Almost the Opposite of Schadenfreude
Surely there should be a Germanic compound word for this — not the shameful joy one takes in someone else’s suffering, but the feeling best captured by that Gore Vidal line, “Whenever a friend of mine succeeds, a little something in me dies.” The Times gets it, though their coinage — Erfolgtraurigkeit, or success-sadness — leaves much to be desired. As the headline has it, though, the happiness of those around you can’t help but shine a klieg light on all of the depressing aspects of your own life. Or maybe it’s not true for you. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe that, right there, is one of those awful bits of my life thrown into high relief by the success of my pals, for whom I insist that I really am ecstatically happy, even as I bear a flame in the gut that’s either excruciating jealousy or really bad heartburn. Maybe it’s just evidence that I am, in fact, a bad person, one who doesn’t deserve those kinds of happiness. And that’s where the little something in me dies, where the Vidal-factor comes in: not in being jealous of my successful friends, but in the spiral produced by the conviction that I’m a jerk for being jealous. Surely there’s a good solid eight-syllable word for the soul-killing mixture of happiness, jealousy, and shame produced by someone else’s good fortune?
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