Obscure Sorrow


n. the inexplicable urge to push people away, even close friends who you really like—as if all your social tastebuds suddenly went numb, leaving you unable to distinguish cheap politeness from the taste of genuine affection, unable to recognize its rich and ambiguous flavors, its long and delicate maturation, or the simple fact that each tasting is double-blind.

I ran across this word in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, and I’m not sure if it’s a real word, or where it came from, or even how to pronounce it. But, I’m delighted to discover it because it puts a word on a feeling I can’t seem to explain to anyone, and it also means that I’m not the only one who struggles with it.

Not only is it an inexplicable urge to push even close friends away, but particularly those who are closest. Especially them. I don’t know why, but I’ll hazard a few guesses. Could it be connected to trust issues and fear of getting hurt? Could it be feeling worthless and unworthy of good friends? Could it be that interactions with other people are too emotionally exhausting? A need to test the strength of friendships and prove their authenticity? I don’t know. If any of you experience this mauerbauertraurigkeit, which apparently means “wall builder sadness” in German, let me know what you think.

For those of you who are friends with people who have bouts of wall builder sadness, I have advice for you. Give them some space, give them some time, but don’t walk away, because they still care.



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