cynical acceptance of old age vs stubborn idealism of youth | INFJ Forum

cynical acceptance of old age vs stubborn idealism of youth

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by TinyBubbles, May 14, 2010.

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  1. TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    Is there a trend between old age and cynicism? People experience more as they get older, of course, but does this always correlate with a cynical acceptance of the negative aspects of life?

    Can one maintain the stubborn idealism common of youth? Consider yourself 5-10 years ago. Do you have the same expectations of yourself & of other people as you did then?

    I'm really interested to hear what you guys have to say about this, because I think it's an important issue. Why DO our beliefs about what is possible and isn't possible change so dramatically (in many cases) the older we get? Is it inevitable; an aspect of maturity, or is it just the dulling of our aspirations through years of disappointment?


     
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  2. DefectiveCreative

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    Be careful not to confuse cynicism with pragmatism.
     
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  3. Gaze

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    It's a variety of things. As time passes, you experience more, you deal with more, you have more responsibilities to balance, you realize that the world makes less accommodations for you, and that you have no choice but to learn to deal with it. You learn to be as, Defective Creative said, more realistic and pragmatic. Many of your ideals or dreams are not realized because life takes multiple unexpected turns which make it unlikely that you will be able to pursue what you originally wanted. You also realize as you get older that although the world is run by older generations, youth is celebrated and dominates all things. So, you're given the impression from media and society that the older you get, the less remarkable life will or should be. Of course youth are going to be optimistic - when you're young, you're told the world is yours to shape and influence. When you are older, you're told that your time is passing or has passed, and now it's someone else's turn. Even at my age, i see a huge difference in 10 years in what opportunities are availabled. A student in my class, around 19, said 30 was old! I mean seriously???
     
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    #3 Gaze, May 14, 2010
    Last edited: May 14, 2010
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  4. MindYourHead

    MindYourHead Courage doesn't always roar.

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    I couldn't have expressed it better.

    I think cynicism comes form wisdom to some extent. You have been there, done that and perhaps got burned. You now know better.
     
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  5. Faye

    Faye ^_^
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    I don't think that I could possibly get any more cynical than I am now. If anything, I am significantly less cynical than I was 8-9 years ago; back then, I really hated the world. As I get older, I expect that I will become less cynical and more accepting.

    For most people it is different, I think. Most people are oblivious to the world when they are young, and that I think is because they are enjoying it. They have their youth, their health, and relatively little responsibility; all these things are highly prized in our society. Once they lose those things, they become cynical and try desperately to retain them, which is why we have things like mid-life crises and Botox. People begin to hate the world when the realize they can't be young and sexy and explicitly adored any more. I'm oversimplifying it, but you get the idea.

    For me, I didn't feel adored at a very young age, and I developed a hatred of the world and a type of misanthropy that overpowered every other possible thought and viewpoint for many years. That is still there to some extent, and now I am happy to know that I am going to be able to largely disregard to social construction of aging because it is completely obvious to me how constructed it is. I value my youth; I value being able to easily enough run 6 miles, and I know that such capacities will someday leave me, but I also know that my mental faculties wont decline (memory loss is cultural, not biological) unless I get Alzheimer's or something similar. I know that I wont long for my youth because I had a horrible time for the most part during it anyway, and because of this I wont become any more cynical.

    Endnote: I'm very much against the whole idea of high school/college being the best years of your life. High school was horrible. College is pretty good, but I know that it is in many was just high school 2.0, especially for some unfortunate individuals and various institutions. Many people who adopt this attitude and party their way through college without doing the work find that they don't enjoy life when they are stuck with the responsibilities of adulthood and deprivation of the pleasures they so easily attained in youth. They desire to be as they once were, and this desire is a denial of the possibility to enjoy being what they are at that time.
     
  6. xizzax

    xizzax Community Member

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    Hmm, yes of course we shouldn't confuse pragmatism with cynicism-- but we have to recognize -what is- being pragmatic and what is being a cynic. Getting older and learning that the world does not simply give to you is one thing but many people of the older generations have lost the idealism that would spur you to move forward with your life.

    The way I see it,as Dragon said, acceptance is the key. However, not the acceptance that you cannot do what you wished you could. Realizing that the world is going to be the way it is? I look up to our youth, despite their undisciplined nature. There is a lot of wisdom that comes from acting from your heart.

