The Cynic Attitude
The Cynic Attitude
- Positive Traits:
Accepts the worst, Apprehensive, Constructive criticism, Not easily fooled,
Questions all beliefs, Rarely disappointed by life's ups and downs, Sense of
humor -- especially the absurd
- Negative Traits:
Denigrating, Disapproving, Everything is terrible, Put-down artist,
Sarcastic, Sees only the worst, Won't listen
In the proverbial nutshell: the Cynic takes a negative
attitude toward action. Cynics remember everything that has gone wrong, every
bad thing that has happened before in their lives and in the world, and they
expect more of the same in the future. Cynics view events as "not OK"
until proven otherwise. They do not hesitate to register their disapproval:
"Baloney! That's garbage!" They are mavericks or renegades — they do
not readily go along with what is happening around them. They scorn fads, mocks
fashions, and disdain trends because they prefer that which has "stood the
test of time" and "weathered the storms of adversity". Another
way to say this is that they respect old things. Respect is a big issue with
Cynics. They do not give it automatically — it has to be earned, and for a
high price at that. One of the best traits of Cynics is that, because they
anticipate things will go wrong, they try to see the alternative that has the
least chance of failure. "Murphy" was a Cynic: "If anything can
go wrong, it will." So if you are going to do it, at least do it in a way
that you can't screw up.
One notable feature of Cynics is that they are usually
"short" with others: "Cut the crap and get to the point" is
what they are thinking whether or not they say it. Why? Cynics want to "get
it over with". Even with their words, Cynics are terse. In the extreme,
although words come to their minds, they may think: "Why bother to say
anything. Everything is stupid". When they do talk, it is likely to be
argumentative or sarcastic. More will be said about this below.
Positive Pole (Contradiction)
The Positive Pole of the Cynic Attitude is +Contradiction.
This shows up in people who automatically propose an alternative to any
suggestion. In its best form, +Contradiction is exhibited in people who bring up
a better way of doing the same thing. Such people challenge everything and put
it to the test, so that only the best is allowed to occur. This is obviously a
good thing. In its worst expression, however, Cynics in +Contradiction will be
rebellious, contrary, cantankerous, antagonistic, and contentious. They refuse
to agree with what is happening, and easily come up with exceptions to the
rules. They enjoy bickering, protesting, disputing, and denying. Whatever you
say, they say the opposite — they take the dissenting stand on any issue. They
enjoy causing friction. They like "going against the grain". In their
personal lives they are unconventional: they disregard social institutions. In
extreme cases they are iconoclastic: they disapprove what others approve, just
for the sake of disapproval.
Negative Pole (Denigration)
The Negative Pole of -Denigration is even more difficult to
deal with. Cynics in this Pole view the world as contemptible. They are prone to
make cutting and sarcastic remarks about it: "That's dumb!". Few
things escape their defaming remarks, including other people. Curse words and
other foul language is more likely to issue from the mouths of Denigrators than
from those of any other Attitude. They go through life being insulting and
offensive. As children, people in this Pole are likely to torture small animals
— there is a sadistic streak here. Recall that this is an Aspect of the
Termination Process: the most extreme expression of this Pole is to actually
The fear that drives Cynicism is the fear of being led down a
"primrose path" that looks good but leads to destruction. The way to
overcome this is to consider and apply the Positive Pole of the Complementary
Attitude, which is +Perception. Many things are worthy of contempt, but not
everything. Look all things over and find some respectable items among them.
Then try going along with them for a change, rather than automatically going
This is not a popular Attitude, in two senses of the word.
Only a small percentage of the population has this Attitude, a smaller
percentage than most of the other six Attitudes. Also, Cynics may have
difficulty attracting friends. Other people often find this Attitude difficult
to deal with. Cynics usually do not want many friends anyway, because they sneer
at popularity. Cynics typically have just a few friends who have earned their
respect. Also note that many Cynics have not come to terms with their own
Cynicism — it is often a trait they dislike in themselves. They may deny it or
disguise it. Handled with wisdom in the Positive Pole, it has its rightful place
in the universe.
