We all know a person, maybe you are this person, who chronically opposes, denies and doubts, who has lost faith in human goodness and who is skeptical and pessimistic to the degree that it almost seems they possess either no belief in (or a contempt for) pleasure, hope, faith and positivity. Society calls this person a cynic. But what society has failed to recognize is that cynicism is not a character trait. Cynicism is a coping mechanism.
To cope is to make a specific alteration mentally, emotionally or physically so that you can manage or adapt to something that is causing you stress. A coping mechanism is a specific procedure, process or technique, which manages or creates adaptation to stress. And therefore, by definition, it is the opposite of changing something so that there is no longer a stressor. To understand this more in depth watch my video titled: How to Let Go of a Coping Mechanism. Cynicism is a coping mechanism that may have saved your life at one time, but can absolutely ruin your life. It is also so painful for other people that it creates a vicious spiral of self-fulfilling prophecy.
To understand this coping mechanism, we must go back to the onset. People do not incarnate as cynics or skeptics. Have you ever met a cynical baby? If you are cynical, at some point in your life, you experienced one or several serious let downs. Catastrophic sudden shocks or disappointments relative to the positive elements of your life. For example, a situation or many that caused a catastrophic blow to your belief in others, hopes, dreams, goals, trust, faith, desires, or expectations. This was so psychologically and emotionally and maybe even physically traumatizing, that you decided a state of positivity is inherently vulnerable and so you had to buffer yourself against positivity at all costs. As a result, you began to use negativity as this buffer. But this buffer is experienced as painful and antagonistic by others, causing them to behave in harsh and defensive ways to you, only further reinforcing your negative beliefs in people, which cause you to behave even more cynical, which cause them to be even more hostile to you, which cause you to behave even more cynical, which cause them to behave even more hostile. And thus, the vicious spiral continues.
It is ultimately your right to remain cynical in your approach to the world. The reality is that you have every reason for it to be justified for you to feel and act the way you do. It is simply that living in a constant state of pessimism and let down is not really living and it is also a coping mechanism, much like positive bypassing, smoking, cutting, gambling or suppression for example. For this reason, if you are interested in letting go of the coping mechanism of cynicism, here are some suggestions:
- Be brave enough to see what you are getting out of being cynical. How is it serving you? Cynicism is a defense mechanism. You use it to try to stay safe. When you feel hurt and afraid and disappointed, but you can’t face those emotions directly, you turn against the world and begin to push things away. We use cynicism to make sure we never ever get our hopes up only to be let down again. Essentially, we disappoint ourselves before the world can ever do it for us. But cynicism paints the lens you see the world through dark and it also separates you from genuine awareness. Whenever you have an antagonistic perspective about something that someone else feels positive about or whenever you want to deny or doubt or feel pessimism creeping in, stop caring about whether you are right or wrong. You might be either! But that shouldn’t stop you from asking yourself, how might it keep me safe to think and feel and act this way in this exact situation? For example, imagine someone says “I feel like next year is going to be a good year” and you feel yourself immediately thinking the other person is just an optimistic idiot, but you know you want to work on your tendency of being skeptical, look at how believing the person is an idiot and that next year is gonna suck keeps you safe. What does it prevent you from experiencing or being?
- You are going to have to see yourself as a “scapegoater” to get over the behavior. Instead of making the real problem the problem, such as the other person, you made positivity or hope or optimism the problem, thus scapegoated it. And so many skeptics are scapegoats for their families and other people that if you are a skeptic, you should know how “off” that is. Many skeptics do this scapegoating of the positive so as to preserve relationships with the people who let them down. In other words, it isn’t Dad that’s the problem, it’s that I got my hopes up that is the problem. That way, I can control not getting hurt again, not having the solution be in dad’s hands and still hang out and be close to dad without there being a problem between us and still feel a sense of belonging. Getting over cynicism is about getting into reality about what the real problem was and is, relative to things not coming to fruition, hopes or expectations not being fulfilled, disappointments and negative trends. Rather than scapegoating the optimism, expectations, hopes or goals themselves.
- You set out to prove everything wrong because if you prove everything else wrong, you are not wrong. Many skeptics feel like in life, other people either made or tend to make everything their fault so if they prove that the fault lies with other things and people in the external, they don’t have to feel that deep down fear that everything is their fault. This is the insecurity you can’t face. But anything besides facing that insecurity is avoidance. This is one of the reasons why arguing with a cynic or skeptic does no good, it reinforces the painful narrative inside them of “I am wrong”.
If you are a skeptic, you are going to have to accept a very vulnerable truth about yourself. All of your ways of thinking and behaving are ways to completely disguise your true missing need: Kindness. What you really want is kindness. But you would never dare reveal this vulnerability or set yourself up to have your hopes dashed again and so you would never admit to it or ask for kindness directly. If you are a skeptic, you tend to isolate and not have many friends. You give off the impression that you don’t want any. But deep down, you don’t want to end up alone. You want relationships that feel good and feel like ease, with people who are kind and considerate and who really value you and do not let you down. The only reason you tend to isolate is because you associate people with pain. The thing is, your cynicism hurts people. So they associate you with pain. You are perpetuating the very cycle that hurt you and made you this way in the first place. If you want society to change, you already know you can’t expect THEM to change first so that you can change.
If you want to have people in your life who are kind and considerate and who value you and don’t let you down, those are the qualities you need to offer others. If all they feel is stupid and wrong and un-valued by you, which is how they currently feel, they can’t really share themselves with you and wont desire to be close to you. As it stands, people have to be willing to be pricked and bitten by you to be close to you. Sit with that and see how you might be willing to make yourself safer to others and sit with how much it sucks to have to be the one to make that first move into kindness. You give off the absolute opposite impression from what you really want and need, which is the opposite of a recipe for actually getting what you want and need.
