Humility and Formality


(Cynicism was not covered in Humility and Formality proper,
but was sent as a follow-up when Bohemond reminded me I had left it out.)

I've been reminded that I didn't cover cynicism as I'd meant to in humility/formality. I guess I veered off into a more positive direction than I had expected! :-)

By "cynicism" I'm thinking the spiral of negativity that comes from and contains thinking the worst of people, assuming malice and ignorance, being paranoid and ashamed and frustrated, and which then culminates in the lack of ability to accept joy. Cynicism is terminal when a person is embarrassed by thinking good thoughts. When one trains oneself to ignore positive internal messages and to embrace the negative, there's some training to undo!

One trick I've known some people to use is to say something positive for every negative thing you say. I try to do that in conversations sometimes to balance out negativity. After a while it becomes automatic and when you get to the point that you think the negative AND the positive, you can opt to just say the positive thing. It doesn't change reality inside you at first, but it changes the outside atmosphere and so on. It will change people's reactions to you, which will change what your NEXT statement will be.

Sometimes, in extreme cases, one might just need to avoid the negative influences, the people with whom one is accustomed to being critical and negative. Avoiding them for a while is good enough in some cases. Once you're healed some and feeling more positive, it's easier to hold your own in the presence of cynics.

Just as cynicism is contagious, so is optimism. I talked with Aindrea and with Martino about the idea that our contagious good energy at Crown was like whipped cream, and each contact with someone who picked up the good energy was like a little peak–we brought them up; that brought us up. When Aindrea went to Unser Hafen, she whipped up the good feeling there, and said there were little peaks everywhere.

Picturing a situation as potentially uplifting is just a mental construct.
Picturing a crater-filled moonscape with each interaction making another crater would be just a mental construct too. Which is better?

First, I don't believe in "JUST" much of anything. "Just" a mental construct changes one's biochemistry. Feeling better is real. If the idea of cynicism prevention is feeling more positive, ANYTHING you can do to induce a positive mindset is as real as real can be. Tricks and exercises which lead to habit which lead to skills are where it's at and not to be scorned as "just" mental.

The religious take on this is to pray for guidance, pray to be compassionate.

The non-religious take is to give people and situations the benefit of the doubt, to justify what they have done with "Maybe he did the best he could do," instead of justifying what YOU do with "It doesn't matter because he sucks." If you combine compassion for the failures of others and humility in your assessment of your own response (maybe your response isn't perfect, but do the best you can do), then you're moving away from cynicism.

If the SCA sucks, let's all get the hell away from it.

If we decide it sucks (and I went through over a year of EXTREME aversion to the SCA, and tried to keep it to myself when possible, which wasn't always doable because people would come after me and try to convince me to come out and play) then it will suck because we have defined it so, and we will be looking at the world through suck-tinted glasses.

If "it sucks" is shifted two degrees to "there's room for improvement" and if "it's beyond repair" is shifted two degrees to "Maybe I can help improve it a little" then cynicism starts to recede and that space is filled with hope.

Flexibility of expectation will help. You might review "Happiness through Lower Expectations" which can deal with large and small-scale situations. If you decide on ONE acceptable outcome or result you have a high risk of failure. Probably a total guarantee of failure, because if your expectation is too particular even an 80% match of your expectation will be a failure. In such a case the failure was pre-ordained and set up.

If I consider anything other than total blackness and failure to be at least a partial success, my chance for some happiness is greatly increased.

I realize you all know these things, but maybe a pep talk will help, or maybe rephrasing will trigger something in you that you can use to pass the suggestions on to other cynical friends.

You rarely have to tell anyone "You're cynical." Often you can just bring the conversation up naturally, but it takes conscious effort at first, and some people are resistant to others bringing them up.


Thanks again for reading what I write and considering my ideas, and theories, and convictions. If I decided I'd only be happy if you all totally understood and practiced everything I ever suggested I'd probably be bummed, but I've decided to be happy if you just read to the end of them.


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Copyright © Sandra Dodd
1998, 2002