Social Question

lopezpor's avatar

Can people change?

Asked by lopezpor (241points) June 11th, 2010

Are people inherently the way they are and are they going to stay that way forever? Or can people change? Can people change the way they think? And if so… how hard is that?

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78 Answers

Randy's avatar

I believe so. It’s all about evolution. People change to fit their surroundings and sometimes they just change their mind about something. I’ve changed many times over the years. Some things I used to be interested in no longer interest me and vice versa. I think through out a persons life, they change many times.

Now, if you want someone to change, good luck because that’s not likely to happen.

lopezpor's avatar

@Randy I would argue that if I wanted to, I could make someone change… but recognizing how hard and troublesome it can be, I would rather leave people alone… Let them change on their own… However, if someone has an attitude that is self-destructive, I think we can try and make that person change… without forcing them… following the: “kindness effects more than severity” attitude… In short, I believe that people can make others change… by influencing them… the other party does not even have to find out…

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Oh sure,but it’s always more fun to make them change to your specifications! That’s why people get married!lol

CMaz's avatar

Superficially yes. You liked blue now you like red. You were a blond but now like to be a brunet. Life lessons might “change” some forms of outward behavior. Stick your hand in fire and you probably wont do it again. Some people never learn.

The core disposition will never change. Just controlled at the most.

Self control is not change.

lopezpor's avatar

Well, I would argue that through self-control you can change… that is why you control yourself: to change…. Through self-control you can even change the way you think… and that is a change at the core like no other… The thing is I am with Locke: Tabula Rasa… we are a blank slate… and we learn and change from our surroundings, there is no true core…

CMaz's avatar

No, you control yourself because character traits that you have need to be managed.

What we don’t know about you. We don’t know, and you are not telling. So from the outside looking in we call it change.

Cruiser's avatar

No, just the physical shell changes and the things you do will change as you age but IMO the mind is hard wired to think the same for the long haul.

BoBo1946's avatar

When you are through changing, you are through. ~Bruce Barton

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I don’t think the basic, core person changes much in adulthood. We can superficially adapt to survive in our present circumstances. I’ve spent a lifetime honing my skills at mimicking “normal” social behavior, but my basic attitudes toward the world are unchanged. I just know when to keep my mouth shut (usually).

marinelife's avatar

I know that I have changed over the years. Also, my husband has changed quite a bit. I think people can change if they work at it hard enough.

Silhouette's avatar

Yes, I think they can. I know I’ve changed on a molecular level from the person I was 30 or so years ago. Especially the way I think. I was handed a way of thinking at birth, it was my parents way, over the years I’ve slowly eliminated those thoughts and views that were not mine and changed from the person they told me I was into the person I wanted to be.

I’m still changing the way I think, every experience has the potential to change and I embrace those changes. I know who I am and what I think today and I know there is every possibility I won’t recognize myself tomorrow. I keep an open mind and with an open mind comes the possibility of change.

bolwerk's avatar

Yes, people do change or at least can. How they change might be up for some debate. Traumatic experiences change people for sure, often changing their personalities.

CMaz's avatar

Look at it this way. A Chameleon can change color. Does that cause it to become something else?

No,only perceived that way by the creature it is trying to hide from.

lopezpor's avatar

@ChazMaz The thing is… I don’t think that metaphor quite gets at what we are talking about… When someone changes their personality, their attitudes, their beliefs, the way they speak… that is a complete change altogether… like a shedding a shell and building a new one… There is no core whose decorations we are changing… there is actually a change in “core…”

Nullo's avatar

People can change. My grandfather used to be a somewhat abusive alcoholic, and now he’s not. My other grandfather used to be in the Klan, and quit several decades ago on the grounds of differing principles.

JLeslie's avatar

People can change. If we are willing to self analyze and put ourselves into the other persons shoes we can change.

as @bolwerk pointed out the change can be for the worse, or I don’t know if it is worse, but people can become more guarded or even have different tempers after a bad experience.

