenfreude?”

Do you understand how your stress can be elevated by actively participating in the situations involving schadenfreude?” Think about things you can do this week to lessen the effects of schadenfreude and the stress associated with your conflict of beliefs and actions.

1. What can you eliminate or avoid in regards to schadenfreude in your personal relationships?

2. What schadenfreude activities can you eliminate on your job?

3. What actions will you take in regards to watching television programs and movies?

If you are aware of schadenfreude, you can annihilate stress associated with this phenomenon.


Schadenfreude or taking joy from the misfortune of others is common in many areas of your life. It sets you up for core stress because it creates conflict between your fundamental belief system and your actions. Reducing schadenfreude in your life will help you annihilate stress and propagate hope.

Schadenfreude and Stress

Schadenfreude and Stress