The Study of the Mind: A Psychological Book Club discussion

Navigating Love: A Roadmap for Building Healthy Relationships
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Human Behavior: Is it possible to "change" a person?

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message 1: by Malik (new)

Malik Spencer (malikspencer) | 6 comments It is commonly believed that "You cannot change a person." In fact, Maya Angelou said "When a person shows you who they are believe it" . . . yet ALL couples deal with conflict at some point and conflict resolution often requires that one or both people "change." What is your opinion - Is it possible to "change" a person?

message 2: by Ash (new)

Ash | 8 comments I still struggle with this question, & to be honest, have never heard really good arguments for either side. Clients have asked me this question as well, and it's kind of hard to answer when you still don't know yourself. I would love to hear people's opinions on this.

message 3: by Malik (new)

Malik Spencer (malikspencer) | 6 comments Personally, I don't think it is possible to make a person do something they do not want to do over the long term. You can, however, be the positive encouragement a person needs to do something they don't mind doing or want to do, but are afraid to do.

message 4: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jennifercanty) | 1 comments Perhaps we could make a brief analogy to smoking. Unless a smoker wants to quit, they usually won't. Change, especially as we grow older, becomes more and more difficult as our brains become wired to follow and repeat patterns we've become accustomed to using. That is to say that repeated behaviours are more common and likely to occur than new ones. Change, in most cases, will only occur if the person has strong desire or motive to do so, or if they are exposed to a major life event. Life events tend to allow "rewiring" to occur with more ease.
In any case, change is only likely to take effect through active effort over time. (I'm vaguely paraphrasing many texts I have read on the subject over the years. )

message 5: by Malik (new)

Malik Spencer (malikspencer) | 6 comments Nicely put Jennifer! Thank you.

message 6: by Ash (new)

Ash | 8 comments Thanks Jennifer and Malik for stating your views on this topic. I have always found it to be such a controversial question between different individuals, some are convinced people can and do change, while others seem to be fond of using the "tiger can't change its' stripes" phrase as an example of people not being able to change. I must agree with Malik, Jennifer, that was very well said, or I guess actually written in this case. Also, Malik, your point about trying to at least be a positive influence reminds me of the example of planting a seed in someone, and it might take forever, but over time the seed does grow and eventually blossoms. As I stated before, I have never really been sure on my own answer to this question. I have seen people of different faiths or religious backgrounds marry and eventually one will change their faith to fit their spouses. Those may be the only examples in which I have seen a person change. But in domestic violence cases, sexual offender cases, overt infidelity even, I have yet to see an individual actually change. I have seen a few get sober and stay that way, but as Jennifer said that is a lot like smoking, the alcoholic/addict is not going to quit until she/he alone makes that decision, and I have seen people go through beyond horrible situations due to drinking/drug use, but nothing can make them quit but making the decision themselves, which unfortunately, rarely happens. It's certainly not a question with a definite yes or no answer. I'm not sure I will ever have a definitive answer to it myself.

message 7: by Malik (last edited Feb 11, 2015 05:34PM) (new)

Malik Spencer (malikspencer) | 6 comments I look at change pragmatically. At the end of the day, we have to make choices. If a relationship hinges on another person's ability to change for example, fighting for the relationship makes sense as long as I believe that change is possible. I don't stop loving a person if I am no longer able to believe - I simply live in alignment with those beliefs. -- In other words, if I "believe" that the relationship is at a dead end (because of my repeated experience with change failing to happen), I can shift from a romantic relationship to a friendship and still be a positive influence. If we part ways before resentment sets in, a romantic relationship might still be possible in the future.

message 8: by Malik (new)

Malik Spencer (malikspencer) | 6 comments The seed analogy was a good one Ash!

message 9: by Ash (new)

Ash | 8 comments Aw, thanks!

message 10: by Malik (new)

Malik Spencer (malikspencer) | 6 comments You are very welcome!

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