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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.”

  1. Spread awareness

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.

  1. 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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This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Fred Carpenter

    The average person is essentially an unconscious psychopath.

    1. Lesley

      I can’t find the Reply button except under each comment. Anyway I enjoyed all of the comments here. I have felt more and more of a disconnect as I get older. The way to look at it is that the majority of people are unconscious and therefore have narcissistic tendencies. Congratulations. You are not in the matrix anymore but observing it from the outside. It is real. With any luck that means we don’t have to keep coming back to this purgatory lol. I like to imagine that there is another earth (perhaps in a multiverse) where the reality is very different. Like how about a world in which introverts and deep thinkers are the norm lol, And all those self-centered low empathy people are outcasts instead of being thought of as ‘normal’.

  2. Kirstine Schaeffer

    Thank you for putting a name on a symptom of our over-media’d times. Too much news can be a bad thing. Your suggestions about what to do are very helpful. Kindness and taking action are the best therapies for the world weary.
    I’m 73 and now getting a certification as a conscious consultant. It’s one way to bring our the heroic spirit of business.

    1. Fred Carpenter

      Marketing, business and money worship will be our downfall. It’s more heroic to suicide than to be part of it, and one of these days, I will. Sometimes it’s the only true sane act in a completely insane world. It’s not even really a choice. Sometimes the disabled are driven to it, so it’s really a form of murder that looks like something else. It happens all the time, but people are too self-centered and in denial to see. Consider the number of homeless that die on the streets every year, and nobody cares, not really. Even if they say they do, their actions belie their words. I’ve encountered very few people in this world who aren’t phony even if they claim they’re not, and if a person believes lies and propaganda, they’re lying to themselves. Nobody likes the truth and would prefer a comfortable lie. I get rejected all the time because people cannot face the truth within themselves, and the worst part is that it’s entirely unconscious.

      1. Robbie

        You posted you’re comments last September Fred, just look at the world now… Countries saying let the old or sick die so economics can carry on in this covid 19 era! We are basically in a world mostly run by lunatics!

  3. Darren

    Great article. Been feeling this way for a while now and agree with suggestions as well. Nice to know there is a word for it.

  4. Alex Nodopaka

    I disagree with the whole premise stated in this article.

    Firstly, humans consider their shit doesn’t stink but I wouldn’t stick my head in their ass.

    Secondly, wars are between ALL species.

    Turdly (sic), forest fires are caused by lightning.

    Fourthly, environmental disasters are nothing compared to worlds on collision courses or what about the Big Bang? Nothing to sneeze at!

    Fifthly, society’s fakeness is no different than animals changing their appearance to kill their preys.

    The whole idea of God or any divinity are absurd beliefs due to our primitiveness.

    1. Fred Carpenter

      True, everyone is born with an animal soul, but not a spiritual soul. Most have not evolved beyond their animal soul.

  5. Themba Mnguni


    I appreciate this article as it makes me feel better that what I am going through is not weird. my problem is its difficult to switch to thinking about the good in the world as within munites I will drift back to those thoughts depress me and feel like I don’t belong here . I don’t have close friends I relate to. when I was younger I used to have lot of friends, but as I grew older and began personal awakening and discarded religion, all that changed. I cant keep a romantic relationship. Ladies just resent me for no apparent reason. I can meet somebody today and connect but tomorrow they will not want anything to do with me. I seem to have lost coonection with the real world at times as some things that excites lot of people don’t excites me at all any more

    1. Fred Carpenter

      It’s not just you. Many expected an upward paradigm shift but what actually happened was a downward shift into dystopia and it’s still falling. Just telling people that I have a 165 IQ is enough to trigger their ego and set them off because they don’t understand the nature of giftedness and the reality of the hell I live in. People don’t see me. They only see their own projections. They are bound to unawakened kundalini. After they die, they reincarnate here or at an even lower level of existence while those of us who have awakened move on to a higher level of existence. We’ve all been here before. One could even call this place purgatory. I’ve had three NDE’s, the first when I was eight years old. There is no death, only transformation. I don’t belong here. I wasn’t told that it wasn’t my time. I was given the option to leave and chose to remain. I thought I could help. I was wrong. People don’t listen to anything that doesn’t reflect their own ego, and most people think they already know everything. I truly envy their self-centeredness and relative bliss of ignorance.

      1. Themba Mnguni

        hello there Fred!!

        can you explain two thinks u mentioned here, “unwakened kundalini” and “NDE’s “. Thank you

        1. Fred Carpenter

          Google them. NDE stands for Near Death Experience. If you have had a kundalini awakening or NDE, you would know it. There are a lot of liars out there who say an awakening a positive experience. It is not. They’re still asleep. It is a destructive process.

          1. Themba Mnguni

            What type of awakening is destructive. elaborate more as the word awakening itself seems to mean positive

      2. Ka5050

        Fred I totally understand how you’re feeling right now. I struggled with my enlightenment for years. I was different. The world was different. People were different. It’s very true that people don’t want to hear the truth if it is contradictory to what they believe to be true. In order to change the belief system they have to FEEL it. Once they Feel it, they will Know it to be true. So how do you do that? As someone who vibrates at the highest level you have the ability to match anyone at the level they are right now. I find mixing truth with humour works really well and doesn’t ruffle the ego feathers.
        I guess what I really want to say is we need more people like you here on earth Fred. Don’t give up. We need you brother. Glad you’re back.

      3. Steven Jones

        Hello Fred you are spot on! I know I have lived many lives and I told God that I don’t ever want to come back, God said “you always say that” well yeah so thats my story. Also you are very intelligent but more less you have life experience of many lives so you have knowledge. I have been depressed and negative today but this all helped for some reason. I am not sure how you personally feel but I just hope you are happy and if you aren’t I hope that changes. I am sincere and I really learned from what you wrote so Thank You! You aren’t alone, we are all one!!!

  6. Julie Newton

    Having felt like a misfit for some time, I am glad to know that the way I feel is not singular to me. Anger and despair are often stirred within me, but when I show a passion or frustration for the complete disregard people show to most situations that are devastating or unjust, which do not immediately affect them, I am often belittled or ostracized. And because these reactions, I realise that, perhaps, there is no hope for human kind. It is then that I realise I am sinking into a state of meloncholy, brought on by considering humanity is dwindling, and realise I need to concentrate on the good and glorious, and seek acts of kindness and compassion. They evade me sometimes, so I think of the buddhist monks who try not to harm living beings, and I cast my mind to certain ancient peoples, who have tried to live in harmony and respect nature, instead of destroying it. This too can make me morose, sometimes, when considering how different modern western life is. However, I practise little acts of kindness and consideration to all things to balance the unkind, and realise that even if I have a bad day and become what a hate for a time, because I am human too, at least I try to do something positive on a regular basis to combat the huge amount of grief and suffering to those that have feeling.

  7. ayushya

    This is awesome post thank for share your post this is great

  8. Sakunthala

    I feel that today’s world is at a crossroad. If we do not act the world be a eternal painful world where there we can hear a lot of people are sobbing and wailing . The nature is in danger. People act as if they are brainless. I don’t understand they only need material gain by gaining everything hurting the nature or humanity. Why does this happen? Why can’t we do anything about this.?

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