Have you ever felt a deep sadness and frustration with the world and all the ugly things that are happening in it? You may have had weltschmerz.
What Is Weltschmerz? The Definition and Origins
Weltschmerz is a German word that literally means ‘world’ (welt) + ‘pain’ (schmerz) and defines an emotional state when someone is melancholic about all the suffering and injustice that exist in the world. We could say that it’s a deeper and more desperate version of world-weariness.
German author Jean Paul is credited for introducing this word to the general audience. However, it first appeared in the German dictionary (Deutsches Wörterbuch) by Brothers Grimm.
Why Do We Have Weltschmerz?
This subtle emotional state is and has always been common among those who are susceptible to deep thoughts and feelings. So it makes sense why the concept of weltschmerz appears in artwork, philosophical publications and literary works of many authors, artists, poets and philosophers.
No one would deny that there is so much evil in our world. Human nature has many dark sides that make the world uglier than it should be. Greed, selfishness, and dishonesty are some purely human qualities that have brought all this suffering and injustice.
So it comes as no surprise that deep thinking people with sensitive souls can feel the depth of this pain even if it doesn’t affect them directly. Just knowing how many terrible things are happening in the world is enough to make you feel melancholic and desperate about the future of our planet.
Forest fires, wars, environmental disasters… All this is caused by us humans. Doesn’t this thought alone make you feel sad? And I’m not even talking about our society’s fakeness. Corrupted politicians pretend to care about people, stupid celebrities are more appreciated than scientists and doctors, and people are judged for being themselves.
It seems that humanity has been blinded by shallow pleasures and short-term gains. Everyone’s obsession with material things and superficial goals has replaced morality, honesty, and eternal values. So if you realize all this, it makes perfect sense why you might feel deeply frustrated and alien to this world, like you don’t belong here. This is weltschmerz.
How to Cope with This Deep World-Weariness?
If you are prone to weltschmerz, it can be difficult to deal with this emotional state. You may feel too small to even attempt to bring any change in the world, and this is what is hiding behind this melancholic state. This is what it is about – seeing all this suffering and being able to do nothing to stop it.
However, there are some ways to cope with this feeling:
Think about all the beauty that exists in the world
Sometimes when we are trapped in feelings of sadness or despair, all we need to do is to change our perspective. Yes, we can’t ignore all this ugliness of our society and human nature, but at the same time, we should not forget how many beautiful things exist in the world.
So when you are feeling intensively melancholic and pessimistic about the future of our planet, you can do some of the following things.
You can take a walk or a trip to come closer to nature and tune into its beauty. You could also read inspirational stories about people who help the environment or do remarkable acts of kindness. Or you could go to an art gallery to enjoy incredible artistic talents or read a novel by one of the greatest authors.
The point is to remind yourself that there are still many good, deep, and beautiful things humans can do. As long as love, kindness, and creativity exist, there is hope.
Contribute to bringing a change in the world
To feel like you participate in making the world a better place, do an act of kindness, volunteer or join an activist group. This can be something as simple as going to the beach to clear trash or helping your old neighbor.
No matter how small this may be, you are still making a difference. The point is to feel like you’ve done something useful for the world. Like you’ve contributed to improving the situation.
Remember the quote by Aesop:
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Weltschmerz is not an imaginary or unsubstantial feeling. We have it because there are multiple reasons to feel sad and disappointed with the current state of affairs. So what else can we do to bring a change? Spread awareness, of course.
Writing about a global problem or just having a talk about it with someone you know are some of the ways to do it. The point is to attempt to raise awareness about the subject and make people reconsider the situation.
Unfortunately, most people don’t really think about the world’s problems unless if they directly affect them. And of course, they are not aware of how significant their everyday behaviors can be for the environment and global wellbeing.
For example, if you manage to convince just one person to recycle their trash as you do, it’s already a win.
Put the feelings of weltschmerz into something creative
Finally, another great way to cope with the feelings of world-weariness is to turn your melancholy and frustration into something creative. All kinds of negative emotions can be put into creative deeds. In fact, doing this can be very beneficial for your mental health.
Ever heard of expressive therapy? That’s it. And the best part is that you don’t have to be a professional to do it. For example, you could write an essay or a poem about a problem that occupies your mind. Or you could draw it or go out into the streets and take creative photos.
You will feel an incredible relief as soon as you finish your work. By the way, you could practice this method with personal problems too.
At the same time, if you decide to show your creation to the world, it will help in spreading awareness too.
Do you ever have weltschmerz? Please share your experience with us in the comments below!
P.S. If you are prone to Weltschmerz and can relate to the above, check out my new book The Power of Misfits: How to Find Your Place in a World You Don’t Fit In, which is available as an eBook and a paperback.
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