Can We Change Our Personality?
The Holy Grail of personal transformation is learning of the deepest and most powerful sort. The kind of learning that reaches into your soul and touches every part of your being. So that when we ask “Can We Change our Personality?” the definitive answer would be a big, confident “Yes”.
And I don’t use the term Holy Grail lightly because, in the legend, it was supposed to be the Cup of Salvation. Imagine how much of a better place would the world be, if we all could change at will, by a flicker of the finger.
How do you answer the question “Can we change our personality?” … If you believe it is impossible, then you will never try and never find out, which will only reinforce your confidence in your inability to change. If you think the deep change is possible, then the there are infinite possibilities awaiting you.
Ancient Text: “Personal Change is Undeniable”
Our thoughts, perceptions, experiences in life have a profound effect on who we become. They lead and steer our destiny and promote our development … Or downfall. This is something we have known for thousands of years. In one of the holiest books passed down through history, a quote of wisdom gives us hope for the possibility of change.
“Watch your thoughts; they become your words…
Watch your words; they become your actions…
Watch your actions; they become your habits…
Watch your habits; they become your character…
Watch your character, for it will become your destiny.”
If you wondered how can we change our personality for the better, this is a very straightforward guideline. I can sum it up in one word, self-awareness.
Every thought, utterance, behavior, and experience may become habits … A part of our pattern of being. And being after part of our psychological constitution for a long while, we make them part of our identity. So, that when somebody is criticising some little thing you did, you take it personally.
How I Learned The We Can Change Our Personality
I know when I first my journey of personal change, I was really bad at it. I made lots of mistakes, my studying was sloppy,
my techniques were bad, I wasn’t truthful and honest with myself, I did not pay attention to what I was doing… As a result,
I failed miserably in my early attempts to change who I am, my self-perception. Again and again, I tried and failed.
And we all know that repetition are the mother-load of all learning. So, in effect, I thought myself that deep and profound change is impossible for me. I started believing that my personality was etched in stone and that I was doomed to remain this weasel of a human being. And lots of people give up on personal change after failing repeatedly, learning a new limitation, that they can’t do it.
So, I began to doubt that I can change at a deep, personal level. I even went so far as to believe that we can’t change, after a certain age. Normally, this is the point where a sane person would quit, and throw in the towel.
But my stubbornness was stronger than my despair. Or maybe it was inertia that kept me going in the same direction. Regardless, I kept studying and working the that I could. And looking back, I was indeed becoming better, although my disbelief in the possibility of change made me blind to my progress.
I stumbled across a realization that gave me an ultimate solution to the problem “Can we change our Personality?”.
What is Personality?
The psychoanalysts considered the human mind to be a collection of subpersonalities, that arise under different circumstances and conditions. When you are hungry, you are a different person than when you are satiated. When you are hurt, rejected, or betrayed, a different personality inhabits your mind, compared to when you are fulfilled and satisfied with life.
Each sub-personality comes up, with its specific emotions, motivations, and behavior, making you a totally different person. So, you are not streamlined … As we will see, external conditions, hunger, certain chemicals they all change how you behave, and also who you are.
But first, a formal definition of sub-personality/personality (I will use these terms interchangeably): Personality is the set of all psychological, emotional, and behavioral parameters that make up your pattern of being, in a certain context. According to Raymond B. Cattell:
That which permits a prediction of what a person will do in a given situation.
My statement is that our personality changes based on the condition we are placed under. “Who we are” varies from one situation to the next.
Imagine have a polite and friendly conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, and you are really kicking it off. How would that change, if the two of you were in the middle of a famine, with the last scrape of food on the table? Would you still be open and relaxed, or would you be fighting to the death?
External Conditions Affect Our Personality
A statistical report showed that judges would give 35% harsher punishments before lunch, and become more forgiving after eating. Hunger changes people. It changes your patterns of being, thinking, and feeling. It changes your personality in a way. During the famine in Ukraine, in the 1930s, people would cannibalize their kin. That is proof enough that outside conditions change your personality?
How about fear? Social pressure? Fame, power? How do they grip and pull, shifting who you are?
Take a devout Catholic, make him famous, and shower him with temptations of the flesh. Maybe you would get a totally different person. A lot of pop stars can’t handle fame, and it warps their life, so they turn to drugs.
Speaking of which, why do you think most addicts do fine in rehab, but once they get back home, they get back on drugs? As it turns out, that environment was filled with reminders of old habits, buddies that keep popping by and entice them to “go out and party”. Drug addicts do well in new environments, but if you put them back in the old place, they return to their old self.
We know that you behave differently when under pressure. Anxiety and stress cause activity in the fear center of the brain, the amygdala. And in effect, the amygdala shuts down other portions of your brains, severely limiting your verbal, cognitive and emotional capabilities and freedom.
