Sarah Geegan

By

College: Arts and Sciences

'The Joy of Pain' Explores Hidden Corner of Human Psyche

Published: Aug 15, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 15, 2013) And when I see how sad you are; it sort of makes me happy, happy…" go the lyrics from the Broadway musical, "AVENUE Q."

 

Many of us have felt it, though we don't admit it: spiteful joy in response to the pain or misfortune of others. It may stem from envy, self-esteem concerns or even a passion for justice, but whether or not we confess to it, the feeling exists universally. The good news is that psychologists believe these are natural human emotions; there are psychological and adaptive foundations to back them up.

 

UK psychology Professor Richard Smith's new book "The Joy of Pain," provides a glimpse into this hidden corner of the human psyche, teasing out the science behind the malicious glee people experience from others' pain, known as schadenfreude — a German word  joining "schaden" meaning "harm" and "freude" meaning "joy." Using examples from popular culture, television, sports and politics, he shows how pervasive schadenfreude is in our lives.

 

"A large part of our emotional life results from how we compare with others," Smith said. "We gain from another person's misfortune when a 'downward comparison' boosts our rank and self-worth. This is no small benefit."

 

Envy, often the trigger for schadenfreude, can result in revenge fantasies which manifest in the current TV genre of “humilitainment,” and it is seen in many other realms of daily life including politics, Hollywood and sports.

 

Sports references should strike a chord with University of Kentucky basketball fans. In his section "The Emotional Life of the True Fan," Smith describes an experiment he conducted with UK supporters in reference to the UK-Duke basketball rivalry.

 

"In the world of spectator sports, emotions run high and frank expressions of schadenfreude are more common than in other areas of life," Smith said. "In sports, people are freer to voice their darker feelings — the same feelings that in most other contexts would be shameful. Research shows that the average fan is quite capable, in some circumstances, of being pleased over injuries to players on opposing teams."

 

But beyond the passing pleasure we might get from seeing a competitor fail, Smith even asserts that envy provides a way of understanding why the Nazis delighted in brutally treating the Jews, even when these actions were counterproductive.

 

"Our cooperative, empathic instincts are a significant part of human nature, but competition is woven into so many aspects of everyday life," Smith said. "The consequences of inferiority in love and at work are hard to ignore, and envy is understandable, inevitable and probably adaptive in its own way."

 

Smith argues that it is unreasonable to think that we can stop feeling envy and, furthermore, stop our envy from setting the stage for schadenfreude. As guilty as it might also make us feel, the pleasure resulting from the suffering of someone we envy is just too sharp.

 

"Richard Smith's long-awaited book is a profound, thoughtful meditation on one of the most puzzling and disturbing forms of human emotion," said Roy F. Baumeister, author of "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength." "Mixing scientific research, popular culture, striking anecdotes and personal reflection, it is a stimulating, enjoyable, yet unsettling read. I recommend to anyone with a serious interest in human emotion and motivation — and to anyone with an abiding curiosity about the peculiar twists and turns of human nature."

 

 

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Sarah Geegan, (859) 257-5365; sarah.geegan@uky.edu

joy_of_pain_photo.jpg
October
 
 
 
1
Internship Info Session
LNFS Presents: Dallas Buyers Club
College of Law Welcomes Trevor Potter
Wed
2
Dancing at Lughnasa
LNFS Presents: Notes on Marie Menken
LNFS Presents: Edge of Tomorrow
UK Jazz Ensemble/ UK Lab Band
Earth & Environmental Science Student Open House
"Nerd Night" Exhibit and Concert
"Anne Braden: Southern Patriot" Film Screening and Discussion
Thu
3
Dancing at Lughnasa
LNFS Presents: My Neighbor Totoro
LNFS Presents: (500) Days of Summer
Men's Soccer vs. Old Dominion
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Alabama
Fri
4
Dancing at Lughnasa
Kentucky Football vs. South Carolina
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Rock Climbing @ Red River Gorge
Cross Cultural Workshop 2014
Swing Dancing!
Sat
5
Dancing at Lughnasa
Cross Cultural Workshop 2014
UK Children's Hospital/Birthing Center Annual Perinatal Loss "Walk To Remember"
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Texas A&M
Sun
6
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
Resumes and Cover Letters
Mon
7
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
Networking and Job Search
UK Choristers
Rock Star Professionalism Series
Stillness in Motion: The Essence of Symmetry - presented by Dr. Carl Lee, Mathematics
Tue
8
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
LNFS Presents: Night of the Living Dead
UK Law Day
Wed
9
Dancing at Lughnasa
Murals of Baltimore
LNFS Presents: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Mark Berry, Guest Percussion Recital
National Depression Screening Day
LNFS Presents: Torch Song Trilogy
Thu
10
Dancing at Lughnasa
LNFS Presents: Shut Up and Play the Hits
LNFS Presents: Watchmen
KLJ Data Privacy Symposium
Family Weekend Check-in
Big Blue Pantry Food Drive #1
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. South Carolina
Family Weekend: Derek Hughes
Fri
11
Dancing at Lughnasa
Kentucky Football vs. ULM
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
UK International Tent/ Tailgate Party
CT Surgery Symposium: Advances in the Surgical Management of Cardiothoracic Diseases:
Family Weekend Tent Party
Sat
12
Dancing at Lughnasa
DNT 101: A Taste of the Kentucky Doughnut Trail
Big Blue Pantry Food Drive #2
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Auburn
Sunday Lunch at Historic Spindletop Hall
Men's Soccer vs. Marshall
Sun
13
 
