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Weltschmerz - the feeling of sadness about today’s world

Climate Change. War. Poverty. Crisis. - With each day passing more hesitation arises to open social media or turn on the news channel, not knowing what new terrifying headline to expect today.  The world is seemingly burning in the flames of endless suffering and life suddenly seems so much more fragile. A heavy feeling builds up in your chest, and negative emotions cloud your mind because it feels like the world is currently in a never-ending downward cycle of misfortune, with you helplessly stuck in your mundane life. But what exactly is this feeling of anger, sadness, and this hurt you are feeling when you come across today’s world's hardships? This melancholic feeling refers to the term “Weltschmerz”.

Weltschmerz, finds its origin in the German language and the literal translation is “world-pain”. In the original definition by the Brothers Grimm, it is described as deep sadness about the insufficiency of the world. It’s the word that best expresses the frustration, weariness, and sadness people feel when being confronted with the current state of the world. And it’s okay to feel this way; feeling pain about the world means you care and are an empathic person, but caring can also come with a sense of sadness.  

What can you do when you feel that way?

1. Radical Acceptance

The pain you feel might be so big because your own ideal expectations differ from reality. The harsh truth is we cannot expect a perfectly functioning world. We coexist on this vast planet with not only nature, animals, and other people, but equally with good and bad. Yet, we have no choice other than to accept this reality, which refers to the concept of radical acceptance. It is based on the idea that accepting situations outside your control without judging them can lessen the suffering caused by them. It does not refrain you from feeling your emotions, but the acceptance prevents you from turning your pain into suffering. This also does not imply that you’re agreeing with what is happening or what has happened, the acceptance rather shows you recognize reality, and it can be the first step to help you cope with difficult experiences.

2. Focus on the good

Another important factor is your information processing. Not only do reliable sources matter, but also being aware of your own boundaries. Limiting the amount of information you take in and choosing a time you feel in the right state to absorb news reports, can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Shifting your attention from the bad to the good is as important. Media outlets strongly focus on bad news, but there are also so many good things happening around the world that are just not talked about as frequently. So, try to look up good news as well, or find the beautiful things existing out here in the world for yourself by going out on a walk. There’s not only bad in this world.

3. Do something

If the despair you feel about the current events is so big it feels overwhelming, there might be small things you can do to help the affected people, ranging from joining funds to voicing out your support. If you have the resources and energy, try to look up the different options out there to help. Don’t let the disappointment about today’s world take away your light. The frustration you feel is only a sign that the world can do better; become part of the change and good impact.

It’s okay to feel the weight of “Weltschmerz”, but don’t let it blur your vision and hold you back from looking forward to what the future holds.

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