Feeling: CONTRITELY CONFAB
It was in my first year uni when undergoing an enormous exploration into the perils of Reality TV (honestly, the most interesting study I’ve ever done; if you ever want to know the wrongs with My Kitchen Rules, Big Brother or any of the eons of other shows falling under the RTV umbrella, set aside a good six hours and hit me up for a yarn) that I came across the theory of schadenfreude.
Of course it was a notion thought up by the master of mankind, Sigmund Freud. The first dude to actually say, well hey now, human beings ain’t all that fab, there’s some rather sick and selfish shit going on within the realm of the mind, Freud asserted the idea that people derived pleasure from their counterparts’ misfortune – I.e., got off on others’ dismal doings, disasters and devastations.
Reader, meet schadenfreude.
Throughout studying I always viewed it as a sort of abstract concept; you know, thought about it, fought for it in essay argument, but never applied it to the everyday in regards to my own life. It was along the lines of interpersonal theory – know it’s there and buzzing about, but never really acknowledging its collossal presence.
But now I’m on this whole “be a better person” attempt to dominate the bitch out of me, it’s like I’ve taken off my petal hued specs and have had new lenses clapped onto my pupils. And it ain’t too pretty, nor self love boosting.
Humankind thrives on gossip. It is a rare soul who takes themselves out of such situations, who genuinely doesn’t enjoy hearing the juicy tit bits regarding other people. Why do you think Coronation Street or Home and Away or – above forbid – Shortland Street (I have given it up as of 2014 so am allowed to now join to scoffing side) are among the greatest rating shows on our screens? It’s the scandals, the painful plots, the affairs and what not that has us at home on the couch rubbing our hands together in glee and declaring, “My word! What about the carry ons of wonton Maria with our Tyronne?” (No, Coronation Street is still a go – can’t seem to shake that one). (Also watching it gets me in character and talking in the same Weathetfield tongue as old Liz MacDonald and such).
Real life may not have the same amount of indescretions, murders nor unplanned pregnancies – though that last one is disputable – but the every day occurrences do induce emotions on part of other people. Particularly when said situations are of the less favourable type.
The other day I was knee deep in a yarn with a peer when the convo turned to discuss a person we both knew – not well nor closely, it must be said, but more in a, “Hi how are you?”, “See you later!” and “What about this weather!” sort of context. After a bit of light, surface layer comments about what a trooper this person was (the necessary to justify the to-follow bavardage at their outlay), we got down to the nitty gritty and reason they were referred to in the first place.
Assume gossip position – lean forward, cursory look left and right, then in hushed tones, “Did you hear…”
Mid way through my divulge I was overcome by a sense of disgust in myself. Ok, the “did you hear” may not be of the catastrophic, crisis sort of callibre, but mate, it would no doubt be giving said subject no end of grief. And here I was delighting in it. Taking great pleasure in another’s misfortune as I sipped on my blue Powerade Zero (side note: why has the yellow been discontinued? It was by far the most delicious of all, I don’t even like blue. Probably a good thing actually as I am giving up all chemically enhanced consumables so the crave for the lemon lime will not be able to be succumbed to, but still put a dampner on my day). I was no better than old Tracey Barlow down the Rover’s Returm with her poison tongue; I was spitting out just as much perverse venom here.
Of course I didn’t stop midway. I couldn’t impart half a sentence then declare high morals and leave my conversational chum in the lurch and wanting more. But as dissected the d-low, I had a sickening sense of well, wrongness lolling about in the pit of my stomach. (And I’m talking lolling in the original Collins dictionary definition, not the “laugh-out-loud-ing” sense).
Over the last few days I’ve been casting an eye back to the Pop of the past and present and am appalled to say I’ve realised – to add onto Freud’s theory – I’m quite the schadenfreudist. I don’t pass along secrets – heavens no, if I’m told something in confidence it remains with me and only me – but scandals and such surrounding some I definitely – at times – revel in.
I felt like shit.
What a horrid sort I am! Having a grand old chuckle at others’ expenses. (Of happiness I mean; not at a financial tariff). The self esteem currently teetering on a three, four on a good day, plummeted to sub zero. I am a right bitch, I deduced. (Still in Coro Street mode as you may have cottoned onto with some phrases along the way).
But then I turned from looking inward to observing outward. And I realised for the most part, others around me are the same. As old Sig said, it’s an innate part of human nature and it’s only in recognising it that it can be eradicated.
That’s not to be said it’s all hedonism and divertissement; obviously in some circumstances compassion and empathy are aroused. But there is usually – largely, largely unnoticed – a major undercurrent of sybaritism.
So from here on out I vow to eradicate my inner Tracey Barlow. To combat and quash any feelings of delectation that are elicited on hearing of another’s misfortune. To stop the goss. To be a good person.
(Though talking about Coro Street scandals is still allowed. They’re fictional, all right? And I need to discuss the whole Carla-Nick predicament with my Uncle Cock).