The Complement of the Cynic Attitude is the
Cynics do not endorse or commend what is going on like Realist do. They do not
adapt themselves well to circumstances as is the case with Realists. Nor do they
rely on guesswork to get through life. Although Cynics are quick to point out
the flaws in the behavior of others, they are not terribly innovative and
experimental in their own lives, whereas Realists are.
The Opposite of the Cynic Attitude is the
Moving Center. The
Cynic is diametrically opposed to wasted activity of any kind, and one of the
ways this shows up is that Cynics are typically tight with their money.
Otherwise, Cynics are fairly efficient in the actions they do take. They do not
believe in "busy-work". If it is worth doing at all (and not much is,
for the Cynic), then do it straight and skinny. They get things done with the
least possible effort. This is exactly the opposite of a person in the Moving
Center, who quite often is just busy for the sake of being busy. If a Cynic
happens to have a strong Moving Center, the two work against each other. The
Moving Center says "go" and the Cynic Attitude says "stop".
This is like driving a car with one foot on the accelerator pedal and the other
foot on the brake pedal. Obviously this makes a person who is jerky in mind,
emotions and body.
The Counterpart of the Cynic Attitude is the Sexual (Physical)
Center. The Cynic puts a stop to events in his environment, and the Sexual
Center comes to a stop within the self by means of a climax. As a sidelight, it
is interesting to note that many people connect sex (the Sexual Center) with
disrespect (the Cynic Attitude). "F--- you!" is the ultimate Cynic
-Denigration put-down. For most people, who they go to bed with is very much an
issue of respect. This is because these two Traits are intimately linked as
What is said above about Cynicism should be tempered with the
knowledge that each Trait is colored very strongly by all the other Traits in a
person's Array. Many Cynics are very nice people. One in particular known to me
personally with the Goal of Acceptance had a very good, offbeat sense of humor.
He made fun of people and life situations in a pleasant and inoffensive way. He
was pleasure to be around, a Cynic at his best. He got me to see things in a way
that otherwise I would not. Cynics are good at this. On the other hand, a Cynic
with the Goal of Discrimination (Rejection) would likely be doubly difficult to
-- Phil Wittmeyer
Cynic is the most difficult attitude to do well, and is perhaps the most difficult of all overleaves. In the negative pole, denigration, it can make a person “prickly.” I have sometimes found cynics (and, to a lesser degree, skeptics) difficult to channel for, since the channeling process requires a certain level of trust and willingness to participate, which may not come easily for them. Some cynics and skeptics, on the other hand, use their attitude to help them validate the information they receive without letting it get in the way of their receiving it in the first place. The positive pole, contradiction, might express itself as making sure something is really worthy by challenging its performance—for example, kicking the tires when checking out a used car, or pulling on a chain to find its weak link. Cynic is known as the warrior attitude, since both are on the ordinal side of the action axis, and challenge is a key word for both.
Although most cynics have an acidic quality, in the positive pole, contradiction, it can be appealing (as with all positive poles). Someone might choose to be a cynic for that acidic quality, since it facilitates cutting through b.s. The cynic’s world view emphasizes what isn’t working or what won’t work, which can be useful in business, for example.
One client I channeled to be a cynic seemed to be handling it appropriately. He didn’t have a particularly negative attitude (to which cynics are especially prone). At a workshop, he said that he was certain I had gotten it wrong, that he is a realist, that he objectively focuses on how things are. As I discussed it with him, he contradicted everything I said, again, doing so pretty appropriately. Others in the group agreed that they were getting a good demonstration of the positive pole of cynic. It is true that cynics can slide to realist, although Michael didn’t pick up any significant sliding with him when I checked with them.
