People always wonder, or so I seems.
Is it nurture or nature?
In other words,
how did we get to get the way we are?
It is the result of external factors
Where we grew up?
Who raised us?
What has happened to us in life?
The things we were taught?
Just dumb luck? Or bad luck?
Or are there things about us that just are?
Many would suggest that if we are primarily shaped by external factors,
we have a great opportunity to change. We can learn things! Go to therapy!
Pick different friends. We can make choices that will not only change our life trajectory but change how we function.
With this framework (advocated by Freud) I might be shaped, profoundly, at an early age, by someone like a mother or father.
My parents were great. But dad was pretty rigid and had very high expectations.
And he was not particularly good at nurture.
So I got told a lot about my deficits.
This potentially shaped my self-perception, making me a person who always needs to prove himself. Can this perception, and the drivenness that emerges from it be changed?
In theory, yes. As I come to understand that those are dysfunctional thoughts, and where those thoughts come from, I can reframe, and move away from that place.
If we are born with certain tendencies,
to be introverted or extroverted for example, then perhaps change is not as easy.
Meyers-Briggs assumes (based on Jung) that there are certain traits hardwired in.
I am an INFP almost an ENFP,
According to that framework that is what I will always be. Always.
I might compensate and manage my traits,
Learn to be more extroverted for example,
But it won’t change who I am, fundamentally.
I suspect it is a little of both.
And in fact, no matter which theory one buys into
Change is not easy.
I would say I have changed.
But there are always ways in which I have not changed.
I was so anxious in grade school I took antiacids
I am still anxious.
I tried super hard to impress people when young
I still feel the need to impress people
I am impulsive, and no number of tools related to
control seem to make much of a difference.
Open up a bag of chips, I will eat the whole bag!
Put anything I like in front of me and I am fundamentally unable to resist.
Throw in a side helping of impulsivity,
and I have always struggled to not eat or drink to excess
and to not do really stupid things.
Has that stuff changed?
Not so much.
I will probably always be socially awkward (not at surface relationships, but at deep relationships. I will always try to impress people. I will always be trying to prove myself.
I will always do things I regret and sabotage myself.
Makes it hard to be a good partner
And a good parent.
I won’t say I haven’t changed.
I have a little more understanding, and with more understanding more control.
But still my nature, my innate traits jump and bite me, all the time.
But now for the wild card
I do believe there is something in everything
In the earth, the animals, fish, birds, trees
That is a creative, even loving reality
Religions have tried to capture this concept, and have mostly done a pretty poor job
But I do believe that if we can go inside, to our true self
Not our small self, but our true self,
The self that participates in everything,
That this power, this presence, this something
Has the potential to change, to heal
And this is why we do see people change.
Become different, and new.
It still takes work
And often the world around the person
And even the people around the person make it harder.
People find it hard to accept change in others.
A person may leave some old destructive stuff behind,
But it is difficult for those who were hurt by that person, are close to that person,
to believe in the change.
And if they act as if the person can’t change, they may in fact push that person
Back into old patterns.
So it is all very complex.
My answer to “can people change?”
Yes, and No
But I have spent my life, as both a minister and therapist
Believing primarily in the “yes”