Also, I have seen people change in a negative light when they have spent a lot of time being criticized and controlled by someone. They become withdrawn, nervous, lose confidence.

I remember once on a fluther Q a jelly spoke of having been married for 20 years and her husband was an asshole basically, and then one day he read a book which described what he was doing in the marriage, and it was like an epiphany. All of a sudden he understood, and changed. It had been several years since that first eye opening moment and things were still great,

I think the person really needs to understand to change, understand why they need to. Otherwise, they can’t really fake it consistently.

CMaz's avatar

@lopezpor – I mean this with all due respect… :-)

“there is actually a change in “core…””
You are kidding yourself.
Unless your memory gets disturbed or lost through some form of amnesia.

MissA's avatar

I know that I’ve changed. I now fluther.

CMaz's avatar

No, the person who you are and have been discovered Fluther. Adding to who you are.

Which is a good thing. :-)

PacificToast's avatar

I know from experience that people change. What would be the fun in living if we were static characters?

ruk_d's avatar

I believe that if you condition yourself to change a certain trait then you can you change. But its a process. Like cussing when you argue. Instead of cussing use real words. Like sitting up straight instead of slouching. Things like that i think can change in a person.

lopezpor's avatar

@ChazMaz I like your way of thinking :) But I will stick to Locke… :)

partyparty's avatar

Well my SO changed… his religion… for me!!

Your_Majesty's avatar

I don’t believe in personality changes(even if it really happens). I believe we,as different individual from one to another already have our own ‘nature’. We just have to accept each other they way we are,not to change it despite it might be wrong for certain people. We certainly don’t need to fulfill what our society expect us to become but we can use our freedom to develop every aspects in ourselves in our own way.

lopezpor's avatar

Personality changes do occur… Take Phineas Gage… and war veterans…
and the existence of “nature” is much contested…

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I am example of profound change. I am a recovered alcoholic. I drank uncontrollably for 18 years, and then one morning I woke to realize that I was quickly dying. It took that knowledge to begin the change. It took the 12 Steps to complete the change.

I am not the same person I was before. As a practicing alcoholic I lived in fear. In recovery, my inner self is peaceful at its core.

I changed unarguably when I developed mental illness at the age of 38. Again, I was faced with a life-threatening dilemma. Today, I live by taking daily medication without which I would not be able to function on even basic levels. Before the events leading up to the mental illness diagnosis, I worked for a company in the Fortune Top 10. Today, I am not able to work.

Yes, people change. It’s my experience that profound change requires life-threatening circumstances.

BoBo1946's avatar

i change everyday! for the good, hopefully!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Nullo differing principles, ha! nice way of putting ‘I didn’t want to be a racist prick any longer’

lopezpor's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir that was no very nice…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@lopezpor what do you mean? you have any other definitions for Klan members?

antimatter's avatar

Yes we can, I gained ten killos, I stoped drinking and smoking. I don’t hate the world anymore. We change with time.

YARNLADY's avatar

Of course people change. My own example, when I was young, I didn’t like cheese, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, pineapple, or any sort of alcohol. Now I like all those things.

I was raised in a very religious family and I tried very hard to understand and accept what the other members of my family took very seriously. Now I don’t.

I used to be very ambitious and wanted to really get ahead in life, now I don’t.

stardust's avatar

Absolutely. Anybody and everybody has the ability to change. We experience, learn, grow and so change. It’s wonderful.

Nullo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I’ve heard people say that back in its early days, the Klan was more like the Rotary Club before it was taken over by a racist faction.

CMaz's avatar

And they served doughnuts and coffee.

Nullo's avatar

@ChazMaz Every Thursday night, during bingo.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I have seen people change during my years on this planet, but it was always because of one of three things:

* Severe psychological trauma. This was usually not for the best, as with PTSD among soldiers and survivors of catastrophies.

* By dint of almost hurculean effort, as with smokers who are able to quit cold turkey. This almost always requires that they pick up another habit to substitute for smoking, such as eating. In my case, I substituted running for smoking.

