Can people change or is personality set?
A recent study found that personality can change more than we once thought. It was believed that once personality develops it is generally set and only able to change slightly over a significant period of time. A new study finds, that with therapy or counseling, with a professional, personality is able to change more rapidly and significantly than we once believed.
This study looked at over 200 published research papers. These papers all assessed personality traits as an outcome of different kinds of therapy or counseling. This review was published in the Journal psychological bulletin on January 5 and offers powerful suggestions that personality is not a static as we once expected.
This research does not mean that we are rapidly able to change personality characteristics. In fact who we are does not tend to change in therapy but we are able to influence our reactions and awareness to our own thoughts and feelings as well as input from others. When working with couples, Dr. Davenport has frequently seen a spouse wanting to change the other tomorrow or in coming weeks. Unfortunately, this is not likely realistic. However, focusing on one aspect of who we are and looking at it for many facets does have opportunity change over time which this research supports. With many human behaviors slow and steady change is more easily maintained than those shifts that come rapidly.
There is evidence that people can change later in life which suggests that enduring personality traits may be able to be changed deliberately. This is in contrast to previous research on “big five” personality traits neuroticism, agreeableness, extroversion, and contentiousness which were indicated to be predictive of life success. Although these characteristics are likely adaptive they may not illustrate the entire picture. There is some research that indicates an increase in emotional stability and contentiousness during young adulthood and midlife. In addition, openness to new experience tends to increase during teenage years declining in old age. This suggests that although some characteristics may tend to pervade throughout life there is also a continual shift as we become more open to new experience and potential change.
In summary, a new study supports that we’re able to make significant change in aspects of our personality with continued therapy or counseling with a trained professional. Please contact Charles R Davenport PsyD LLC if you would like to discuss the counseling or therapy services this practice can offer you or a loved one.