Cynic and the goal of discrimination have some commonalities. However, discriminators tend to focus more on what isn’t of high quality aesthetically (being on the expression axis), whereas cynics, as mentioned, tend to focus more on what doesn’t work well (being on the action axis). These are the two overleaves most prone to becoming bogged down in negativity (cynics perhaps slightly more than discriminators, although it depends on the degree they are in their negative poles), and are not chosen often. Although cynic can be a little more harsh than discrimination, negative-pole discriminators are more prone to be self-critical and hard on themselves, expressing their discrimination both inwardly and outwardly (the expression axis bridges the inspiration and action axes), whereas negative-pole cynics, being on the action axis, tend more to act harshly on just the outside world.
The negative pole of discrimination is usually a little easier to handle than the negative pole of cynic. Yet, in some cases, discrimination’s negative pole can leave him feeling even more miserable than cynic’s, because in discrimination, there still are, or can be, high expectations. There is the ambition to find the sublime, the perfect, the exactly right, the highest—yet everything around (and within, too) may seem to disappoint. Therefore, the discriminator can give up on ever finding that beauty, that sublime thing. There may be the prejudice—the pre-decided idea—that something is trash anyway, so why not just classify it as trash, and save the trouble of actually discriminating? The hope for the beauty is still there, but a certain laziness kicks in. Also, the discriminator can be overly confident in his ability to make those judgments that separate the wheat from the chaff. Often, particularly in younger souls, there is less capability to truly do this than the person thinks. This goal works better when there is at least some humility.
The older soul discriminator who is fairly honest with himself acknowledges his limitations, knowing that he is not always able to discriminate because he has not had the requisite experiences. He sees himself as a student for a while when he is learning to discriminate in a new area. The cynic does not need training in the same way because the testing is done then and there, on the spot, although past experience may cause the cynic to be especially susceptible to the negative pole. Again, there can be laziness, not going through the testing and just saying that such and such is always a particular way. However, in prejudice, the negative pole of discrimination, habitual criticism is directed toward something specific, whereas denigration, the negative pole of cynic, is broader, as with the curmudgeon who denigrates everything. If there is something the cynic has previously tested and found wanting, he can be quite opinionated—not unlike the discriminator—but there is not a strong sense with the negative-pole cynic that he is attacking that one particular thing as much as he is using his negative opinion of it to “prove” how terrible everything is—his opinion is part of his overall outlook at that moment. His tendency, then, is to have ill will toward all, whereas the negative pole discriminator may, on the one hand, be very negative about one thing, and be quite opinionated that something else is the absolute best, because discriminators have a need to find the best, and they need to express whatever they have found to be the best as being the best, since discrimination is an expression-axis goal.
The attitude of skeptic has some similarities to that of cynic. The perceptions of both cynics and skeptics tend to be negative, not necessarily in the sense of destructive, but in the sense that they emphasize what isn’t or what might not be. However, skeptics don’t have the same acidic quality that cynics do—their skepticism feels more intellectual (skeptic is on the ordinal expression axis, as is the intellectual center). Skeptics often enjoy debating, and make excellent interviewers and scientists. They seem to want to be convinced, and are convinced if the opposing arguments satisfy them. If you win over a skeptic, he can be the greatest champion of your ideas. It’s more difficult to convince cynics—they tend to just keep on contradicting.
Comedians tend to be either cynics or skeptics (and, as mentioned, sages). They can use their negative perceptions for a positive (constructive) purpose, helping us see and laugh at things we might otherwise ignore. Since I am an idealist, I can best discuss the influence of attitude and how it interacts with our other overleaves and role by exploring idealism.
-- Shepherd Hoodwin
The cynic attitude exerts an influence on its environment not unlike that of an acid; it cuts through. In the positive pole, it cuts through the tarnish to get to the metal. In the negative pole, it cuts through the metal, too—it destroys.
