During the last month or so, in the lead up to the release of Look Both Ways, it seems everyone I know has had the ‘flu. While one person after another has regaled me with their symptoms (sore throat, body aches, sore joints, fever, runny nose) and I sympathised and offered various remedies (complete bed rest, honey and lemon, Vitamin C, plenty of fluids, Echinacea, olive leaf extract, chocolate) I wondered why no one ever says they have “a cold” anymore. Secretly, I was congratulating myself on that ‘flu injection I had back in May.
When I woke in the middle of the night last week with a sore throat, I thought, I'll be fine, everyone's had it. The next day, when I found myself cancelling appointments, my explanation that I was sick barely rated a flicker of concern, let alone sympathy. No one was interested in my symptoms, just a cursory, “Oh, I had that,” and “Yeah, it’s rotten, it took me weeks to get over that,” and “There’s a lot of it going around.”
This afternoon, I heard a report on ABC Sydney radio about the latest AustralianUnity Personal Wellbeing Index. The survey conducted annually, is apparently in its 13th year. Associate Professor Liz Eckermann, from Deakin University was talking about the Index and how over 2,000 Australians were asked to rate their Subjective Well-Being (SWB) by rating their satisfaction level on 7 test items:
1. Standard of Living
2. Personal Health
3. Achieving in Life
4. Personal Relationships
5. Personal Safety
7. Future Security
Recently, Australians apparently recorded a decline in their satisfaction level with their Standard of Living; Personal Relationships and Future Security. Yet oddly enough, Liz Eckermann also noted that our sense of personal wellbeing increased immediately following international tragedies — so higher levels of well-being were recorded immediately after 9/11, the Bali Bombing and the Boxing Day Tsunami.
But what’s the difference, I wonder, between these almost noble increased feelings of well-being as we count our blessings, and Schadenfreude, literally translated as our joy (Freude) in the injury (Schade[n]) of others?
Does the warning, “Be alert but not alarmed” make us feel more frightened or safer? When I see the new signs on all the Sydney buses which advise, “If you see something, say something,” should I feel reassured or anxious? Are the security guards who patrol the Sydney Harbour Bridge supposed to make us feel we’re in safe hands, or simply remind us to be fearful?
Tonight I’m trying olive leaf extract and Echinacea.