People Never Change, but Boy, Do People Change

I went back to my hometown recently for my nephew’s wedding, and I was in the company of my ten brothers and sisters. I hadn’t seen most of them in about five years, so there was a lot of catching up to do.

After the wedding, when I was back home, there were two thoughts that kept popping into my head. One was…

     “People never change.”

      The other was…

     “Boy, have we changed.”

The first thought, “People never change” kept coming to me because it seemed that all of my brothers and sisters had the same virtues and vices they had when they were little kids and we were all running around that big house together. My ISTJ sister is still entertaining or annoying us with her many opinions. My ESFJ sister is still comforting or annoying us with her motherly attentions. My ISFP brother is still charming or annoying us with his gentle spirit. You get the picture, so I won’t go through all ten of them. All I can say is that I kept feeling déjà vu. I’d been there before.

It disturbs me to realize that people don’t change, because I’m an INFJ. My greatest joy in life is trying out new ideas for personal growth. The type theory was one of those ideas, so was learning to be a good listener, to express my needs without anger, to be self-loving, attuned to the present and content with the life I have. I feel like I have gone through tremendous changes in my life, and I’m a completely different person than I was when I was a kid.

But the truth is, I was relating to my brothers and sisters in exactly the same way I did when I was a kid, playing the role of the wise counselor or the person with big ideas for improving the world. Sometimes it was welcome, other times it was not, but I was dismayed at seeing how little I had changed.

In the type community, we talk of “type development.” We make it our goal to practice the strengths of our type only when it’s appropriate and to be flexible enough to call on something else when it’s needed. I love that goal, and the pursuit of it takes us to exciting places.

Let’s not delude ourselves, however, that our personalities are like soft clay that we can stretch and shape at will. I’m beginning to realize they are more like great hunks of granite, and although we may be able to make tiny chips around the edges, 99% of it remains exactly the same.

That brings me to the second thought that kept coming into my head after being with my family, which is, “Boy, have we changed.” Yes, we all had the same virtues and vices, but there was something very different in our gathering. There was a peace, an acceptance of each other that had not been present in any of the gatherings before this.

You know the prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I think that after five or six decades of trying to change each other, we finally had the wisdom to know that none of us were ever really going to change, and the serenity to say, “So be it.” 

People talk about growing older only in terms of its bad side - the weakening body. They don’t talk about the fact that there is also a mind growing stronger, a mind that can finally accept both sides of people, and best of all, both sides of itself. 


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  1. Skip

    #1 by Skip - August 3, 2015 at 8:07 PM

    I've long been interested in what is now called 'type theory', and went back and read Jung's essays, on which it all was originally based.

    I agree that people tend to stay in type. But not everyone. Surely you can agree that people can not only further develop and differentiate their preferred traits. And by exploring their own unconscious (where their less-preferred traits carry on most of their activities), they can 'become aware' of and through those as well.

    When I first tested (Keirsey Temperament Sorter, decades ago) I came up as INTJ, with both the I and N extremely polarized, the others less so but still pronounced. These strong polarities have greatly diminished over the years... I now have lots more extroverted behaviors, though still prefer introvert. I tend to be less judgmental as well. The biggest switch though has been from T to F. I suppose myself to be way more in touch with what is called 'feeling', and I would never make a decision that set aside feeling in favor of reason.

    It would be interesting to see some research as to whether personality type persisted across various lives. (Anyone who has not realized that reincarnation is real has not been paying attention. See youtube videos by Dr. Brian Weiss. You can argue neither with his authenticity nor his exceedingly respectable credentials, and he has been studying this for years).
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