The Perils of Optimism — SOLSC 12

So, Weltschmerz. I mentioned it briefly the other day. It a depression caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state. I think of it as the opposite of Schadenfreude (taking pleasure in another’s misfortune), though it probably isn’t exactly an opposite. I said on Thursday that I tend to be more of a Weltschmerz girl than a Schadenfreude one. And despite my discovery that I can feel Schadenfreude, I am still more of a Weltschmerz girl.

An old boyfriend of mine was often annoyed with me. One source of his forever-dissatisfaction was my inability to see the world as it was. I used to have a much stronger Nellie Forbush streak than I do now. You know, Nellie Forbush, from South Pacific? I was totally that cockeyed-optimist she sang about, immature and incurably green.

It drove him nuts. I would express concern over some situation, exclaiming, “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be!” And he would pretty much lose his mind because the concerning situation in question wasn’t at all variable, it was always just the way it was. The problem was that I wanted it to be better — I wanted it to be “right” — fair, equitable, kind.

He would rail against my ideal-world vision, said I was a fool in rose-colored glasses. Yeah, he was a spectacularly bad boyfriend, truly. I kept my glasses on all the same … I eventually took them off long enough to see him clearly, thank goodness.

I think this kind of flying-in-the-face-of-what-is optimism is precisely what causes Weltschmerz. Because you hold onto that shining image of the ideal world … but then you also see the actual world, and it just breaks your heart again and again.

But, despite my illicit affair with Schadenfreude, Weltschmerz girl I remain. Knowing it’s called something, has this specific name and definition, is oddly comforting. Have you ever experienced Weltschmerz? Did you know it was called that? Does it make you feel better knowing that feeling has a name?


We’re almost halfway through the 2016 edition of the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

SOL image 2014

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10 thoughts on “The Perils of Optimism — SOLSC 12

    1. Oh, that’s such a nice thing to say (“informed and supported all at once”). Thank you! I think you’re right that knowing this feeling is called something, has actually been named, comforts us because we know we’re not alone, enough people have felt this for someone to create a word for it. I do wish we had no reason to feel it, however. Here’s to somehow creating that world.

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  1. Hmm, I’m definitely not a Schadenfreude Sal, but I’m hardly a Weltschmerz Wendy either. I washed the rose color off my glasses a long time ago. The Nellie Forbush types can drive me crazy, still I would not want to be the one to take away their rose-colored glasses. I get that we need them to remind us Reality Rita’s that what the world is, does not mean we can’t get to where it can be. Thanks for a new word, those are always welcome.

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    1. Ah, Reality Rita!! She’s the perfect third party in all this, isn’t she? I’ll just remember not to burst into, “Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair,” the next time we’re together! 🙂

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  2. Well, now I know why my husband and I got together all those years ago and why I couldn’t shake him. I had the Welts–, I was the bright cheery cloud among the dreary clouds that rained on his life. He wouldn’t let me go, though, and I liked him very much. 🙂

    20+ years later, what do I have? I’m much grounded, that’ probably has to do with maturity, but I still am hopelessly hopeful.

    Wait. I know the world is flawed, and I can identify it as such and want justice.. but I had a positive outlook that things would change. So, I guess I had a variation of Welts– and still do.

    I think it’s hope grounded in people. 🙂

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