* Due to some sort of spiritual epiphany, as when someone who has never known love comes to the realization that they are loved by God, or the universe, etc.

I don’t claim that those are the ONLY ways people can change, but they are the only ways I have seen people change.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

People can and do change. I have changed so much as a person over time that I find I can no longer talk to people I used to be good friends with years ago, because we no longer have anything in common.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Yes, people can change.
I am not the same person I was as a student, for example. I am not the same person I was ten years ago. But I’ve made it a point to continue to challenge myself and to be honest about what I need to work on personally.
However, not everyone changes. The degree of change varies according to the amount of self-individuation and self-examination a person is willing to undergo.

I know someone from childhood who, though living her life as a successful banker is still playing the same sort of childish manipulative, “tag, you’re it”, “don’t play with Susie because I’m upset with her” sort of games. She never ventured far from home and never has attempted to even try to figure out who she is and what demons she may need to have exorcised. It’s always “the other guy’s fault”.

So, yes, people can change, but they need to recognize that they need to change and not everyone is willing to be honest enough with themselves to see that. It takes them out of their comfort zone.

Change is for the courageous.

ratboy's avatar

Of course—have you never heard of, say, werewolves?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Nullo I’m going to try to research on this

lillycoyote's avatar

Yes, of course people can change. People learn, adjust, have experiences that profoundly or not so profoundly alter their world view or perception of themselves. There are certain things that people cannot change, for one reason or another, but people can and do change, and sometimes it’s by learning to work with their weaknesses rather than _against- them. Where people get into trouble, I think, is when they think they can change someone else or thinking that someone else might be or should be willing to change for them.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Nullo Does have a point. The so-called “second wave” of the Ku Klux Klan in the 20s and 30s was structured as a fraternal social organization, but retained its racist roots. In many places in the Deep South, membership was almost de riguer for anyone with political ambitions. The lynchings and burnings were the same, however, as the “first wave” that was founded by Nathan Bedford Forrest as a guerrilla/vigilante opposition to Federal occupation of the defeated South in the late 1860s.Your grandfathers recollection of the KKK as a social organization is partially correct.

Sorry for going off-topic.

zophu's avatar

If a person remains aware and reactive down to the core of their psychology, they can change fundamentally. It’s people who have numbed their core that don’t change unless they’re “awakened” or unless they’re broken. It’s sad that so many people have to turn to deadening their minds in order to deal with their fucked up environments. I think the idea is to keep things as open, (aware and reactive,) as possible until it is necessary to solidify certain parts of your psychology, either out of maturity or out of defense. The problems are in the children and teenagers who are forced to solidify their underdeveloped minds in order to protect themselves from abuse. So, I guess the older you get, the harder it is to “change.”

perspicacious's avatar

People grow; that sometimes equates to change.

CMaz's avatar

We don’t change. We adapt.

lopezpor's avatar

@ChazMaz what is the difference between adapting and changing? very interesting point…

CMaz's avatar

Change is to become something different then you previously were. Most if any “change” is superficial, even at its extreme.

Adapting, is taking the “skills” of who you are and adjusting them to fit the situation you are currently in.

I like to fish, been doing it all my life. If I stop fishing (for the time being) and start to hunt. Does that mean I am no longer a fisherman?

lopezpor's avatar

@ChazMaz I guess as long as your skills as a fisherman remain, you are still a fisherman. But with time, these skills might wear out… and your skills as a hunter might strengthen… In the end, only by memory will you be a fisherman because now you are a hunter… I think you are saying that although what you do has changed, who you are has not? But still I cannot see how you are not different… I think you are changed… sure you adapted and adjusted your skills, but that adaptation was a process… you learn to appreciate new things, see new things, your perceptions have changed, and when you go back to the lake where you used to fish… you might get a different sensation that you used to… because you have adapted to new things you have changed…

CMaz's avatar

“because you have adapted to new things you have changed…”
No, I adapted.
Still have the original tools. Just found (hopefully) a better way of using them.

