Can a Person Really Change?

Several of us had been discussing problems that people have with their personal lives. It seemed to us that once a person reaches a certain age it is almost impossible to change his behavior.

What chances does a person have for changing his life? Or are there any chances? Maybe it’s impossible.

A man comes to be what he is at any moment or point in his individual history through a long period of time. What a man is today took a long time to form him. A decision made to change one’s behavior is a decision to a project which will take a long time. It is foolish and unrealistic to give false hope to anyone that behavioral change can be effected instantly, or without much difficulty, or within a short space of time.

Man has a tendency to look for easy and simplistic solutions to human problems. They might very well work in the area of the physical, but not in the area of emotional disturbances. A wife who has a drunkard for a husband hopes that a retreat or a talk with a priest will work the miracle. A mother or father of a high-school boy who is lazy, hostile and destructive hopes that a talk with the principal, or the priest, or a guidance counselor will solve the problem. But it cannot be solved that quickly and that easily. There’s no particular magic to exhortations, or talks, or instructions, or sermons, or “advices.” All they can bring is shame, regret, sorrow, willingness to undertake change and amends, but they cannot bring about a change, they cannot effect a change, and they cannot make a change.

One psychologist said that no amount of talking to a person will help him to change. You cannot talk a person into changing, like you can talk a person into buying some merchandise through slick sales-talk. If talk could change, then it would appear that another person could change the person seeking a more satisfying way of life. But no one can do this for a human being. Change must be his work. The condition, however, under which such work can be undertaken, is a relationship that will provide a climate and an atmosphere in which he can do so. As one expert put it : it has to be a relationship “which this person may use for his own personal growth.”

Just as pain is not the person’s real physical problem, but that which causes the pain, so also with psychological symptoms. Beneath them lies the problem. And this is true of any area of human life: in disordered drinking, in disordered gambling, in disordered eating or smoking, and even in disordered sex.

When people speak of “change” in a person’s behavior, they usually have in mind the outward conduct, external behavior. Thus, a mother desires a son’s drinking to be stopped. A wife desires a husband’s love-affair to terminate. A father desires a son’s hostile and destructive behavior to cease.

In all these instances, the more important question, however, is the question: What is it that is, causing such behavior? Real change can take place only when the source, the cause, and the fountain from which springs destructive behavior can he be cured and healed.


But the source of human behavior is deep-seated. In any individual’s life it has a long history. For this reason it defies instant change.

What would these emotional problems be? Behind the destructive and self-damaging behavior, behind the erratic conduct lie such problems as: A sense of inferiority, of failure, of self-hatred, of inadequacy, of insecurity, of blurred identity, of personal ego-anxiety, of fear and shame.

All of these have their roots in each individual’s childhood. It is this that makes a man such a mystery. He is apparently free to behave in a way he chooses, and yet so often he is paralyzed, helpless. He wills to act in one way, but he ends up doing what he resolved not to do.

All that has happened to the human being is never forgotten. It is stored. It forms layers, in the human personality. It seethes inside, like a volcano.

It is quite easy to understand why change is not a matter of one day, or one week, or a month, or even a year. When one takes on the project of change, one takes on a tremendous task, for he is wrestling with a giant.

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  • Sure, people can change, But only so much. Or at least so much in a given period of time. And often not as much as they would like to. This is why I believe in planning personal development.


  • Good, Angle Riran. – Thats right Eduard Planning personal development is the Key , to the effect the spirit and are actions

  • Good angle Ririan – thatâ??s right Edward Good Planning personal development over the long term can effect the desired changes in the spirit…

  • Baker says:

    Great article here. I really like the points you make here. I think that people can change, but it starts from within. Many people looking for change are looking outside of themselves, instead of going within. This is probably the biggest thing I’ve seen personally.

  • Tony says:

    I completely disagree that (starting) change cannot come from outside. You can put yourselves in situations that will challenge you and will change you (internally) as a result. Ive joined toastmasters, travelled alone, taken on professional challenges outside my comfort zone and a number of other things, that made me a more confident, relaxed and optimistic person. Of course i have to be at least willing not to resist change and nothing or nobody can force you if you resist it. I am working more intentionally on the inside aspect now and that has certainly also its merits. I would argue also that all change is slow. I am eliminating limiting beliefs and the results are now already visible. Every day people are taking placebos and as a result some of them heal physically or mentally that is scientific proof that change doesnt have (but can) to be slow. The best results are achieved when working on both tracks, with some internal work its necessary to distance yourself a bit taking the time and space you need. Of course if you think that (all) change is slow it will be, that is the power of belief. But if you would do a bit of research you would find enough counterexamples.

  • Tony says:

    other counter examples of quick change are: rites of passage, the lefkoe method

    You cannot change your past, but you can change the interpretation from those events in your childhood. Usually you made a generalization from an event in the past interpreting it as having some meaning about you as a person. This can be totally unconscious, but its a question of finding it and then changing the interpretation. the principle is the following: someone pulls out a gun and puts it to your head, instantly you are struck by fear, then you find out the gun is not real, maybe your fear turns into anger. Then someone jumps out and says “suprise candid camera!”, you begin to laugh. The meaning can change with the interpretation we give to events, the principle is also explained by Viktor Frankl who survived the concentration camps. Interpretation of events can be changed instantly. Lets take something simple: you had a fight with a good friend, you have feelings of anger towards him, but then you hear his parents had just died and he wasnt capable to express these feelings, your feelings of anger would probably dissolve instantly. Luckely it is possible if it where for our past we would be in deep trouble because we cannot change our past.

  • Trevor says:

    You spelt ‘Affect’ wrong through this entire article.

  • I believe there are things we can change and some we cannot. The trick is to accept yourself regardless, and then see if you can change, modify, eliminate or enhance what you can change, and find strategies, systems and people to handle things for you in areas where you cannot change or cannot be bothered to change.

  • David O'Hanlon says:

    We sometimes overthink things .If all your problems happen when your drunk or taking drugs then stop taking these things.The problem is accepting these things but a could start is to begin to cut down no matter how slowly.

  • Mahetem says:

    I like it pure and true

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