Writing an earlier post, I searched my mind for the right words to describe my experience of creative collaboration. From somewhere in the depths of my memory bank came the phrase “sturm und drang”. It felt just right but I opened the Free Merriam-Webster dictionary to verify: “German, literally, storm and stress, from Sturm und Drang (1776), drama by Friedrich von Klinger †1831 German novelist and dramatist.”
I rarely reach for a German word or phrase, but it occurs to me that when I do, I am usually trying to express a complex emotional state or psychological phenomenon. I suppose that’s not surprising since German was the language of Adler, Freud and Jung.
Consider the following words that come to mind.
angst: a strong feeling of being worried or nervous
ge·stalt: something that is made of many parts and yet is somehow more than or different from the combination of its parts
scha·den·freu·de: a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people
zeit·geist: the general beliefs, ideas, and spirit of a time and place
One of my favourite German words is gemeinschaftsgefühl. It literally means community feeling. Psychologist Alfred Adler said that gemeinschaftsgefühl, along with social interest, is a key measure of mental health. A healthy, fully developed human being demonstrates a feeling of community, an orientation to live cooperatively with others and a lifestyle that values the common good above one’s own interests and desires.
1. The right word can give substance to the ghost of an emotion or experience that haunts you.
2. German is the language of angst and schadenfreude.
3. Culture and language are so intimately connected, I wonder if Freud, Jung and Adler would have invented psychoanalysis if they were working in another tongue.
Yours with creativity and imagination,