Friday, February 23, 2007

Do you think people can change?

Do you think people can change? Someone asked me that question last night. I firmly believe that people can change.

You either believe: 1) people evolve, learn, grow, and change through experiences in life or 2) people are born the way they are and they will carry it with them for life, no matter how hard hey try to change it. It's the old-age debate of nature versus nurture.

I'm a strong believer in nurture (that's part 1). Our personal experiences determine or cause individual differences in our physical or behavioral traits. Of course, nature (being innate) determines our hair/eye color and blood type. But nature does not determine our language, religion, and behavior.

To delve more into the psychological aspect of this topic, let's talk about B.F. Skinner, one of my favorite psychologists and a true behaviorist. You can say I am a behaviorist too. Behaviorism "is an approach to psychology based on the proposition that behavior can be studied and explained scientifically without recourse to internal mental states." B.F. Skinner proposed the use of behavior modification techniques to improve society and increase human happiness. He believes that all our behavior is influenced (and even determined) by the environment. I agree! So there's my little psych 101 lesson for the day.

So back to the question: Do I think people can change? Absolutely!

Some people change for the better, while others for the worse. Some choose not to change at all. But choosing not to change does not mean people can't change. It's almost as if those people who don't believe people can change do not want to change themselves. They usually are cynical and are stuck in believing they are who they are and accepting it as is.

Do you honestly believe that who you are now is who you were before you were even born? Think of the experiences you've had in your life and how they've changed your perceptions because of it. Think how innocent your first love naïve you were, until you got hurt. Did that change you for your next relationship? It might be scientifically proven that a personality trait, like being shy, might be a predisposed gene. But that doesn't mean that's who you will become. Look at twins, most of them I know have polar opposite personalities.

Moving along, all therapy is based on the premise that people can and do change. So if you really want to change a negative behavior or adjust your faulty perceptions, you really need to dig down deep (self-reflection). If you can't do it on your own, there is a form of therapy I believe in called cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts determine our feelings and our behavior. Therefore, negative thoughts can impact a person's mood, making them feel depressed. And in turn, our negative thoughts can result in the self-fulfilling prophecy. CBT helps you uncover and modify the thoughts or perceptions that are causing you psychological distress.

I talked about this before (sans psycho babble) in a previous blog regarding perceptions (dated 9/26/06).

People can change! I believe it!

Wow, I went on and on in this blog. Sorry!

Before I go, let me leave you with a quote from Andy Warhol:
"They say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself."

I love this quote. It's so true! When I was first dealing with the loss of my husband, people would throw out the cliché: "Time will heal all wounds." That's a load of crap. Time does not heal all wounds! You can have all the time in the world, but if you sit idly watching your life pass you by, nothing will have changed.

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