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Author Topic: Can People change?
rightleft22
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When it comes to personality can people change or are we basically hardwired by 25.
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winkey151
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My husband changed at 44. Before then he was really messed up by his abusive father and a mother who sat by and allowed her husband to terrorize her children. Then he married me and for 22 years he would turn into satan incarnate every few months and terrorized me and my children.

So I told him to leave and vowed never to live with him again, unless he changed for real. (He promised many times he would change but never did.)

So, for the first three months he put on a dog and pony show. I saw through all his shenanigans and would not budge. He would beg to see me and the kids and I told him that he could see us on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday evenings at church.

Then one day he got in a mens group. A real mens group, where all the men could see right through him... because they were all once like him. There was extreme openness between them and extreme accountability.

Then one morning God spoke to him (Not out loud... but in his heart) and said that his house is not in order and the house was his heart.

He then realized that he needed to change from the inside out and he worked diligently, letting go of all his anger and forgive his parents.

He also knew that he had to be humble and wait patiently for God to restore his relationship with me and our children. (At that time they pretty much hated him.)

Ultimately our marriage was restored.

We have now been married going on 33 years and I love him more than I ever thought possible. We don't always agree on everything but we treat each other with respect and always try to encourage each other to fulfill our dreams separately as well as together.

So yes.... people can change.

Oh... and I changed too. [Big Grin]

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scifibum
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What kind of change are you thinking of? Can you give an example?

I don't know if people change so much as adapt. I could claim to have become less selfish since I was 25. However, what I'm talking about is giving up some personal comforts in exchange for satisfying my desire to be a responsible father, which involves a different sort of gratification. Did I change, or did my circumstances simply bring out a different manifestation of my unchanging self?

I think if you put enough stress on a person you will see their behavior change. If that's the change you're talking about, then yes, people change, at any time in their lives. The fact that people's personality remains relatively fixed after they grow up seems to indicate that either their quirks don't generate enough negative feedback to matter, or involve rewards that outweigh the costs (subjectively, or unconsciously).

I know an older lady that would seem to be a prime candidate for change. Her diet is abysmal, she never does any exercise, and she self-medicates to an extreme and absurd degree. She is often in the hospital and when she isn't, she is seemingly busy identifying every way in which she can get herself back there, and pursuing those actions with a sort of sickly enthusiasm. She seems miserable and if she would make some changes, it seems like she'd be happier. Who wouldn't want to be able to walk briskly, talk clearly, and carry their own weight? But she pretty much stays the same. I believe she gets profound satisfaction from being cared for and nurtured, and the pills and the attention of doctors give her what she most craves. There are grave costs to her lifestyle but they are matched by the profound subjective benefits she experiences. Now, if there was no hospital - no solicitous caretaker - and no pills to make her feel better, then I think she would change, in a very short time. I think she'd get up and walk around and feed herself properly if the situation was altered to the point that the negatives outweighed the positives.

There are aspects of brain chemistry that lead to addiction which looks like a deep resistance to change, but it really is simply a case of the subjective benefit of the drug outweighing the subjective costs of stopping. Once that balance is altered, people can and do overcome addiction. When the drug is more intolerable than sobriety, people stop. (One way of mitigating the fallout of addiction is to help sobriety become more tolerable.)

With "personality", such as how cheerful one is, or what activities one prefers, I think there are many diverse types of success, or adequacy, and we don't see those things change because there isn't enough pressure directed at those quirks to make it worthwhile. However, I think if every time someone expressed an aspect of their personality, they received sharp negative consequence, they would modify their personality relatively quickly.

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rightleft22
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Thanks for sharing your story winkey

“I don't know if people change so much as adapt.”

I’ve change things, adapted as situations have change, but don’t think I’ve ever changed, or I did change to fit in… to be candid, I’m not liking the person I see in the mirror.


This Christmas I've decided not to celebrate with family, friends or church. Lately I've been feeling that I’m not present. Not in the sense that I’m not paying attention or participating but that the 'soul' of me isn't present. I find myself unable to discern my needs outside of expectations, shoulds, obligations, fears and the desire to be accepted. Not even sure that makes any sense.
I prefer the symbolic to the literal but when I attempt to express myself most people’s eyes glaze over so adapt. Smile and nod, smile and nod.

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TomDavidson
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Once you grant that people can adapt, it's a foregone conclusion that people can change. After all, after sufficient adaptation, the original person is no long recognizable.
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munga
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RL22-

I say, celebrate as you feel is right, as you feel "moved."

