This Blog Is About

This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shape Changers

Personal identity and the wish to effect change in another

 Each person is unique and therein lies the joy of learning about someone new, in gaining a deeper understanding of someone familiar, of discovering the propensities of a developing child.  Each of us is a different combination of traits and talents.  Most adults take pride in the qualities they view as being distinct.  Sometimes you hear people making statements describing their own particular qualities---the things they see as making them who they are:  "I am a party girl."  "Bad luck follows me around." "I am a good worker." "My mother said I smiled more than any of her other kids."  "I am a picky eater." It seems like most of us enjoy and appreciate that we have our own unique identity.

And, yet, we often make tremendous effort to change another, to alter their identity.
Today I heard a lot of lamenting about others:  'If only he/she would change, I/we would be happy/our problems would be solved.'  As distressing as it is to focus on the troubling characteristics of someone close to us, it usually seems much, much harder to self-evaluate.

It seems to come more naturally to most people to notice the faults of others and to readily determine how another could improve.  In addition to complaining and evaluating others, it is quite common to blame relationship problems on the other.

So, despite the fact that we each find our own distinct persona to be of essential importance, we seem to believe that others could  readily conform to our ideas of how much better it would be if they would change.  It's a kind of blind spot.

The fact is, it is very difficult to change another person without their buy-in.  There are a few things worth a try, such as being an example of a person with the quality you are wishing to see in the other.
Sometimes one person can be a good influence on another. Or, if the problem is interpersonal, you can try changing your part of the pattern---logically, the pattern cannot continue in the same way if part of it is altered.  These are fairly subtle ways of trying to effect change.  A more direct method would be to tell the other how their behavior or habit or characteristic affects you personally.  Also, occasionally you can negotiate an agreement for a behavior change when interacting with you; if you get an agreement, you have accomplished a degree of change.

But, for the most part, you cannot, no matter how much you may wish it, change another by force of will.  Even therapists---and I call myself a change artist---can't change a patient who isn't looking to transform or is, at least, receptive to suggestions for doing things differently or thinking in a new way.

Back to The Man in the Mirror (see earlier post).

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