Freudenfreude Is the Joyous Opposite of Schadenfreude

By: Kristen Hall-Geisler  | 
Freudenfreude is the sense of happiness and shared joy we feel when others succeed, the opposite of schadenfreude. fizkes//Shutterstock

We can all probably admit to feeling a little bit of schadenfreude at times, that handy German word for feeling at least a little bit good about someone else's misfortune. It's what we often feel when the bad guy gets his due at the end of a movie.


Sharing Joy in Times of Difficulty

Many people around the globe have experienced some difficult years recently, to put it mildly. It seems that in response, people are looking for ways to find and share more joy instead of feeling happy about someone else feeling sad. Some researchers are calling this new feeling freudenfreude (pronounced "froy-din-froy-da"). The German word freude means joy, though the word freudenfreude isn't actually a German word. It's a brand-new made-up word — a neologism — created to mean the opposite of schadenfreude.

So what is the opposite of schadenfreude? It's positive empathy, or the ability to feel someone else's positive emotions as if they were your own. A small study published in August 2021 in the journal Psychological Science showed that this kind of empathy can make people kinder, more resilient and more satisfied with their lives. It can also motivate people to cooperate even if an argument arises.


The Benefits of Freudenfreude

Emily Anhalt, a clinical psychologist and cofounder of the mental health app Coa, told The New York Times that schadenfreude can be an "ego protector." Feeling good about someone else's loss can protect you from similar pain, or it can help you bond with others. But studies have found that too much of a schadenfreude thing can make people less empathetic and compassionate toward others. That's where freudenfreude comes in to bring things back into balance.

To tap into the feeling of freudenfreude, look for good things happening to other people, and no success is too small to celebrate. When you talk to friends and family, ask what's going well for them, then share in their joy and pride. Don't forget to share your own accomplishments and excitement, too. Happiness can be a community effort. If you're struggling to get started after years of schadenfreude, it's super easy to share some freudenfreude with kids in your life. An improved grade, a piece of art they're proud of, or a new skill they've mastered is fertile freudenfreude ground.