26 Aug 2008

Do people change?

There is a lot of debate out there about whether or not people change, or can be changed. We tend to find examples of both: people whose personality changed surprisingly for the better over time, and people we are unable to change even though we do our best and try over and over for years.
One way to resolve this controversy is to understand that people do change and they don't at the same time. How can this be? We must start by stating that our personality consists of very deep undercurrents, tendencies that we had learned at a very early stage. These deep chracter traits define whether we are self centred or altruistic, risk ready or evasive, aggressive or depressive, etc. They are essentially attitudes. They come to us mainly from our parents (or other significant people around us) as imprints from a very early age. There is a learning curve from day zero, in the shape of a slowing downward slope. We tend to learn most in the very initial days, weeks and months. We learn a bit less in the first few years, but we are still quite open. By age seven we are pretty much formed into who we are. Naturally the teen years have some impact, but by the time we reach adulthood we ha a rather well formed underlying personality. This does not consist of views of the world that we posess - this can change over time - but rather of attitude imprints from out parents.
Children concentrate on their parents. Babies sense almost nothing else of the world. Small kids are still intensly focused on their parents. They tend to copy the way their fathers and mothers behave...for the better or for the worse. Thus we have an imprinted programme inherited from our parents. All this would suggest that people do not change after they reach adulthood. This is not quite the case. People certainly have a set nomenclature of imprints from childhood.
Yet people can change. Against their imprints! They must institute a concious counterprogramme to act against their imprints. This means that the imprints will always stay with us, but we are able to counteract them on a case by case basis. In the meantime we are essentially concious about the programme and the counterprogramme at every instance...only less and less so. After a while we achieve a certain degree of leverage over our own imprints. This is when others will remark that we have changed.
The good news, of course, is that if we are able to change ourselves, we shall install a very different imprint or programme in our own kids when the time comes. Thus we can gradually get rid of negative tendencies from generation to generation, if we are concious and strong enough.

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