If you are talking about the fundamental personality of a person then the answer is no. Yes, behavior can be changed to a certain extent….but fundamental personality? A guava tree can grow better guavas but not bring forth mangoes! It sounds hopeless but let me explain the psychology underlying it.
In psychology the big five personality traits used to describe humans are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
1. Openness : openness to experience: whether the person is inventive and curious or consistent and cautious.
2. Conscientiousness : efficient and organized or easy going and careless.
3. Extraversion : outgoing and energetic or solitary and reserved.
4. Agreeableness : friendly and compassionate or cold and unkind.
5. Neuroticism : sensitive and nervous or secure and confident.
All of us fall under these traits in varying degrees. The more on the far right or far left of the spectrum the more difficult to change. And we fall there amidst the spectrum based on factors such as DNA, Birth order, cultural and gender differences effect our personality a lot.
For example : women on an average are more sensitive. The first born are more rigid, the last born are more malleable and the middle one are prone to insecurity and more negative qualities associated with it like jealousy, hatred.
Though DNA is nearly impossible to alter there is always a hope if not scope to alter the effects of birth order, cultural and gender differences! There is another important factor that is necessary to see if a person can change or not:
Age : The older a person is the more difficult it is to change him/her or to change themselves. You can teach a child the value of goodness but try teaching an adult…it is very difficult to unlearn what has been learned. And the very fact that the persona has learned to be a pain in the ass that itself means it is somewhere ingrained in the genes…we all know how criminal behavior has been proved to be carried by genes and scientists are working on all behavior patterns …it’s just a matter of time before we are proved what we are, are what we are!
But till then we can dream for the better and there is hope……
Now ask this : Do you know someone who has been a real pain? Is still a real pain in your life? Someone who you can’t hold on but neither you can rid of? family? Friends? Boss? How you tried to change them? You have spent half your life trying to do this? You have tried every trick in the book from punishment to rewards…from love and affection to anger? You have tried but to no avail? And yes it drained you as well as the other party? These questions apply to yourself too.
What did you understand?
1. In order to change, the person must be willing to change– there has to be motivation….but not for somebody else, they must be willing to change for themselves. Which if were applicable you wouldn’t have wasted half your life into it in the first place! But like they say there is always hope.
2. For number 1 to work there has to be solid agreeable reasons to change. What is the incentive? Is it everlasting? If I change for a job or a holiday or when meeting in-laws the change won’t last. We all know about plastic smiles! Let me give a practical example : Children are sent to schools because their parents know it is a lifelong guarantee of a fair and decent living…that’s change …long lasting change. Doing something without incentive: how many of us study a particular subject say philosophy or astronomy just for the knowledge and not to make a living? very few. But if I change to be a better person that will long lasting and will ensure me love and acceptance I will try to change. For example : Religion within society work like this to curb crime….which also means if there is as much as a fluctuation in the love and acceptance I will go back to the unchanged state.
3. Once the reasons are understood they have to be acted upon. Actions and behavior has to be changed. Changing actions and behavior : it is possible but has been proved to be short living. Of course we do hope a lot in this life…..we hope for the moon that doesn’t mean we will get it! so as to say if the incentive let it be long term or short term even as much fluctuates the person will go back to his fundamental nature. I will give you an example: You have a friend/ sister who is jealous in nature. You see her being jealous of everyone but you. Ask yourself this : is it because you are behind her in life and living? she might look sharing caring as long as you are behind her in life and living but as soon as you try to get ahead of her the jealousy will come to the fore.
4. Have realistic expectations. Change is the most resisted thing in this world. Well, there have been many cases where people have changed drastically after a tragic event. Yes, that is possible. People do overcorrect when thrown into drastic events. But how many of us can wish something like that on someone or on ourselves? And by the way happy events rarely change anyone. a smiley will last only that long!
So, my question is : are you just changing behavior which is for a short duration or can you change the fundamental make up of a person? You kiss a frog and it turns into human? That don’t happen. Finding a guru? A motivational seminar? Short duration change will be there but after sometime it will fizzle out.
Change takes time and dedication and the ability to change…the more rigid the person the more difficult the change.
Well, there is a saying constant hammering changes gold into ornaments….but then gold has an inherent capacity to be worthy. You might argue that even diamonds, emeralds and rubies are made into ornaments? Well they are not stones…they are precious stones!
And then let me say this: it is easy to change oneself because the desire is from inside, the will is one’s own and so is the capability and the time one will spend on oneself but if you are trying to change someone else …god bless you.