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poisonedantidote's avatar

Is it ever too late to turn the table around on cynicism?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21648points) November 4th, 2011

Well, I have been on this site for a while now, and no doubt some of you have had enough time to realize, that I’m not exactly an optimistic kind of person.

Expecting things to go wrong, and looking at the dark side of things has become a large part of my personality at this point. I was probably as young as 8 years old or so when I first started to become cynical.

I have not really had a hard life, I’m sure there is some one out there who thinks I have, but really, growing up as a white male in western Europe is not all that bad. However, I have found that I have had enough problems in my life to expect problems.

I think I have reached a point where I need to change. A while back I met a girl that I am interested in. We both like each other and are open about it, and have plans to meet soon. The thing is, she is a very happy and optimistic person, and I know and fear that my cynical ideas could act like a poison on her.

I don’t know what I can do to try and become a more optimistic person, because I honestly think that my cynicism is validated, but if she is happy in her bubble I really don’t want to pop it.

Is there anything I can do to become more optimistic? or am I stuck like this after 20+ years or being this way?

My friend will ask me where I want to go with her, and I tell her to pick something she likes, because I know that there is a higher probability that I will enjoy her appreciation and reaction to the place/event, than I am likely to enjoy the event.

How can I learn to appreciate the birds singing in the trees, rather than worry and expect them to shit on me?

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19 Answers

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

1) Dump your friends who are cynical. Often people sit around and validate each other’s cynicism.

2) When someone is saying something you believe to be condescending or a lie, make a conscious decision to imagine for a second that they are being genuine.

Adopting those two habits put me in much better frame in general.

Nullo's avatar

Actively look for the good in a situation. Once found, focus on it.

gailcalled's avatar

You can listen to and appreciate the birdsong without standing underneath the bird.

whitetigress's avatar

I’ve had a hard life. I should have every right in the world to be mad at how all society is run. It’s never too late to just focus on the positive in life. In fact, I’ve learned that focusing on the positives gets me going in a direction where I feel a great sense of accomplishments. It’s all very elementary. Do good onto others, and others will do good to you. From time to time I’ll develop a cynical point of view, sometimes I won’t realize that I’m wanting too much control over something for a while. I think when we desire to have so much control in our lives, in every aspect, we will start to no longer agree with what the rest are doing. It is definitely a working process. I understand what you mean when you try to fulfill another’s happiness by allowing them to choose a place, but here and there it is ok to pick a “general” place where other people seem to go often. Even if its just a tourist spot. Sometimes we forget the magic of our own city and find what others like to be very dull. It’s hard to re-appreciate where you are, but once you get pass it, you’ll start having more positive thoughts.

mazingerz88's avatar

I always feel it’s never too late but then the days go by and I end up finding myself still a cynic. It’s been that way for years and years and as I grow even older, the more it sticks with me like an old bark. I do have this notion that maybe if my life would suddenly change, do the things I fantasize of doing, maybe I would end up the optimistic type. But then again I don’t know. And maybe that’s the reason why. I find life too real for me to be gutsy enough to turn it upside down.

Sometimes I think nothing short of being reborn would eradicate the cynic in me. Yet unlike you, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I became a cynic. Maybe if there’s a machine that could bring me back to those pivotal moments in my past life, I could evaluate and change the way I presently think and feel about things.

I did try that, finding a girl to be my inspiration, my muse. But after the initial wonderful period in our relationship, my more cynical nature surfaces and voila, back to square one. So what can one do to be more optimistic? Darn it, I really don’t know. But if I still have the energy, I just would keep trying and trying without hating myself if I fail. And then try again.

zensky's avatar

My friend will ask me where I want to go with her, and I tell her to pick something she likes, because I know that there is a higher probability that I will enjoy her appreciation and reaction to the place/event, than I am likely to enjoy the event.

I think you may be confusing a few things, and I also think you may have a certain self-perception that doesn’t necessarily translate to how others might perceive you.

I am rarely cynical – or even sarcastic for that matter. (In real life – but even here, it’s reserved for special people and occasions). If you and I were to go out – I wouldn’t care where, what we eat or what we’d drink. I don’t even have a favourite ice-cream flavour. I like all teas – surprise me. That doesn’t make me cynical – it makes me more aware of, and appreciative of, the important things – like the person I’m with – and not the beverage; I don’t sweat the small stuff.

lillycoyote's avatar

Sometimes it’s simply a matter of choosing to be less cynical. And about directing your attention and taking a wider view of the world. If your not cynical at all you’re not paying attention to or acknowledging what’s screwed up about the world and about people, if you’re too cynical you’re not paying attention to and acknowledging what is right and good about people in the world. Having a sense of humor and whimsy helps and not taking yourself and everything so damn seriously all the time.

One day I was at work and I wasn’t in a very good mood and people kept telling me to “smile it can’t be all that bad” which was annoying because I didn’t feel like smiling. At some point I went outside for a smoke and was leaning against the building and was thinking that there should be a National Bad Mood Day, when you couldn’t take it out on anyone, but you could be in a bad mood and people had to leave you alone. Right in the middle of my reverie about National Bad Mood Day, a pigeon took a nice big crap on my head. I just had to laugh. It was the universe’s way of telling me to get over it and get over myself. So, even when a bird does crap on you, at the right time, with the right attitude, even being it can actually make you feel better, rather than worse. The laugh I got from being crapped on by that pigeon, at that exact moment, was enough to lift my bad mood from me. I thought was hilarious.

Blackberry's avatar

On the contrary: would one (you) really think it normal to see the amount of injustice and insanity on this planet, then go on with life as if it isn’t happening?