Life gives us people in the "family" that we would never choose for ourselves. I think all these flavors in a family is God's way of saying, GET ALONG. I've got a demented, mean old man, a mother torn in politics and the fact that half her children are against the other half one way or another (not that we would be so rude as to fight, we are just professionally motivated to the other's downfalls) and Uncles who range from the silly ("Bonhoeffer fulfills the prophesies for latterday prophets") to ugly ("Jews were not mistreated, it was only the sad effect of war").

I will say, it helps to be in a family of eccentrics. There ARE no limits, if you can think to defend a position (and we're all bright, that you can take to the bank). But the old values of respecting elders clash with the new values of respecting truth from any one, and so.... things aren't always lovely. On John's side, it just gets more shallow- respect is divided by wealth.

(yes, we're all Christians of one brand or another)

But there is the truth- with all those opinions and especially the ones with which I more violently disagree, I'd rather be home with my honey and kids and neighborhood and Ornery than in any family reunion, any holiday. But go, we probably always shall.

[ December 23, 2008, 10:08 PM: Message edited by: munga ]

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winkey151
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rightleft22

I just want you to know that there are people out here who would be happy to let you express yourself without having our eyes glaze over.

It is going to be OK.

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OceanRunner
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quote:
But there is the truth- with all those opinions and especially the ones with which I more violently disagree, I'd rather be home with my honey and kids and neighborhood and Ornery than in any family reunion, any holiday. But go, we probably always shall.
Interesting - I'll be honest, I feel we don't owe anyone who acts unpleasantly towards us, our company, when it makes us unhappy to give it to them. It all really depends on the nature of your family, of course, but after dealing with ruined holidays due to certain family members' regularly-scheduled tantrums, I will just walk away and refuse to subject myself to their drama. Don't treat me well? Don't see me. Those are just the natural consequences of certain actions.

I think people can change, but that it tends to be a difficult and gradual process and that it requires a fair amount of self-awareness and willingness to see things as they are, not as we wish them to be. For instance, when I was aroun fifteen I realized how self-centered I was, and made a deliberate attempt to turn my thoughts outwards every time I found myself self-obsessing. I do the same thing now with some of the unfortunate past experiences I tend to mull over needlessly - try to correct my thought patterns. We'll see if that one ever takes...

The only dramatic personality changes I've ever seen, though, have involved heavy medication. [Smile]

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0Megabyte
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I was looking over old things I wrote today. Old school work, old things I'd written, old things I'd made.

It made me feel... melancholy. Now I'm in school to make movies. And the things I did in my life before are no longer... there. I'm out of high school, I graduated from my first college... I have a job now, a car, certain responsibilities. I live at the dorms at my college now, instead of at home (except for the holidays.)

I'm here and I feel as though certain things have been lost. However, the person I am now is still recognizable. The interests of the past are, surprisingly enough, the very same. The only difference, in some regards, is the level of sophistication. Some things are more sophisticated, like my writing, and the things I read. (For the most part.) Other things... aren't. My understanding of the Japanese language is not nearly what it was before. My understanding in certain subjects has diminished so much that I'm surprised by what I knew. I realize how many memories I've lost. How many events I simply don't remember. I remember the feel of certain events, the feel of certain times. And this time I live in... isn't good. I mean, it isn't terrible, and there are great things about it, and I have a major now that I really like, and I cannot wait to push forward and enter the careers of my choice.

However... there are many things about myself that I have to change. Certain habits I need to break, and new habits I have to make in their stead. I know I have the capability. When I'm really committed to something, I can do it, whatever it is. I merely need to become committed. I have the capability right in my hands, so there is, in fact, literally no reason for me to avoid it.

I'm not necessarily a better person than I was. I want to be, though. I want to be the best person I ever was, and do all those things I want and need to do. I'd happily change many things, knowing what I do now. I'd change so many actions of mine... but I can't, I'm where I am now, and, luckily, I'm in a good position to do all I need.

I'll always be distant, I'll always feel a little separate from the people around me. That part will never change. I'll never have more than a few friends at any one time (save the people at Ornery, of course!) and I don't believe I'll ever truly adjust to people. I'm too used to solitude. I wasn't acclimated to other people when I was young, and I still don't know how to deal with them, in some ways. On the surface, sure. But deeper down, it's still hard, and to be honest, unpleasant.

