Can People Change?

INFPBarring a serious brain injury could you wake up tomorrow, decide to change your personality and successfully go through with it?

There was a time when I thought this was possible but with every passing year I believe more and more strongly that we might be able to change our minds about specific issues – religion, politics, the most delicious combination of pizza toppings –  but no one can change his or her personality.

I have always been deeply introverted, compassionate, creative and a little shy. It would be about as easy for me to stop being an INFP as it would be to command our planet to switch to a 25-hour day.

Assuming this is true for everyone why bother to set boundaries with anyone? Because behaviours can change. Not easily, of course, and not always but if the consequences are serious enough it’s surprising to see how quickly change can occur.

Last year I very assertively set boundaries with someone who was violating my personal space. I’m generally quite laid back – sometimes to excess –  so the personality switch from, “please stop,” to “back off now!” was dramatic. Did it change who this person is as an individual? No, but our relationship has shifted as they know pushing those boundaries again will get them the opposite of what they actually want.


What do you think? Can people change? Has your personality changed over the years?


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9 Responses to Can People Change?

  1. Agreed. You can’t change who you fundamentally _are_ but you can change habits, behaviours, and how you present yourself to the World.

    According to Carl Jung’s personality theory (supported by Briggs & Myers in the MBTI) there are 8 “functional aspects” of your personality. You use the first two most of the time. You use the next two less often and more weakly but can “grow” into them. You use the other 4 most often when under stress (but again, can grow them to be more comfortable).

    Sometimes, you can (and need to) do something that seems to be totally alien to who who “are”. So you do.

    • Yes, Carl Jung had some very interesting ideas. Have you ever read about his theories on dream interpretation?

      • > Have you ever read about his theories on dream interpretation?

        I haven’t. Perhaps I should.
        Then again given my dreams (a much too high %age of “anxiety dreams”) I’m not sure I want to interpret them any further than I already do.

        • I take every theory of dream interpretation with a grain of salt. Sometimes your brain spits out weird stuff because you ate something funny the night before. 😀

          But Jung has intriguing stuff to say about how the parts of ourselves we repress in our waking lives can surface in the dream world. You might like his ideas about the anima/animus and the shadow in particular.

    • > Sometimes, you can (and need to) do something that seems to be totally alien to who who “are”. So you do.

      I need to read more about the “shadow functions”. They’re fascinating (and kind of scary). I have a book called “Was That Really Me?” that discusses these but I haven’t read it yet.

  2. My personality has not changed much over the years. For good or bad, I am who I am. Yet, I have changed. I once was a pastor and now I am an atheist. Yet…my counselor says I still have many of the “pastor” traits. I just use them in a different context.

    I have been trying for 35 years to get Polly to sleep on her side of the bed. Will she change? 🙂

  3. Ah god, don’t get me going on Myers-Briggs. Studies show that people’s classifications change over months on taking the test. So either people change or the test is inaccurate. I think both are true. We present different side of our many selves depending on settings and circumstances and times of our lives. Kind of common sense, I guess.

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