- Many skeptics come from families where there is already a problem with happiness, no matter what the members of the family might have said. For example, it is common for a mother to say “all I want is for you to be happy” but in reality, any time her child was happy, she got exasperated or shamed her child for getting his or her hopes up. If you are a skeptic, the vulnerability of positivity is what you are trying to avoid. For this reason, it is critical to understand your negative association with positivity and happiness and see that positive emotion could in and of itself be a trigger for you. Negating anything positive is how many cynics control their rather wounded and therefore fragile emotional system by maintaining a predictable feeling of ‘negative or monotone’ so as to create predictability. It’s a “no real dramatic up and downs if I keep myself at a predictably low emotional altitude” thing. But this is not the life you came here to live. It is not a recipe for fulfillment. To understand this dynamic fully, watch my video titled: When Happiness is a BAD Thing.
- Be brave enough to look at the wound hiding underneath the coping mechanism. To do this, you’re going to have to be especially attuned to the subtle emotional trigger you have when you hear good news or positive expectation or hope being expressed by someone else or being felt by you. You can use that discomfort and the thoughts that come with it like “that’s never going to happen” or “the only reason that person is doing that is for their own self-gratification” or “the world is going to shit anyway” as a doorway into the original experience. This way, you can create resolve relative to the actual wounding experience. To do this, you can use The Completion Process. Doing this process will help you answer the question: When did I experience a trauma in which my faith in people or my positive goals or hopes or expectations or faith was dashed? When did I feel totally blindsided? When did I become disillusioned? What painful disappointment was too much for me to resolve? To learn how to do this process, you can pick up a copy of my book titled: The Completion Process or visit www.completionprocess.com and select a practitioner to lead you through it. You can also watch my video titled: How to Heal the Emotional Body. And because disappointment is so often the deep wound beneath cynicism, it would benefit you to watch my video titled: Disappointment (How to Get Over Disappointment).
- Like many good coping mechanisms, they become all wound up in your self concept. In other words, you found a way to wind a coping mechanism that causes you pain into your self-esteem. Thus, your ego now imagines that it is dependent on it. Cynicism must be unhooked from your self-esteem in order for you to let go of it. If you are a Cynic, you maintain the coping mechanism because you tell yourself that being cynical or skeptical makes you more intelligent, wore experienced and worldly… better. Your sense of superiority is derived from seeing what you call the “harsh reality” of others and of the world. You tend to derive self-esteem through how dumb and innocent and naïve and inexperienced you think others are when they are positive. The reality is that when you suffered the original wound of being so disappointed and so let down, you turned against yourself. You didn’t only scapegoat positivity, you also scapegoated yourself for being so stupid and naïve as to not see it coming. You project this same sentiment onto anyone who subconsciously reminds you of yourself at the time that wound occurred… anyone who has their hopes up, is positive, has faith or expresses optimism.
- Start the practice of AND consciousness. This is a safer thing to include as part of your self concept than cynicism. Reality is comprised of polarities. ‘And Consciousness’ is a state of mind where you develop the ability to hold space for extremes. This is an important part of the development of both mental and emotional maturity. In the moment that we acknowledge a contradictory truth or state of being and expand wide enough to be able to hold both, as if holding both is ok, we have dis-identified with both extremes. We have ceased to become either or and instead have become the thing that is holding both. Reality includes both positive and negative. Both faith and doubt. The most conscious person is the person who doesn’t try to negate one with the other, or who only recognizes one and not the other, it is the person who is aware of both in every situation. It is not any more aware of a person to only be aware of the negative than it is to only be aware of the positive.
- If you are a cynic, to be in reality is to see that you are relationally traumatized. Relational trauma is trauma experienced in relationship with other people. This has led to you becoming a deeply distrustful person and for good reason. Anyone who tells you that you should just start trusting people is seriously out of reality. As you cannot just force yourself to trust someone, it’s actually impossible. But trust in relationships is a key component to happiness. For this reason, you’re going to have to really, deeply understand trust and how to develop it. To understand how to do this, watch two of my videos: The first is: Trust (What is Trust and How to Build Trust in Relationships). The second is: How To Create a Safe Relationship.
- As a cynic, you are trying harder to buffer yourself from suffering and pain than you are trying to see truth or to see things as they are. But the best thing about you is that you WANT to be in reality. You may be currently leaving positivity out of the picture of reality, but you are more brave than most when it comes to seeing many of the painful parts of reality that other people want to deny. You have broken out of many patterns of ignorance and falsehood and discovered more of what is real and you have seen the genuine problems in the world. This knowledge can give you power in fact. After all, your only axis of power is to be in reality. What have you become disillusioned with and why? What is that disillusionment showing you that you do want? How could you put your energy into it and take action to create that change you do want? For example, if the issue with the world is that people aren’t kind, and if you had to be the one to show people by example what it looked like to be kind, what would you think, say and do. Now Do That!
As a skeptic, your negative assessments are a defense against suffering. You are deeply afraid of expecting anything that turns out to be less than what you want or expect. You spend your life disappointing yourself and letting yourself down and countering hope and faith before the world can do it for you. It was a brilliant strategy. But all brilliant strategies can wind up being the very thing that harms you, in your case the very thing committing you to a painful life. I am not here today to make a case for positivity. Or to convince you that life is good. Or that people are good. You have plenty of valid proof of the opposite. I am merely here to say that you are living in a coping mechanism that just might be preventing you from the fulfillment of the life that you actually came here to live.