This week, the Cut is exploring a scientific theory that suggests we have infinite emotions, so long as we can name them — and so we did, asking writers to identify new ways to feel.
Freundeschaden: The joy of connection with someone who shares your pain.
You ram through a turnstile and race down the subway stairs just in time to hear the dinging of the train’s closing doors. As you hit the platform, your heart sinks. A moment later, someone else barrels down the stairs and registers the same disappointment. Now your heart lifts a smidge. It’s not Schadenfreude (damage plus joy). Instead, it’s Freundeschaden (friend plus damage).
There’s nothing mean-spirited about Freundeschaden. It’s a bond based on a shared sadness, a shared shame, or a shared anger. This bittersweet feeling contains traces of relief and community. While you would never wish a particular struggle or challenge on anyone, it’s nice to know you’re not suffering alone.
Freundeschaden is not a new emotion. Italian historian Dominici de Gravina observed its existence in the 14th century. “Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris,” he wrote. “It is a comfort to the unfortunate to have had companions in woe.”
Airplane travel is rife with Freundeschaden. I used to be angry at people with screaming kids on planes until I had kids. Now I regard those parents with deep Freundeschaden. Or if there’s in-flight turbulence, you catch the eye of a kindly passenger and feel a frisson of Freundeschaden. “Yes, we will die together,” you think. And when the plane lands safely, you and your fellow passengers will often burst into spontaneous applause to celebrate the lifting of Freundeschaden. The bond is broken as you all disperse.
More From This Series
- 20 More New Emotions, From Readers
- That Feeling When You Share Your Deepest Secrets With a Stranger
- That Feeling When You’re Haunted by Online Embarrassments
- That Feeling When Humiliation From Years Ago Hits You All Over Again
- That Feeling When You’re Nostalgic for a Time You’d Never Want to Relive