Mon
14
Job Club - Social Media and Your Career
Massage on the Go
Tue
15
LNFS Presents: The Last Samurai
UK Symphony Band Concert
Women's Forum Conference 2014
#TrendingTopics: Pornography vs. Morality
Wed
16
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: The Tree of Life
LNFS Presents: Guardians of the Galaxy
UK Wind Symphony
Thu
17
LNFS Presents: Princess Mononoke
LNFS Presents: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Ole Miss
Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet
Fri
18
Paint the Town Blue
Free Kaplan Entrance Practice Exams
4th Annual Big Blue Soccer Tournament
Men's Soccer vs. New Mexico
Swing Dancing and Costumes?
Sat
19
Paint the Town Blue
UK Men's Chorus and acoUstiKats
Jazz Spectacular
UK Student Pajama Party
Kentucky Volleyball vs. LSU
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Florida
Sun
20
Paint the Town Blue
Midterm of 2014 Fall Semester
Returning to Work and Breastfeeding
Open Access Week Kickoff Event (Webcast)
Grad School 101
Royalty Showcase
Mon
21
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week: Preparing for Law School
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week: Grad School Panel: Surviving Your 1st Year
Film & Panel Discussion: Be Like Others
Graduate and Professional School Showcase
Your Publication, Your Choice: Choosing the Right Open Access Journal
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week
Graduate and Professional School Prep Week
Kitty Karnival
Tue
22
Study Tips for Medical School
LNFS Presents: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Thank-A-Donor Day
Campus Sustainability Day
Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Information Session
Getting Into Medical School
Wed
23
Writing a Winning Personal Statement
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Marimbas From Hell
LNFS Presents: The Fault in Our Stars
Generation Open: Researchers' Roles in the Age of Openness
Homecoming Street Fair
Thu
24
LNFS Presents: Kiki's Delivery Service
LNFS Presents: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
"see blue." Day at Keeneland
Peanut Butter Drive
Pumpkin Carving Tournament
Fri
25
Kentucky Football vs. Mississippi State
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Sat
26
UK Women's Choir and Paws and Listen
Bill Cooper Faculty Recital
What Makes You "YOU: with Brett T. Spear
Sun
27
UK Trumpet Ensemble
Undergraduate Research Information Session "How to Find A Mentor"
Kentucky Men's Basketball Blue/White Scrimmage
Mon
28
Job Club - How To Get A Job at UK: Updates on IES Applicant Tracking System
Common Reading Experience Author Lecture: Presenting Ishmael Beah
Screening of the documentary Teached
Tue
29
Internship Info Session
LNFS Presents: The Shining
Pinterest Party
UK Lab Safety Fair
Leadership Assessment
"see boo." Halloween Party
Society for the Promotion of Undergraduate Research (SPUR) Meeting
#UKEDTALKS: Design Thinking with Dr. John Nash
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Tennessee
Wed
30
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Lucy
Film Viewing and Discussion of The Other Boleyn Girl
LNFS Presents: Papirosen
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Alabama
Thu
31
LNFS Presents: ParaNorman
LNFS Presents: Carrie
All Hallow's Eve Concert (UK Symphony Orchestra)
Work-Life Retirement Conference
Fri
 
Reset Page