I'm thinking of a word........
January 19, 2011 7:41 PM   Subscribe

"Shadenfreude-filter": I need a word, or phrase, to describe a particular experience of human behavior. It doesn't have to be in English - in fact, I'm not sure we have a word for it.

Hellooooo Hivemind!

I'm looking for a word or phrase that captures the following experience:

You are upset about something - perhaps with the flooding, and blizzards, birds dropping out of the sky, fish dying, and people getting shot, the world feels dangerous, and out of control.

But rather than acknowledging or internally processing those feelings, you tell your friend about all five events, without owning up to the fact that these things disturb you. You relate this litany of terrible things, in a way that upsets your friend, enabling you to note they are upset, and then soothe them.

So, you're processing your feelings externally, but not by using conversation to become more self aware about how you feel about something, but by experiencing something vicariously through your friend - both the worry and the comforting.

What would you call this if you had to give this a name? Is there a phrase for this already in the world? Vicarious Processing? External Catharsis? Curmudgeonly Behavior? A friend and I have noted this behavior in people - parents, coworkers, etc., but we don't have a short-hand phrase or word to express that it is happening. And we'd like one.

posted by anitanita to Human Relations (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Does it have to be multiple global events, or can it just be anything you're upset about.

For example, "Mom's cancer is getting really bad. I'm not sure she's going to make it..." Say that to your sibling, and then comfort them when they get upset about it, thereby calming yourself in the process.

Would that count, too? Or are you restricting this to more of a "world is coming to an end" scenario?
posted by alms at 7:51 PM on January 19, 2011

Response by poster: Yep, Alms - it can be anything you're upset about - not just world coming to an end scenarios.

Burhanistan - thank you!
posted by anitanita at 7:52 PM on January 19, 2011

I'd call it an emotional or psychological munchausen syndrome by proxy.
posted by Anitanola at 7:55 PM on January 19, 2011

Splitting and projection? It's a way of getting rid of unwanted feelings and projecting them onto others, thereby distancing yourself from having to acknowledge you have them. There's more information in the overview section at Wikipedia.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:58 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Insofar as it's a cathartic processing with good results, I think it's also sublimation. Like displacement, splitting, and projection, sublimation is yet another way to not pin an emotion on its proper object and instead focus on a more manageable issue, but sublimation is the one that has positive connotations and aims at social acceptance. But this is also a pretty decent example of how murky and made-up Freudian distinctions are.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:13 PM on January 19, 2011

Best answer: Projective identification
posted by prettypretty at 8:19 PM on January 19, 2011

Misery loves company?
posted by Rhaomi at 8:47 PM on January 19, 2011

Reminds me of a MST3K quote that has always stuck with me, from the closing credits to MST3K: The Movie.

"Is that the guy who always runs around attributing his own faults to others?"
"Ah, yes, the projectionist...."
posted by maryr at 9:05 PM on January 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

Ain' t It Awful? "Person overtly expresses distress, but it is covertly gratified at the prospect of the satisfaction they can wring from their misfortune."
posted by Carol Anne at 5:33 AM on January 20, 2011

I'm having trouble picturing what's actually going on here-- maybe because of the way the point of view shifts. First you're talking from the point of view of the person who tells the stories, but at the end it seems like you are who is listening, and getting upset. So, do you repeatedly get into situations where people tell you one disturbing anecdote after another, then notice that you are upset? And you want to know why they do it? It sounds like it could be kind of sadistic but again, it's hard to tell from your description whether this is deliberate or what.
posted by BibiRose at 8:50 AM on January 20, 2011

anitanita, I liked your suggestions the best. I would even suggest combining them, 'cos they were all so good:

Vicarious Curmudgeonly Catharsis, or VCC for short.

Of course it's not exactly grammatically correct as-is, but that could be remedied without affecting the handy acronym.

Anyone know what the adjectival form of curmudgeon is? Curmudgeonic? Curmdugescous?
posted by leticia at 10:47 AM on January 20, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you for all of your lovely suggestions! Someone else suggested emotional vampirism, which also had a nice ring to it. I believe I will use them all, interchangeably, depending on my mood. :)

Leticia, I like Curmudgeonostic!
posted by anitanita at 8:04 PM on January 21, 2011

Curmudgeonostic it is, then! :o)
posted by leticia at 8:08 AM on January 25, 2011

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