Let's say that event X was a bad thing for most people. But in the case of person A, event X ended up profiting them.

Many people then start suspecting A of causing X, or outright blaming them for it because they profited. How do you call this phenomenon? I'd imagine it's guilt by something, like a cousin of guilt by association.

An example would be if Usain Bolt died, then the person who is second fastest sprinter in the world would instantly become the fastest because of it. How would you call people suspecting or blaming him for Bolt's death, or even him blaming himself through some twisted logic ("I wished he'd disappear so I could be fastest, it's my fault!")

  • Please see the info on word requests. Here's a summary: Describe exactly in what context you want to use the word or phrase--generally we want a sample sentence. Specify the criteria you'll use for accepting answers. Detail the research you've already done. List words or phrases you've already considered but rejected, and explain why. Provide information about the connotation, register, and part of speech you are looking for. – MetaEd Sep 11 '17 at 20:15

In the example you give involving Usain Bolt, the other athlete could be said to have survivor guilt. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stoic-warrior/201107/the-moral-logic-survivor-guilt. It's more commonly associated with survivors of war and disaster, but it could apply in this case too, especially as it often involves an element of irrational or 'magical' thinking about how one is responsible or guilty.

When someone benefits in pleasure or joy at another's misfortune, it's schadenfreude ... there's no common name for guilt attendant on that feeling, but if that's precisely what you want to express, it might be best to coin a new phrase like 'schadenfreude remorse'.

As Xanne stated, when moral or legal guilt is imputed to the beneficiary of what is otherwise a misfortune, you can ask cui bono?

When someone feels emotional guilt on winning at another's expense, even fairly - that might be classed as neurotic guilt or toxic shame



More benignly, a sense that one's good fortune is not merited could just be an aspect of humility or modesty.

There are also phrases that disparage specific behaviours that seek to profit from 'bad' events: ambulance chaser; vulture capitalist; muckraker ... and so on.

However, I know of no single expression that covers all aspects of the question as posed. [I've presented an answer rather than a comment because it seems very unlikely that a single word or phrase could capture all those senses]

| improve this answer | |

From Wikipedia's article titled cui bono:

"Cui bono?" (/kwiː ˈboʊnoʊ/), literally "for whose benefit?", is a Latin phrase which is still in use[1] as a key forensic question in legal and police investigation: finding out who has a motive for a crime. It is an adage that is used either to suggest a hidden motive or to indicate that the party responsible for something may not be who it appears at first to be.[2]

Several dictionaries also note the phrase as raising the question that the party who benefits from an action or event may well be responsible--in the case of crime, guilty. The beneficiary of an insurance policy in an arson or murder is usually a prime suspect.

| improve this answer | |

I had an answer before but I thought it just was not right. See, I thought of a better answer.

Survivor's guilt

This is the guilt one experiences for having survived (or profited) when everyone else perished (or lost). Very common phenomenon and a lot of research has gone into the matter by psychologists. In the case of gaining, the cost of the guilt may be not as much as those who survive. But who knows.

| improve this answer | |

Guilt by association, perhaps.

| improve this answer | |
  • That is exactly what OP said in second paragraph. – Weather Vane Sep 11 '17 at 21:41
  • @WeatherVane - fair cop. I missed it. – Dan Sep 11 '17 at 22:25
  • 1
    ... but not my DV. – Weather Vane Sep 11 '17 at 22:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.