XD's avatar

Short answer: no.

But you have to be open to change, and you have to gain an understanding of what it is you are changing.

The good news is that you have a catalyst for change in your relationship. You are aware now of your cynicism as a conflict and a hinderance to your desire to enjoy this relationship. It’s important to note that prior to this relationship, your cynicism was really, really important. You might note the curiosity that yesterday something so important to you that you took time every day to reinforce it is suddenly a liability. And yet nothing about it in and of itself has changed. Isn’t that weird?

Here’s something worth understanding. Having white male privilege only means that you are insulated from some but not all suffering. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that it has kept you from tasting “joie de vivre” like other people. The Buddha led a life of privilege until he realized that it prevented him from fully understanding the human condition.

The process of becoming less cynical is the process of putting down one tool and picking up another. Are you an expert at being cynical? Have you fully explored what being cynical means to the point that you can recognize and predict how you will respond to circumstances with cynicism? If you are, that’s good. It means you don’t have to worry about forgetting what it means to be cynical. You don’t have to prove to yourself or anyone else that you can take any circumstance and deconstruct it with cynicism. Now, maybe, you can put that tool on a shelf for a while. You don’t have to deny your cynicism. It’s still there, but it’s not the focus of your learning at this point because you’re going to try something else.

You can’t use two tools at the same time. You cannot fill a cup that is already full. When you set your cynicism on a shelf, it will free your hands to pick up something else. When you empty your cup, you make room for different flavors of drink. Rather than jumping right to the next flavor—the optimism of your friend, why not just see what it feels like to have empty hands and an empty cup? Take your time and just feel what that feels like and then maybe feel what something else feels like. You don’t have to make a choice right away.

Regarding your relationship, are you sure that you know that this person is like the person you describe? It’s not uncommon for people to perform for someone new to get a new relationship off the ground. She might break down on you someday and reveal her own suffering under that optimistic veneer. Or maybe that’s how she deals with suffering from her past.

Why did she choose you? Why would an optimist choose a cynic? If you believe that we are driven by subconscious or gut level connections, then perhaps she feels a need for your “realist” perspective. All I’m saying is don’t discount the idea that she is getting something she needs from you as well—and something that is only available because of the energy you bring to the table.

Don’t become an optimist. Just bid a farewell to the dogma of your cynicism and let yourself feel that empty space until it’s time to fill it again.

Coloma's avatar

We do create our reality by the thoughts and company we keep.

Sure, the world is full of injustice and suffering but it is also full of beauty and wonder.

Pick your poison.

I choose the glass half full and no cyanide in my Kool Aide. ;-)

ETpro's avatar

Pessimistic as I am, I think not. If in our gredd and stupidity we dont soon destroy ourselves, I see this coming.

Aethelwine's avatar

The thing is, she is a very happy and optimistic person, and I know and fear that my cynical ideas could act like a poison on her.

I’m the optimistic person in my relationship. My husband is the cynical one. Though he likes to call himself realistic, not cynical. whatever~...... I tease :P Anyway, there are moments when his cynicism can get irritating, and I’m sure my rainbow and kitty attitude does the same to him, but it sure does make our relationship interesting.

It is possible this woman you are interested in likes your cynical ways. Don’t go changing for someone. Just be yourself.

cookieman's avatar

Perhaps you’ll balance each other out, as @jonsblond alludes to.

She may help you see the good in the world while you may help ground her a little.

@jonsblond: rainbows and kitties?!

Mariah's avatar

You could start by choosing to believe that it is possible to change.

lillycoyote's avatar

You said:

The thing is, she is a very happy and optimistic person, and I know and fear that my cynical ideas could act like a poison on her.

I don’t know what I can do to try and become a more optimistic person, because I honestly think that my cynicism is validated, but if she is happy in her bubble I really don’t want to pop it.

I understand your concern that your attitudes may contaminate this girl; I think that’s very sweet. I don’t know her, but just because she is happy and positive doesn’t necessarily mean she is living in a bubble. You may feel your cynicism is validated, and there is certainly enough bad in the world to be cynical, but there is also enough good in the world to be happy and positive. There is a theory, or concept, known as Depressive Realism that posits that “while non-depressed people see things in an overly positive light and severely depressed people see things in overly negative light, the mildly discontented grey area in between in fact reflects the most accurate perception of reality.” The same could be true of cynicism.

While it is sweet to be concerned, you may not be so very powerful as to even be able to pop her bubble, to poison her with your cynicism and negativity. Maybe, if you give the relationship a chance, she may just be able to pop your bubble of cynicism and negativity. Who knows, or at least, help you be a little more positive.

Also, @jonsblond makes a couple of very good points. 1. Two people in a relationship don’t have to have exactly the same attitudes toward the world and 2. The girl already seems to like you, so far, just as you are. If she found your cynicism unappealing and unattractive the two of you wouldn’t have gotten this far to begin with. Be yourself. She already likes you.

jerv's avatar

It depends on whether you really want to stop being cynical.

Personally, I have too much fun being cynical to really want to change, so I am just going to keep on being a smartass. Then again, I am also more “in the moment”, which leads to a more optimistic cynicism. Sure, the birds in the trees may shit on me, but they haven’t yet and their singing is nice, so…

Also note that I have been with my wife for many years and I haven;t poisoned her yet.

Aethelwine's avatar

@cprevite Yes, rainbows and kitties. If it’s a good day, add some cookies too. My mind is full of optimistic goodies. :)

harple's avatar

I can’t help but be reminded of this cartoon (I think the link should work – it’s an fb one, but public, so as long as you have an fb account, I think it should work!)

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