Schopenhauer on the Sorrows of Our Relationships

You may have noticed it too: Usually it's not a lack of food or sleep that causes us worry, but our interpersonal relationships. Of course, I don't want to say that there are not also health or financial worries, but in most cases it is our interpersonal relationships that turn out to be the cause.

It is not uncommon for stressful relationships to have a negative impact on our health (but of course they can just as easily be positive) or to hold us back at work and therefore financially.

So Schopenhauer is right with his following statement:

"Almost all of our worries spring from our relationships with other people."


Schopenhauer was one of the great German thinkers and philosophers. He is attributed to the Existentialist school of philosophers and lived from 1788 to 1860. Incidentally, he was also very fascinated by Buddhism and spent much of his time studying it and thus as one of the first surviving Westerners.

Especially when you look at his concept of the will to live, it becomes clear what Schopenhauer meant by the above quote:

The will to live is, according to Schopenhauer, what drives us day after day. On the highest level, this will is controlled by the desire to reproduce. In his works, the philosopher goes on and on about the fact that we unconsciously try to bring balanced children into the world. That is, children in which our negative characteristics are balanced. For this it lies in our nature, so Schopenhauer, to select partners which oppose our extremes. Thus, Schopenhauer explains why short people often have tall partners, very thin people often team up with very plump people, very impulsive people with very controlling people, and so on.

But this would also be the origin of most interpersonal miseries: We would simply be tempted by the will to live to subordinate our need for harmony to the goal of optimal children. Because we would not choose as partners the people with whom we get along best.

But there are also other things in Schopenhauer's works that reflect, support or meaningfully complement the above quotation.

Reflecting on this quote in particular, I actually realized again that most of the stress I feel is usually related to other people.

I am doing well. I'm healthy, have enough to eat, and generally have a very comfortable standard of living and get along excellently with myself. Only when other people come into play does it occasionally come to stress - although this is also very limited.

Of course, people are not the exclusive source of my stress, but mostly. What does that look like for you? What are your biggest and most common stress triggers?

The answer to these two questions can be immensely revealing and allow you to take action if necessary.

Definitely, however, we should not misunderstand this quote as a call to isolate and withdraw.

In my opinion, it is simply a reminder to be very thoughtful about relationships with people.

I am therefore very deliberate about my social environment and therefore choose it very carefully. Chatting with people and having casual contact, I don't take it too closely, because I believe that almost everyone has something interesting about them that is worth experiencing. But positions in which people can influence me (and thus cause worry and stress) are given only carefully.

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