Beware the Cynic

Throughout our lives, some of the people we meet can have a particular influence on our behaviour and attitude. Many of us can recall a relative or close friend who enhanced our mood, made us feel better about ourselves and the world. However, others in our lives may have had the opposite effect, and their attitude, demeanour and negative energy dampened our mood, outlook, and attitude. People can either drag us up or down in life if we let them.

We are told by experts that we are wired to lapse into negative thoughts, which relates to our distant ancestors’ survival instincts. We all fall into patterns of negative thinking from time to time but some of us stay locked into a self-perpetuating, continuous cycle of negativity that impacts mood, attitude and levels of personal happiness.

We all had had disappointments in our lives and many of us show our resilience by getting over them and moving on. There is no future in the past. However, others react differently and have allowed disappointments to foster cynicism and resentfulness. None of us was born a cynic but some of us may have allowed ourselves to become perpetual cynics who have negative opinions about other people and about things other people do. Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist – George Carlin.

The cynic can have an impact on others and this is why many people tend to avoid the cynical person. Our self-preservation instincts generally steer us away from the perpetual cynic. This is certainly the case for those of us who want to have the power to choose our feelings, thoughts and behaviour. We have struggled to overcome negativity and we do not want the cynical person to re-ignite negativity as a defining force in our lives.

Many of us may lapse into cynicism from time to time but it is the perpetual cynic who brings cynicism to an art form. Such a person is often habitually negative and whose outlook is generally scornful. They tend to be pessimistic about most things and usually believe that other people are always motivated by self-interest and act to serve their own needs. They are prone to distrust what they see, read or hear and tend to have an attitude of self-righteousness. Sarcasm is the natural language of cynicism.

The classic cynics are often be influenced by past wrongs or disappointments and they have allowed associated negative emotions to influence their attitudes and actions. Many cynics believe that the world is full of disappointments and that others cannot be trusted. They tend to lack trust, can exhibit regular feelings of envy and are prone to comment scathingly about other people, their motives and actions. Such self-limiting behaviour usually means they cannot or will not change themselves and so their world never changes. It is said that curious people are never cynical and cynical people are never curious.

Norman Vincent Peale rightly observed: change your thoughts and you change the world. To maintain a positive mindset we need to limit our engagement with cynical people but also watch out for the threat of creeping cynicism in our own thought processes. As we are wired for negative thoughts we can lapse into a mindset of cynicism. We need to be aware of and control such inclinations which can sneak up on us, making us less able to enjoy life. We are not born with a cynical attitude but as we become older there is a greater danger of adopting a cynical outlook on life.

Self-awareness must be the crucial factor at play in our determination not to let cynicism and negativity be our default frame of mind. We need to focus on the positive, embrace positivity, practise gratitude, and be ever mindful of the blessings we have in life. By doing so we create the change in attitude and outlook which is needed to change our lives for the better. This is achievable for all but the most entrenched cynics.

It is not always possible to avoid the cynics but it is possible to limit the impact they might have on us. We should never give away our power by over-reacting to the cynics with whom we may be obliged to engage. Sometimes it is better to listen beyond the talk to try and understand the past influences that might have fueled an attitude of cynicism. By probing to understand the cynical person it may be possible to effect attitudinal and behavioural change.  Be wary, however, and remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson once said; a cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word.

Negative emotions are corrosive and negative attitudes are destructive. They are toxic and infectious, diminish personal happiness and limit personal fulfilment. Cynical thoughts and cynical people are best avoided.

Every person has the power to make others happy. Some do it simply by entering a room…others by leaving the room. …Some leave trails of cynicism and pessimism; others trails of faith and optimism. – William Arthur Ward.

(Feature photo by neOnBrand on Unsplash)







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