I think it is a bigger issue. We want to have the control to be something or someone else if we choose.
We change the color of our hair, we try a different breed of dog. And, we do a fantastic job of kidding ourselves. :-)

Instead of just accepting who we are and being the best we can as such.

lopezpor's avatar

but the change you mention is merely superficial… hair colors, dog breed… I am referring to a deeper kind of change… that which even changes your pattern of thought… when you change your way of thinking… that is a complete change altogether. Take the count of Montecristo after he left from jail… compare him at the beginning of the book and at the end of the book… yes he had the same name with a few superficial changes such as money and wrinkles… but his way of thinking, the way he saw the world was utterly changed… He was a new man… He was not kidding himself, he simply had new knowledge that made him change… to the core… and not just on the surface…

CMaz's avatar

“but his way of thinking”

That is the key. Something only he knows and what he is convincing you of. Not necessarily to trick you. But to have the self control to avoid certain behavior. That is never forgotten.

You say he was not kidding himself. Speculation because you want to believe that.
We all want to believe that.

“to the core”
They say by that age of 3 or 4. Your disposition is set. You are and will always be that person.

Change is a nice word. It is a practical word. But… We never throw away what is in our “attic”.
We just add to it. You want to call that change, you can. It is an enhancement, an add on to what we already have.

An alcoholic will always be an alcoholic, even if that person never drinks for the rest of their life.
Though that example is a genetic disposition.

flo's avatar

The expression “life changing experience” is about that. People do change, when they see how some people can be so selfless.

CMaz's avatar

“Life changing” is a poetic term for adjustment and/or adaption. :-)

An add on to a life experience.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@ChazMaz It seems the only distinction between adaptation and change here is how drastic the differences between old and new are. Where would you draw the line? Would a reformed drug addict have adapted enough to be considered changed? How about a mercenary who comes to hate war and becomes a pacifist activist?

flo's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I wish I could give you more than one point to that. Excellent.

CaptainHarley's avatar

It helps me to think of each aspect of our makeup as having a genetic component which gives us a range of responses. For example, the entire range of human anger might go from extreme, killing rage to total absence of anger. Our personal genetic inheritance gives us a smaller range, such as from mild irritation to anger that makes us shake with rage, but not kill.

The way we are raised can affect these ranges, so that it might have been drummed into me that any display of anger is unacceptable. We can often step outside this “learned” range depending upon what we see as the consequences.

So now what you have is an individual who gets mildly irritated at times, who keeps other more serious types of anger from showing, but can step outside his learned range and kill if need be, but doesn’t have to… the choice is his.

Thus we have three ranges where anger is concerned: the genetic range, the learned range, and the decisional range.

Apply this to all aspects of personality, and you can begin to see that the total range of human behavior is highly complex, yet most of it is still subject to indivitual decision. This is where people can choose to change.

Just a thought.

CMaz's avatar

“How about a mercenary who comes to hate war and becomes a pacifist activist?”

Still having the ability to kill within them. Just repressed.

YARNLADY's avatar

@ChazMaz Now your really splitting hairs – we all have the potential to be many things. It is the things we choose to be/do that can be changed.

CMaz's avatar

I don’t read the question that way.

It is asked in the question… “Are people inherently the way they are?”

downtide's avatar

I think some people, in some circumstances, can change in some things. But it’s probably not possible for everybody to change any personality trait at will.

Nullo's avatar

I realized one day that I am self-centered enough to made for a very lousy friend. I decided that I would stop that, and I did.

