Here’s a difficult question: are you happy?
It’s difficult because it partly depends on who you compare yourself to. Most people compare themselves with those around them. Am I happier than my colleagues, my friends or my family?
We also compare ourselves with real and fictional people we’ve never met. When we do so, there seems to be a fascination with the sadder aspects of other people’s lives. The media continually serve up stories about disasters both global and personal, whether it’s celebrities in rehab or people coping with natural disasters.
The desire to see sad events depicted dramatically has a history as long as humanity itself. Shakespeare was a master of tragedy. What could be sadder than the story of Romeo and Juliet? Here was a couple whose love is thwarted by their families, who both eventually die by their own hands, each believing the other already dead.
It’s not that we take pleasure in seeing other people’s misery, but still we seem drawn to it. This article is about why.