    I really do understand where you come from: I used to be much more of a cynic myself. Sometimes after experiencing more and more pain from life we begin to build barriers and defenses... When deciding on how to look at the world after each event, it is important to see if what your conclusion is, is based on a balanced view.... Trying to balance the urge to react negatively or block out the realistic with "over-optimism".

    It is too easy to react in extremes and I think that both the youth and the older generations have a lot to learn from each other.
     
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  7. enfp can be shy

    enfp can be shy people vs the bad people?
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    I certainly get less cynical and more idealistic, the older I get. Especially in my teenage years, I've been the hardest materialistic cold-headed kid you've met.
     
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  8. Isis

    Isis Community Member

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    I think it's not so much about age but life experience and character/personality. Some people might become cynical when they experience dramatic events and they become disillusioned no matter what age. But some people can take many hits during a lifetime and still retain their positive attitude and outlook on life. Why does this happen, I cannot be sure.

    I've become less cynical over the years, I would like to think. Maybe it's because of maturity, I can't tell; maybe it's because I sense I am becoming more open to whatever comes my way, maybe I am more skilled in letting things go than I used to be, maybe it's just apathy that is slowly creeping in...
     
    #8 Isis, May 14, 2010
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  9. OP
    TinyBubbles

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    interesting! the reverse of what i was mentioning. it seems to flip, then, doesn't it? optimistic in youth -> cynical in old age
    cynical in youth -> optimistic in old age

    perhaps people just balance out their preferences as they get older and experience more things. sort of like what the MBTI mentions about personal growth: people take on the positive attributes of their shadow functions as they grow up. an INFJ would become less intuitive, more pragmatic, more down to earth and extroverted like a healthy ESTP as they get older.
     
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  10. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    This does happen, yes. I tend to think for most cynicism is just a temporary blip along the way and in no way a final destination. It's all about what one can extract from life experience and how one puts that into perspective. Old age can be quite liberating.
     
  11. Norton

    Norton XXXX

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    No, but there is a trend between old age and realism, which many people confuse with cynicism.
     
  12. OP
    TinyBubbles

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    could you explain the difference? i'm really curious about it, because i think you're right, the two can easily be confused.
     
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  13. On my own path

    On my own path Community Member

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    Well, in the end I believe that it has to do with the individual's themselves. Remember with age may come experience but what was experienced is perhaps subjective, the accrued experience - what was gained from the experiences- would also be subjective, and the reaction and interpretation of one's experience may differ. Also factors such one's worldview, the evolution of a worldview, level and the amount of reflection, et cetera may affect one's level of cynicism.

    A quote I recall reading:
    From the above quote, what inferences may be drawn from the above? One may be that cynicism is a preemptive strike against feelings of disappointment much like some self deprecate in order to beat others to the punch," Cynics" beat what they perceive as reality to the punch.

    In such a case we should, if we would like to mitigate ourselves from becoming cynical, not let ourselves lose sight what is good in the world and in people. For example several people have sacrificed their lives for what they believe to be right. And while it may be unreasonable to expect all to do as such, it is also unreasonable to believe that no one else in the future will or that goodness does not exist in "lesser" forms. A good way to remind ourselves that there is good in the world? Perhaps it is by doing good ourselves and by making the world a better place in our own ways; in doing so we better expose ourselves to the good in the world and in good people and thus may have a lesser chance in becoming cynical
     
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  14. Norton

    Norton XXXX

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    To a realist, things are what they are. To a cynic, things are worse than they are.
     
  15. OP
    TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    could you be more specific, maybe give an example? i doubt most cynics believe they're being cynical, only realistic. how would you gauge whether one's perspective is realistic or overly pessimistic (or optimistic for that matter)?
     
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  16. Norton

    Norton XXXX

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    Say you start a business and you fail miserably. You can chalk this up to experience and try again or you can go back to working for someone else, strongly convinced that you're a loser who should never have taken the entrepreneurial plunge. Actually, venture capitalists would rather invest in someone who failed once and is trying again because they assume that a lot of useful experience comes of failure, particularly including what not to do next time.