CMaz's avatar

Modifying who you are to what you are now behaving.

flo's avatar

It is people who are not yet successful in changing, or just who haven’t tried for whatever reason, who work hard at telling people who want to change, that it is not possible. They don’t want to know that others are successful where they are not, so instead of saying “I have never experienced it, and I don’t know anyone who has”, they say “it is not possible”. So, it might be better to listen to people who are successful, who know it is possible. Just watch out for people who make a ton of money from “helping” people.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’m with @ChazMaz on his first few comments. I believe people can change their behaviors in order to manage bits of their core characters that don’t get them desired results. I believe people can change perspective through experience easier than their actions. When push comes to shove then I bet on people to revert back to what they know most rather than what they desire if it’s different or requires much effort. I am ever impressed by people who can “manage” themselves for the greater good of what they want.

BoBo1946's avatar

i’ve been trying to change for 63 years! Everyday!

flo's avatar

It is better to not exclude anything as possible. There is no down side to that. But if you start out with that, that, and that as possible, but that particular thing – not possible, you will exclude anything that leads you there. It is upto you anyway, it only requires you determination.

zophu's avatar

@flo but, flo, how would we convince ourselves that people are held to binary judgment based on their immortal souls if we allowed ourselves to believe that it’s possible for them to fundamentally change?

lopezpor's avatar

@zophu if it is true that we have immortal souls (I just know that I don’t know) then the tale also goes that upon death we take nothing material with us… thoughts are material, a product of the neurotransmitters bursting through the dendrites in the neurons of your brain… purely material… If you define change as a Changing your thought patterns, then you are changing something material… like changing your hair color… which does not belong to your “immortal soul”—if we follow the definition of the immortal soul… We don´t take thoughts, then, we don´t take our material personalities…
What is, then, a fundamental change?

zophu's avatar

I was being sarcastic. People who resist the idea that people can change often subscribe to belief in omnipotent judgment. It takes a lot of energy to analyze people as complex thinking animals instead of A-B toggling souls. Makes “your side” such an easy thing to join and the “other side” absolutely dismissible. Helps people adapt in overcompetitive communities; gives easy security for yourself and being able to arbitrarily hold others in contempt rids you of all responsibility for them, even when they’re a part of your community. There are wide-spread cultures where even the parents of sick-minded children aren’t held to any responsibility. “It’s just how god made them, bless their souls.”

flo's avatar

@zophu do you think it is a good idea to joke(“I was being sarcastic”) about a serious question? I didn’t get the joke by the way, but then again it could be me

Also is it better to answer questions in such a way that even people with the least amount of education can understand it? and this seems to happen all over the place, too many people assume everyone is educated enough “Binary Judgement” is everyone expected to know what that is? The answer to the question can be found among people who never went to school, and it is more urgently needed, in general, than knowing what “binary judement” is, I think.

flo's avatar

@zophu I forgot to mention, I read and reread your answers, and I have no clue what it means so, would you put it simply?

flo's avatar

@zophu I meant “I read reread your answer” not “answers”.

zophu's avatar

@flo Wasn’t really a joke. I thought the use of the word “binary” would hint at the fact that I was being sarcastic.

People often believe that people can’t change because it makes it easier to justify condemnation of the people that they don’t like, and reverent praise of the people who they do like. If people can change, that means they should never be completely condemned or revered except when there is no other choice. It’s the other choices that put too much stress on these over-judgmental people’s perception of themselves and their communities. They depend upon the belief that judgment is simple, because they depend upon their simple perceptions.

YARNLADY's avatar

I think the people who are the most adamant that people don’t or can’t change are usually saying that to justify their own behavior – “I’m just being myself” is a great excuse for bad behavior.

flo's avatar

@zophu I meant the word binary didn’t give me a hint that it was sarcasm, because I couldn’t understand any of it. Just like some people are very bad at math… So, thank you for putting it simpler.

So, imagine if it was a lifelong criminal, who is trying to change, or someone who is planning to do a school shooting or something, who posted that question. As opposed to someone who just wants an intellectual exercise. She just wants a simple answer. Would she get discouraged by her inability to understand it or not? Maybe if you can assume that, give the simply put answer in the first paragraph, and then continue with the rest?
@YARNLADY I agree, it is a widespread thing.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

Only if they know they need to, and only if they want to.

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