Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cynicism and Underlying Anger

Is it possible for a Chaplain to serve while being afflicted with cynicism and an undercurrent of anger? Whoa! Now, where did that come from? In my travels in the chaplaincy world I have come across more than one chaplain who was obviously exuding such negative energy. It seems to me that the only person those chaplains were fooling were themselves. The short answer to the question is, “No, a chaplain cannot serve hurting people with those types of feelings.” What kind of vexations would drive an otherwise healthy human being to seek solace among cynics? How about these, for starters: Overwork, Unemployment, "We’ll keep your resume on file", Politicians and other liars, Feeling like an alien in your own country, Feeling like an alien in your own family, Being ridiculed by your inferiors, Wondering if you’re inferior to your inferiors, Going bald, especially if you’re a woman, Getting stuck in a bad career, Realizing that a bad career makes a bad life, The decline of Western civilization, The triumph of cockroaches and investment bankers, Ugliness everywhere you look, Cheesy books that stay on the bestseller list for 187 weeks, Chronic disappointment, Realizing that everything you like to eat can kill you, Eating bean sprouts and dying young anyway, Eternal damnation as your final reward. ( When I read that list, I found a few things funny but some others not so. “Getting stuck in a bad career” and “Realizing that a bad career makes a bad life” shout for examination. Can a hospice Chaplain ever make either of statements and personalize them? Unfortunately, yes, they can and they have. If hospice spiritual care does not make your heart beat fast, then perhaps there is something nagging at you. Don’t you hear the voice of your CPE Supervisor calling for you to look inside and make a fearless inventory of what is there? Put it on the table and be honest with yourself. Cynicism can bite the best of us. Therefore, keeping a close eye on what is going on inside of our emotions is fundamental for a centered life. Cynicism is a defense mechanism that begins often in adolescence, and for many continues to thicken and harden as people age. “Coolness” is associated with cynicism. You’re cool, unemotional, a bit callous toward people’s feelings. You tend to attack things that are emotional and sincere. Cynicism is associated with a critical voice. The cynic is perpetually unimpressed. Nothing is ever good enough for the cynic. Life is an eye-roll, a yawn. This is a very limited, unhealthy state of mind. Cynicism is a form of armor. Children don’t start off cynical, but as they get hurt by life experiences, cynicism creeps in. Cynicism is like the slime that forms on a stagnant pond. Your energy is like water. When it is healthy, it moves and flows. When you are psychically injured, energy gets stuck. The water stagnates. Slime grows. Cynicism is the psychic slime that grows over an injury — a place of stuck, stagnant energy. Look at the ways in which you are cynical. Look at the things you are cynical about. These are clear indicators for you of where you have been injured, and have not healed. People who are cynical about loving relationships have been hurt in relationships. Or else they’ve never really had one; they’ve been rejected. People who are cynical about doing meaningful work often feel blocked and frustrated about a lack of meaning in their own careers. People who are cynical about spirituality were often damaged by negative experiences with religion; or else feel so victimized by life that it is impossible for them to believe in a loving universe. It is very easy to fall into cynicism. It is the common language of victimhood — and most people feel like victims. Cynicism feels like a defense against further victimization. But really, it is a block. It is the slime on the stagnant pond, cutting off light and air and flow. Cynicism is a block to healing, well-being, and expanded consciousness. In this world, it is very frightening not to be cynical. For every sincere, genuine person out there, there is a horde of cynics waiting to pick them apart, and tear them down. But if it weren’t for sincere, genuine people, nothing of real meaning and beauty would ever be created in this world. ( Please notice the ways in which you are cynical. These are signposts for you, leading you to places where you have stuck emotional/spiritual energy and unhealed injuries that bear examination. Wounds, spiritual wounds, that have never healed cause cynicism. Have any of those? You can name the situations that have wounded you deeply. Spiritual wounds at times defy healing. But, at least not examined, how will we ever know if the wound can heal? Cynicism and an undercurrent of anger will damage your work as a chaplain. Better to deal with it and get it healed than to risk hurting an innocent patient.

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