    I believe that the difference between the two possibilities is one of attitude. The realist assesses chance objectively and knows that the probability of success increases through patience and persistence. This is something that some people naturally know from a young age, but most people learn by experience (if they ever learn it). Those who don't know this are either overly optimistic, idealistic innocents or older pessimists who quit too soon and never tried again. They protect themselves psychologically by becoming cynical.

    Grafted upon (or beneath?) the experience thing is one's basic temperament (not meant in the MBTI way). People seem to be born naturally optimistic, pessimistic or somewhere between. If we assume that there is a spectrum among the population of older people ranging from pessimistic (cynics) to optimistic, with a non-bimodal distribution, it would be reasonable to guess that the average is found somewhere in the "middle" which we would call "realistic." If this were a symmetric distribution such as a bell curve (which it probably isn't--few things are), then we would expect most older people to be realists.

    Determining whether an individual is realistic, pessimistic or optimistic is best done in context and retrospectively. But, for the person who wants to develop a means of moving forward in life, talking with a variety of experienced (older) people can't hurt. As a young engineer just beginning my career, I was lucky to know older, experienced engineers from whom I learned more my first year out of school than any professor I had had. Another thing to keep in mind when assessing someone's location on the pessimism-optimism spectrum is that these things are relative. Risk takers (adrenaline junkie) are going to see things quite differently than accountants (unless the accountants are really criminals).

    With age comes experience. Another way of saying this is that the longer you're around the more data you get to collect, sample and react to. Considering that both good and bad experiences happen, over time, you're likely to regress to the mean. That is, if we are considering a sufficiently large population of people. Individuals, as we all know, can be outliers, or, in other words, royal pains in the ass.

    Please note that what I've written is just my current opinion (an INTP's working hypothesis), which has been known to change under the influence of a better idea or whim.
     
  17. DefectiveCreative

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    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails." - William Arthur Ward
     
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  18. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Finding My Place in the Sun
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    The idealism of youth eventually has to give way to a greater realism.

    Realism implies, in part, not taking things for granted, such as family, love, health, friends, etc.

    But 'not taking thing for granted' can be manifested by: anxiety about things; indifference to things; or gratitude for things. These are called worry, cynicism and relish.

    The idealism of youth gives way to worry, cynicism or enjoyment about/of real life.

    (mind you, it will be decades before I can confirm my hypothesis).
     
  19. INTJMom

    INTJMom Community Member

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    This is an excellent suggestion. By taking part in the good in the world, we increase it... then there is MORE good in the world than there was before.

    Excellent. I have not met many true cynics in my life, but I have met a couple and I find them depressing. They don't seem to notice that there is SOME GOOD in the world. I think the cynic tends to think that there is no point in doing good, but I disagree vehemently.

    I used to be extremely idealistic and hopeful when I was young. I was sure I was going to make all my dreams come true. When I was 38, I experienced a "rude awakening". I realized that my longest held, most cherished dream was never going to come true and I spiraled downward into a 10 year depression. I might have become a cynic during that time. I was angry and hopeless and "lifeless" most of the time.

    On my way out of depression, I have had to learn that accepting reality is good. Accepting disillusionment is not good. When I experience disillusionment, I know I need to face my pain, grieve the loss and let go, so I can embrace life again.

    That's the goal: embracing the good in life.
     
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  20. That Girl

    That Girl Do you have my answers?
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    I seem to be getting less cynical as I get older. I was pretty angry as a kid. However, I do see less possibilities than when I was younger. I see the reality. I know I won't ever go to the moon or fly a jet because those things aren't possible for me. I think it's a poor plan to tell kids they can do anything. No one talks about the hard work involved or the fact that if you suck at music you'll probably never be a rock star. Unless you're Kid Rock or something. Which I guess is possible. Not the point. If you are sickly and weak your whole life you are never going to go to the Olympics. If you don't put in the effort you are never going to be able to do anything.
    I don't think people necessarily get cynical in their old age. I just think they find that the world is not the same oyster that they were told it was. Plus as you get older the world expands. There is so much to take in that's impossible to get at it all (which is annoying but that's a different story) and you have to learn to accept that. When you're young you think you're invincible. As you get older you learn your weaknesses and it humbles you.
     
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