Book review: Our Pleasure in Others’ Misfortune: ‘The Joy of Pain,’ and What We Get Out of It

JoyOfPainCoverOur Pleasure in Others’ Misfortune: ‘The Joy of Pain,’ and What We Get Out of It
Review of The Joy of Pain: Schadenfreude and the Dark Side of Human Nature
By Richard H. Smith
New York Times, December 23, 2013

Excerpt:

Schadenfreude provides a glimpse into what the psychologists Roy F. Baumeister and Brad J. Bushmanhave called “the most basic conflict in the human psyche” — the friction between our selfish impulses and self-control. “We are all savages inside,” the author Cheryl Strayed wrote in her Dear Sugar column at the website The Rumpus. “We all want to be the chosen, the beloved, the esteemed.”

But life doesn’t always turn out that way, and when we encounter someone who is more chosen, beloved or esteemed than we are, our natural instinct is to tear them down to our level. If this illicit desire is fulfilled by happenstance, schadenfreude ensues. Clive James captured the feeling in a poem that takes its title from its first line: “The book of my enemy has been remaindered/ And I am pleased.”

Read the rest at the New York Times: Our Pleasure in Others’ Misfortune: ‘The Joy of Pain,’ and What We Get Out of It