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Dhwaneet Bhatt

The Joy in Others' Struggles

philosophy2 min read

We all feel bad when our loved ones, like immediate family and close friends, have problems. But sometimes, when someone we know struggles, we might feel a tinge of satisfaction or a quick feeling of relief or happiness. Not the people we see in the news hit by some calamity or distressed people in general, but our friends, cousins, co-workers or other people in our network.

Seeing someone else in trouble can make us feel grateful for our life. It provides a framework to justify how our alternate decisions played out nicely. It's like thinking, "Hey, maybe my choices weren't so bad after all." We can over-emphasise the positive outcomes by comparing them with the negative outcomes of others' decisions. For example, if a friend went abroad to study and lost their job, we might feel good about staying back home, even though it could have been better personally for us. The decision - not to go - had already been taken. Now, we find anecdotes to justify that past decision.

Of course, there are certain people whose lives we envy, even if they're people close to us. Maybe they have a better job, live in a better country, or look better. The primary reason for this envy is that they have what we desire. When we see them on social media, with all their perfect moments, we wish for their unhappiness. When they are going through difficult times, we feel satisfied. This does not cause our desire to go away.

Why? We do not see things objectively. Subjective experiences measure everything. There is no "good life" meter. So, we all secretly compare our lives to others, even if we don't admit it. One always strives to live in the moral compass by externally displaying positive emotions. We show kindness and help others, trying to be good people. But the mind is driven by emotions, not morality.

Is it okay to feel this way? Are there practices that reduce the comparative mentality and instead allow us to focus inwards?