When you are on stage in front of a thousand people, you stutter and can’t tell the same joke you told your friend. Your way of being, your personality changes under pressure. That is why with social or psychological pressure you can make people do things they normally would not.
So, can we change our personality? Definitely, just change the conditions you are under. Try abstaining from food, become famous, or put yourself in the limelight, and see how that change you for the time being.
Can Experiences of Life Change Us?
Do the experiences we have in life affect who we become? The documentation is crystal clear on this: People change as a result of what they learn and experience in life. And as usual, I will show a few examples.
Going in a war zone, seeing the horrors done by human hand, and having your life under threat can leave you with PTSD if you don’t have a strong sense of who you are. The same with bullying, being mugged, or even some less harsh experiences like being betrayed by someone you love.
Extreme experiences leave a lasting and profound change in your personality. Someone suffering from PTSD may become unrecognizable.
Positive lessons in life can also change us deeply. Surviving a life-threatening situation and near-death experience make lots of people find new meaning in life. The same effect can be felt when you become a parent, and hold your child for the first time.
You can even change people’s beliefs by having them read and attend lectures. Here is a classic experiment from the social sciences: You have two groups and test their political alliance. Then, have the first group write an essay on why “Individual businesses are good for society”. Two weeks later you retest their political views and find that they have shifted to the right. So, what you are invited to think can change your perception of reality, and by extension, your personality.
And let’s give a final argument for the transforming effect of personal experience. Can we change our personality through the experiences that we have? About 95% of your sense of self, was formed in the early developmental period of early childhood, in the first five years of life. In this precious stage, your self-image began to take shape based on the way your parents interacted with your, how they expressed love or deprived you of it.
The first experiences are the most powerful ones in our development. We know that children who feel loved and experience warmth and attention grow up confident, self-reliant and independent. On the other hand, those who are ignored, unattended, punished as children tend to grow up weaker, more dependent and disoriented.
And if that proves anything, is that personal experience can affect our personality, in a very powerful way. That effect is not restricted only to childhood.
Can We Change Our Personality With Self-Help?
In various ways, I proved that experience has a powerful effect in determining who we are. So, the next question would be how can we use that? How can we change our personality by actively manipulating our experiences, and sculpting them into new things, with new learnings?
We know that certain bad events can lead to PTSD, but since PTSD is curable, through therapy and psychological intervention.
Basically, your memory is a subjective interpretation of things that happened, of what you saw, heard, and felt. And you give it weight in meaning, in a way that it is relevant to your sense of self, in the world.
But there are many ways different people interpret the same thing. For example, usually when we get beaten as children, what we learn is that we are fragile and weak. That is why physical abuse is bad, it places people in the victim-hood frame of being.
But I remember one of my friends told me how their dad, used to beat them with the belt, and they were just standing there with a stern look and pressed lips, confidently telling themselves “I am so much stronger than this drunken loser. I’m not gonna spill a single tear for this bastard.” And to this day, my friend is one of the most strong-minded people I know.
In conclusion, regardless what has happened in the past, we can go back in our mind, in the past events, shine a new light on them, and give new meaning. In a way that makes us confident and strong, instead of weak. We can make our interpretations of subjective experience work to bolster our inner strengths and make us more confident, instead of weakening us. Just like my friend did. We can take something that makes us feel like pitiful victims, and re-interpret it in a new light, into a testament to our strength.
Re-modeling personal experience is the most effective way of changing your personality, all the way to the deepest level of who you are. It is a process that has worked countless times in therapy sessions, to make people happier, more independent and assertive. And it will work for you too.
How Can we Change our Personality with NLP?
My preferred way is Neuro-Linguistic Programming because it provides methods and techniques of working directly with one’s subjective world. And that is what makes it so effective.
NLP started from interventions that had the fastest and most lasting positive change in people’s lives, and then its developer built upon that the intuitive model of NLP.
So, can we change our personality with NLP? Yes, if we are willing to learn it properly, do the techniques, be honest with ourselves, and invest mental energy in the process.
NLP is a way of enforcing lasting change through direct work with internal, subjective experience. Since your personality changes as you experience life, why not make a few extra moves, to make sure it changes in a way that works for you.
The power of change comes from one fact: our experience of what happened is opened for new interpretations. Ones that work for us, not against us. And that is called learning.
Each and every one of us has a deep need to find meaning. And there is nothing more meaningful than to improve who you are, that is why we are thirsty for change.
Can we change our personality? Yes, I believe I made a strong case for it. But if you still have doubts, as I did, that only means your attempts at change are unsuccessful.
The matter of fact is the life will put you in situations that push you to the limits, so why not make use of your natural affinity to adapt, and to transform into the person you admire? It is an undeniable truth that you will evolve and change as you move through life. Why not do it in a way that suits you?
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