I'll still have my many flaws, in other words. But I can mitigate them, because my strengths are such that I can overcome them, I can circumvent them, even if they'll never disappear.

There are things from the old days I yearn for. But they'll never come back again. And there are people I wish I could see again, who I will never see. That past doesn't exist anymore, and I can't go back there. But the future still exists, and everything to be told, I think there might be more worth to walk forward, perhaps even run. Heck, running might be better. I'll live longer.

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Colin JM0397
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Most people, even the miserable ones, are comfortably miserable. It takes a lot of work and dedication, and most would rather not put forth the effort.

It seems to me the first step is coming to terms with the fact that what you want/need to change is your fault. Many would rather blame it on others; until you internalize and take ownership for the traits you want to change, then it will be superficial - like with Winkey's husband's initial attempts.

Of course people can and do change. However, it is a rare person who choses to change and then follows through.

My fiancée and I talk about this often b/c we've both made some tough choices and changes in our lives, so watch those around us trying (in vain usually it seems) to change...

My official saying these days if you want/need someone else to change is “hope/pray for them to make it, but ALWAYS trust someone to be who they have already shown themselves to be.” You'll get burned much less if you go off history versus hope.

[ December 24, 2008, 10:28 AM: Message edited by: Colin JM0397 ]

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Colin JM0397
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Afterthought - while a person has to take ownership of their own sh!t to begin change, often times you also have to shed yourself of past relationships in order to properly follow through on the change. The "loved ones" are often the worst enemies when you try to change because your positive improvement shines light on their misery. Some folks would rather tear you down than admit their own sh!t.

I suspect RL22 is experiencing some of this. The best you can do is claim your ground and demand others respect it. If they can't/won't, then you have no obligation to leave your safe place and dwell with them in their miserable place - even if we're talking about family... especially if we're talking about family.

[ December 24, 2008, 10:35 AM: Message edited by: Colin JM0397 ]

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scifibum
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This thread has some interesting examples of various meta-narratives about human nature.

Who was it that said we humans are always just telling each other stories, and we always believe in our stories until we hear a better story? That we never really understand anything except by narrating it.

Oh, right, that was all kinds of people. Including OSC. [Wink]

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rightleft22
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I care very much for my family, they are all unique and caring yet, yet, during my last few visits I find myself suppressing an inner anger. I want to blame them for not seeing me but how can they see me when I’m not showing myself. Why is it so hard to acknowledge and or ask for what it is we need?

I think sometimes I’m close to real change, that if I was just able to turn at the next corner I might find, I might not be so afraid of… being or wanting?

Whenever I’ve tried to change in the past I have always held back a little and that little seems to always be enough to bring be back. Sometimes its my ties to family and community that bring me back.

Maybe I’m not defining change correctly. When I think of personal change I envision myself as someone other. becoming other is not possible but what would that look like - wise, know what to say and when, considerate, strong, able to ask for what I need and giving to others what they need - knowing what that is…. To change requires that you know and allow yourself to know what it is what you need and then the courage to “ask” for it (ask yourself or others)? Why does that seem so hard?


Re-reading what I and others wrote in this thread I get a glimpse of something… To change we have to ask.. But then one more task, we have to be able to receive.?

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Mr Xin Ku
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The challenge is in the motivation for change. There is a reason for all behavior, so even if there is a legitimate need to change a certain set of behaviors, that need for change is competing against whatever "need" the problem behavior is achieving.

For example, if someone is really controlling it is most often harmful to those around them, but when they back off from being so controlling their fears come to the surface, fears that "being controlling" had been holding at bay. (They may fear that they won't be safe, that things that feel very important to them won't happen, that other's will think they're a bad person, a bad spouse, a bad parent, etc.).

Being stuck in problems is a lot like being stuck in the snow in your car. You feel exhausted by your efforts to get unstuck, and it may feel hopeless, but often when you get the right kind of nudge you can finally get yourself free.

Personalities (our basic, consistent traits) seem most often to not change, though. When a person's personality is creating a lot of grief for us, it seems to us like they need to change their entire personality, be the opposite of who they are. It turns out, though, that usually once people simply learn to moderate themselves that's good enough. The very traits that were unbearable before surprisingly become their strengths.

Among emotional/mental health problems, Personality Disorders are their own category. They can be discouraging to work with, so many therapists really hate it. I've observed some people with personality disorders change, though, and while difficult it is a fascinating, painful, hopeful and long process they go through.

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