Cynicism is Wounded Curiosity

artwork: danielle noel

Ramit Sethi says: Cynics don’t want results; they want an excuse not to take action.

Having grown up as the pleaser and the helper in my family system, I am acutely tuned in and sensitive to other people’s crappy moods. Another person’s bad mood, in my environment, becomes a signal that sends me into “cheer them up” mode. Usually at my own expense.

For many years I misunderstood cynicism. I interpreted it as a grumpy outlook in the other person. I attracted cynics and skeptics into my field and then spent a lot of precious life force energy trying to demonstrate and prove to them that things are not really as bad as they seem.

A kind of positivity-force-feeding, if you will.

But when we’re trying to convince someone of something, we’re trying to change them. And when we’re trying to change someone, we’re trying to control them.

The truth is, the dark outlook in the other person threatened my brighter one on a level that felt too frightening to open to genuinely and explore. I was trying to convince both of us that things aren’t that bad.

But reality doesn’t need defending. It just needs witnessing and skillful responding.

I see cynicism as a defense now, not a character defect. I see it in myself all the time when I’m scared. I’ve learned that when I’m tearing something down in my mind, looking for the cracks, looking for the trick, looking for the catch, it’s because I’m scared of trusting and being disappointed. I’m scared of the let down or being the naive fool.

Cynicism is wounded curiosity. It doesn’t just want “to know”. It wants “to know what’s wrong.” It looks for the problems so it won’t be caught off guard by the problems. Kill it before it kills you is the philosophy here.

How many opportunities have we sabotaged for ourselves at the mercy of our own unchecked cynicism? How much have we lost because we couldn’t bear to extend our own childlike wonder and blind faith?

The cynical side of us is a part that’s asking for healing. It’s a part of us asking for reassurance that it’s safe to give up our excuses and allow ourselves to fully try, fully hope… fully live.

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