Beyond Cynical: Transcend Your Mammalian Negativity
Cynicism is popular because it triggers the brain chemicals that make us happy. It triggers dopamine by making the world feel predictable. It triggers serotonin by raising you above “the jerks.” It triggers oxytocin by telling you who to trust. Cynicism lures your inner mammal, but you can transcend it. Here’s how:
Chapter 1: Why Cynicism Feels Good
Apes pull their own hair out. Huge patches of hairless skin got my attention when I visited the bonobos at the Valley of Monkeys (Le Vallé des Singes) in France. I asked a zookeeper what was wrong.
“They do it to themselves, ” the young man told me. “They arrived here with the habit.”
“From where?” I asked, expecting a traumatic tale of capture and confinement.
The keeper said the habit went so far back that its origins are unknown. “The babies start doing it when they see their mothers doing it. Then it becomes a habit. ”
I was horrified at the thought of innocent children embarking on a life of pain.
“They’ll stop eventually,” the keeper said, and walked away.
The sight of all that raw skin unnerved me. Suffering gets our attention. We want it to stop now instead of waiting for generations. It’s easy to get cynical when problems persist. If we were causing our own suffering, we would want to know.