The cynic is never truly and completely cynical. They are still recovering from hopes that grew too painful to avow.

Video The cynic is never truly and completely cynical.

Video transcript

What identifies people as cynics is not so much what they claim as why they do so. Their downbeat assessments are based, not on a dispassionate analysis of our species,

but on an inner emotional compulsion. The philosophy is first and foremost a defence against suffering.

Beneath their gruff surface, cynics are afflicted by a near hysterical fragility around the idea of expecting anything which turns out to be less impressive than they’d

hoped. And so they twist their mental apparatus to secure themselves against the eventuality of any discouragement. They disappoint themselves before the world can ever do it for them. At a time and in a manner of its own choosing.

Cynics may look like people trying very hard to see the facts as they are, but in truth they are trying even harder to insulate themselves against pain.

The origin of their stance is not worldly experience and insight. It is rather more poignantly a psychological trauma.

Somewhere in the past there will probably have been a blow to their hopes that felt too powerful to handle.

Sadly though cynics don’t give away the slightest clue as to their touching and vulnerable backstories. They will instead talk stridently about corruption and manipulation. Pile up ample examples of greed and proffer complex sounding theories of economics.

But what they won’t do is voluntarily or easily reveal how their father humiliated them when he was drunk or how it felt when their mother ran away to another city when they were just five.

The cynic is never truly and completely cynical. They are still recovering from hopes that grew too painful to avow.

A natural temptation when encountering a cynic is to try to argue them out of their attitude by citing counterexamples. But this is in its own way cruel because it misunderstands what cynicism is about. It is an emotional protection. In essence, a mode of coping learned under conditions of duress. What the cynic really needs and fears they will never get, so naturally he never asks for, is kindness. A kindness that may eventually help them to rekindle their stunted, secret desires for hope and fulfillment.

Categories Filosofische

Over de auteur

The School of Life is een initiatief van de filosoof Alain de Botton met vestigingen over de hele wereld, bedoeld als een plek om stil te staan bij fundamentele vragen van het leven. Zie ook