ARE YOU FREE FROM HOSTILE CYNICISM AND PESSIMISM?

Abstract:

  • Who is a cynic? The word cynic originated sometime in the 1580s-1590s. For a cynical person, most if not all human actions are doubtful and unworthy of trust, since no one (according to the cynic), ever seeks or pursues anything, except the secret purpose of benefiting himself.
  • A dose of cynicism is sometimes funny and even charming, also, it is a huge part of today’s culture. Hostile cynicism on the other hand, isn’t doing any favors to anyone. It annoys people, distracts them and creates conflict.
  • How does hostile cynicism affect our health? Some studies state, that high cynical distrust is associated with higher mortality; they also express the possibility, that cynical people have a higher risk in developing dementia.
  • The difference between cynicism and pessimism: Cynics doubt the nature of the motives of others, while pessimists assume the worst possible outcome of a given situation.
  • What is pessimism? Pessimism is a mental attitude, where individuals tend to focus on the negatives of life in general or a given situation.
  • How does pessimism affect us? Pessimism can lead people into self – defeating patterns. Pessimistic people, therefore, can be less persistent, display avoidance coping and manifest various kinds of health – damaging behaviors.

 

So many people, so many opinions, so many personalities. Can we talk about people who are cynical, negative and worst of all, de-motivating towards other people?

“What’s the point in trying, we’re all gonna die anyway”.

“Pfffft, let them have it! (They roll their eyes at people who buy something cool and expensive from a salary, that they worked their minds out for).

“How the hell do I know what I’ll do in the next 5 years, for all I know a truck would hit me today or tomorrow and I’ll die” (the eye roll again).

“Why do you bother to even try to do that, have you seen (insert name), he/she didn’t make it and lost everything. Don’t be a fool!”

“You can’t make a fortune. Wake up and stop living in the clouds. Get a regular job from 9 to 5 like everyone else and stop trying to make a fool of yourself”

“Your own company?? Pffft, You’d kill yourself working, spend extra hours on the job, you’ll have no life and you’ll have to worry about everything. Believe me, no one likes to work. There is no dream job…”

Ever been around those people? No matter what you say, or how you say it – it’s either not good enough, not smart enough or it’s contradicted just for the sake of negating the matter. I call them toxic.

Life throws people on the ground, and if they don’t get up, they are doomed to stay at the bottom for a very long time. They live from today to tomorrow. No plan, no courage, maybe even no dreams. What’s worse, if they see someone having ideas or a vision, they would do anything in their power to crush the (self) belief system. I’ve been around people like those (not anymore), and I can tell you – the moment a toxic person sees someone chasing a goal, they get an almost instinctive need to pull the individual down to the bottom.

 

Let’s not equate pessimistic people with cynical ones. Who is a cynic? 

Diogen

Image Source: Jean-Léon Gérôme, via Wikimedia Commons

Cynicism is not something new. The word cynic originated sometime in the 1580s-1590s. In modern times the word “cynic” has various unpleasant and negative connotations. A cynical person, for example, would reject ethical values and ideas, and question or even dismiss modes of honesty and truthfulness. He/she would also react sarcastically and skeptically to even the most innocent and enthusiastic human actions. For such a person, most if not all human actions are doubtful and unworthy of trust, since no one, according to the cynic, ever seeks or pursues anything, except the secret purpose of benefiting himself. For the cynic, therefore, hypocrisy and deceitfulness, selfishness, egoism, gross materialism and disguised ruthlessness are all hidden characteristics of human behavior. Hence, the cynic believes that ideals and high aspirations are diversion, so that people would be manipulated and duped. (1)

And how does hostile cynicism affect our health?

There are some studies published in the Journal of Neurology, which state that high cynical distrust is associated with higher mortality, but the said association is explained by socioeconomic position, lifestyle, and health status. They also concluded, that cynical people have a higher risk in developing dementia. (2) It is clear, that larger replication studies are necessary to confirm these conclusions, but it is a fair warning.

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Another study, published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, tells us that chronically hostile individuals may be at greater risk of cardiovascular illness, possibly because their physiologic response to interpersonal stressor is more pronounced. The scientists emphasize the importance of social contexts in the association between hostility and psycho-physiologic processes. The results suggest, that the motive to exert social control may be important for hostile individuals. (3)

Small dose of cynicism is sometimes funny and even charming, also, it is a huge part of today’s culture. Hostile cynicism on the other hand, isn’t doing any favors to anyone. It annoys people, distracts them and creates conflict.

We all view life differently – some of us see opportunities, open roads and challenges, while others only see day in and day out, because…we’re all gonna die anyway.

That sounds so pessimistic… – You think.

 

Let me ask you a question:

 

Glass-of-water

Image Source: By Derek Jensen (Tysto) (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

 

Is the glass half-empty or half-full?

 

Optimists usually answer half-full, while pessimists’ answer usually is: half-empty.

Pessimism is a mental attitude, where individuals tend to focus on the negatives of life in general or a given situation. Cynics doubt the nature of the motives of others, while pessimists assume the worst possible outcome of a given situation. Both are negative, but cynicism is more of a specific claim, that there is a reason for a certain low expectation, while pessimism is a habitual attitude of low expectations.

 

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Pessimism has many forms: philosophical, epistemological, political and cultural, technological and environmental… But all in all, the core of pessimism is the feeling (or the philosophy), that there is nothing on earth worth the trouble of building, learning from, or even living for.

“…So within my mind the darkness dawned, and round me everywhere

Hope departed with the twilight, leaving only dumb despair.”

~ George William Russell

 

An article published in Trends of Cognitive Sciences states, that greater optimism predicts better health. New evidence also indicates, that optimists have better social connections, partly because they work harder at them. (4) Optimism influences people to engage with their goals, which leads to better long-term outcomes. These experiences apparently teach optimists, that their own efforts play an important part in the positive future they expect. This is why, when they need to achieve something, they quickly activate those efforts to the maximum. Contrary, pessimism can lead people into self – defeating patterns. Pessimistic people, therefore, can be less persistent, display avoidance coping and manifest various kinds of health – damaging behaviors. (5)  Avoidance coping creates stress and anxiety, and ravages self-confidence. Without confidence in life and about the future, it is hard to remain engaged in life.

 

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It is hard to live among people who do not hope, do not offer encouragement and are never excited about anything. You can help those people only if they allow you to. Trying to change someone is a waste of precious time.

But, if someone voices, that you can’t do, what you want to do; and deliberately tries to bring you down; be that a family member, a spouse, an in-law, a friend, a stranger… feel free to turn and walk away from them saying: “Actually, I can!”

 

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References:

  1. Luis E. Navia: Classical Cynicism: A Critical Study. Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. United States of America, 1996: 1.
  2. Neuvonen E, Rusanen M, Solomon A, Ngandu T, Laatikainen T, Soininen H, Kivipelto M, Tolppanen AM: Late-Life Cynical Distrust, Risk of Incident Dementia, and Mortality in a Population-Based Cohort. Neurology. 17 June 2014. 82 (24): 2205-12. 
  3. Smith TW, Brown PC: Cynical hostility, attempts to exert social control, and cardiovascular reactivity in married couples. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. December 1991. 14 (6): 581–592.
  4. Carver CS, Scheier MF: Dispositional optimism. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. June 2014. 18 (6); 293-299. 
  5. MD Robinson, M Eid: The Happy Mind: Cognitive Contributions to Well Being. Springer International Publishing, Switzerland, 2017: 204. 

 

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