Cynics have the advantage of not being very easy to disappoint, because they tend not to have a lot of positive expectations. In the negative pole, particularly, they tend to have negative expectations, but in the positive pole, they tend not to have many expectations at all. The cynic simply does not see the world as a place where dreams can come true, as the idealist might, but that doesn’t mean that the positive-pole cynic is unhappy about that: he can have pleasure in reality as it is, not unlike the realist.
More than realists, positive-pole cynics play the role of protectors (like warriors), making certain that the false does not destroy or prevail—that the tarnish does not destroy the metal—but without necessarily providing polish for the metal, the wherewithal to make it shine beautifully. In other words, cynics can cut away the tarnish, but without bringing forth an inspirational vision of the possibility of something more or higher; that is for the spiritualist or idealist to do.
In the negative pole, cynics tend to believe that the tarnish will prevail anyway, and what difference does it make if their acid therefore eats away at some of the metal itself? It is an exceedingly harsh view.
In the positive pole, the cynic attitude can provide a sharp-edged tool for the use of a person’s curiosity. Cynic can also be useful when someone wants to feel that he has full permission to explore the hidden side of life, what other people do not acknowledge or talk about. Many comedians are cynics because humor can unearth hidden areas and bring them to light; it can release tension through showing what people want to acknowledge but don’t feel that they can.
Cynic is not a particularly easy overleaf to use, but the soul does not always like to do what is easiest.
-- Shepherd Hoodwin
Cynic is the warrior attitude. The positive pole is
"contradiction." Some might find it hard to conceptualize contradiction ever
being positive, but in the positive pole of cynic, it isn't arbitrary. By
contradiction, we don't mean that the cynic says that the sky isn't blue or that
two plus two do not make four; that would be unreasonable and, therefore, the
negative pole. Positive poles are based on love and are constructive.
Contradiction tests the soundness of things; it pushes against, kicks the tires.
The cynic tends to assume something is a bad idea until he has a chance to work
it over. The cynic tends to say no first. You may think of that as negative, but
it isn't necessarily, because once something has passed the test, it's fine;
it's "in." In the negative pole, "denigration," nothing ever passes the test.
The negative pole of cynic is probably the harshest of all the overleaves,
although some cynics do their negative pole with relative subtlety. How any
overleaf manifests depends, in part, on everything else on the chart. Although
cynic is itself harsh, it could be paired with a soft goal, such as acceptance
or flow, and that would look different from a cynic with, say, a goal of
A warrior cynic is a cynic to the extreme, because these two traits reinforce
each other. Warriors have a strong instinctive drive and are very focused. If
that focus is brought to the art of contradiction, this will generally come on
It is hard for someone with a cynic attitude to think positively. However, this
does not bother cynics as much as it would bother others. The negative pole can
be quite bleak, but cynics are built to understand the world as a difficult
place. They don't expect much, and therefore are not easily disappointed,
whereas idealists and spiritualists, because they shoot so high, can be
disappointed frequently. They may try not to look at it, but things don't often
turn out as well as they hope. Cynics may see the world going to hell in a
handbasket, but, in the positive pole, they can still have a good time along the
Cynic is not an easy attitude for either the person holding it or the people
around her, but it may not be as bad as it looks for the person. The world is
framed differently, and so there's a different "normal." Idealists probably
won't be very happy until they have created some of their ideals in their life;
cynics do not have this kind of requirement. So here we see different ways of
framing life that can each be valid.
In the positive pole of cynic, cynics see the negativity in the world but don't
judge it; they simply wants to label it accurately. In the negative pole,
everything looks lousy, even when it is not, and this is the single biggest
curse of this attitude--the inability to see and appreciate what is positive.
Being on the action axis, the cynic and realist are both about what is and what
isn't, black and white. The cynic emphasizes what isn't--black--and the realist
emphasizes what is--white. They both tend to be more black and white in their
perceptions than the other attitudes. The action axis, in general, values
simplicity and can be cut-and-dried.
-- Shepherd Hoodwin
Comparisons of the Seven Attitudes ]
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