A friend describes this feeling when reading his fictional tales.

Key characters interact in a way that would be completely different if they knew something(s), but the only person who knows that information is not part of the story and is in fact the reader, who is omnipresent.

The best phrase I can come to is: 'stress from knowing the consequences and potential differences in reality from the ignorance of others'

I would go as far to say that this word would most likely need to be a phrase in English and could apply to any situation where one experiences stress from others being ignorant and/or experiencing the result of being ignorant, regardless of the context.

Additionally, I would argue that a secondhand emotion is not a likely choice to hold this description. The ignorant are only living the stress from the result of their ignorance.

The actors (fictitious or real) merely feel as they do under the spell of their own ignorance while the one experiencing 'stress from knowing the consequences and potential differences in reality from the ignorance of others' is third-person, omniscient OR universal omniscient (depending on depth of context) with or beyond the omniscient narrator.

In scope of time, the word/phrase would not necessarily be interconnected with foresight. Information is known at a moment of time that is relative to the information becoming of breath/thought to the actors. There would not necessarily be any form of knowing the future, merely knowing all perspectives of the focused actors collectively as a third, observing and unaffected party.

I would wager to say that this question is not a duplicate. I am in search of a word/phrase that describes the feeling, not the action/activity.

Appreciate the help!

  • insider insecurity? – Drew Apr 4 '17 at 13:45
  • @Drew That's interesting. How would one establish themselves as feeling 'insider insecurity'? One would not say, "I am insider insecure," right? I would consider the possibility of this being used, "I have insider insecurity about..." I hesitate greatly to declare this the winner. I sure hope the open-endedness of this does not lead to a pre-mature closure of the question. Thank you for your contribution! – J D Apr 4 '17 at 13:52
  • It was an invention; don't take it too seriously. Without some context it might not be understood. – Drew Apr 4 '17 at 14:37
  • If you want to express that somebody knows something but can't get people to believe it for some reason, you can refer to the knower as a "Cassandra" based on the Greek myth. greekmyths-greekmythology.com/the-myth-of-cassandra – Andrew Brēza Apr 4 '17 at 22:05
  • The curse of cognizance/literacy/wisdom/competence or the boon/bliss of naiveté/ignorance – AMN Nov 21 '18 at 11:25

The burden of omniscience

Is fairly succinct and encapsulates the idea you've described I would say.


  1. A heavy load that you carry.
  2. Something difficult or unpleasant that you have to deal with or worry about. (Cambridge)


Having or seeming to have unlimited knowledge. (Cambridge)

The phrase has been used before (to my surprise) in slightly different contexts.

For example, meaning the weight on someone's shoulders to get everything right, when they have complete insight and oversight into a given task at hand in this humorous article titled:

The burden of omniscience (The Baltimore Sun)

And here, in a usage which more closely resembles your intended meaning:

The... burden of omniscience of those at the top...all that is forbidden to those at the bottom is demanded of the master classes... they must attempt to do the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking and decision making for the whole society. (The Illuminati Papers)

Both examples convey the idea of responsibility (and stress) that comes from being all knowing, or of privileged insight, which I would say is very close to the meaning you have mentioned in your question.

  • "omniscience" is knowing everything rather than knowing one fact that others do not know – MaxB Apr 27 '18 at 23:15

He feels "the weight of knowing".

I realise this is similer to Gary's answer- burden of omniscience

I found a few references on the internet e.g. a song The Weight Of Knowing by The Astral Plain

A moment in a lifetime, a teardrop in the sea,
the words from your precious lips,
mean more than you can see.

But my heart can stand the weight of knowing
that we will one day cease to be,
and the only thing that keeps me going,
is that i wake up to you and me.

You've got your life, an open book a secret,
and i'd give my life if only just to see it.


While it doesn't address the stress of the situation as much as "the burden of omniscience," a succinct way to describe the context of that stress would be referring to the literary device of "dramatic irony" (the device where the audience knows something that the characters in a work do not).

Perhaps a combination of those phrases would help in producing a more full sense of the source of the stress?


Disclaimer: this doesn't cover all situations.

Where the reader is provided enough information to know that what plays out will be disastrous, it might be termed watching a train wreck in slow motion.

Here are a couple of examples of this phrase in use. Note the characteristic of the 'watchers' being aware of the consequences while those in the situation were oblivious to it. There is a sense of disquiet about the 'watchers' at their inability to convey the sentiment to those who would suffer the consequences.

  • Watching the Train Wreck in Slow Motion by Robert D Feinman, where the first paragraph is as follows:

    I recently watched Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" and it reminded me of other times in history when people sounded the alarm and weren't heeded. Sometimes the way to capture the mood of an era is done best by novelists. I'm going to mention two.

  • Watching addiction like a train wreck in slow motion by Rick Atwater, where the first paragraph is as follows:

    Watching someone you love drink or drug themselves into dangerous or even life-threatening situations is like watching a train wreck – one that you have anticipated for months or years – happening in slow motion. What’s worse is you can see it coming, and they cannot.


occlude or occult pressure. - To be burdened with the hiding of information,- to conceal, - to hide information or society and its purpose(*=refers to occult society/cults, in alternative context). Non-Conformity- Not sharing information with a grouping. conscious - adjective [v-link ADJ that] If you are conscious of something, you think about it a lot, especially because you are unhappy about it or because you think it is important. I'm very conscious of my weight. [+ of] He is acutely conscious that this transition will bring with it the risk of social unrest.

protected by tchrist Apr 28 '18 at 12:48

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