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Personality isn't permanent

ygolo

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A little bit before I left the forum the last time, I had similar sentiments to what the author expresses with authority here.

Personality Isn't Permanent Summary- Four Minute Books

He actually has sections about how to go about dealing with your traumas, stories, unconscious impulses, and inputs from your environment that make up what you think of as personality.

Perhaps this is controversial for a forum like this. But I also know a lot of people essentially come to similar conclusions after spending enough time studying these various personality systems.

So what do you think? Are you open to the idea that personality isn't permanent?
 

Doctor Anaximander

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I’ve long thought it’s more fluid and complex than can be easily pegged down by systems like MBTI or socionics
 

Totenkindly

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Basically people talk about it as if it were stable -- either because they either see it as rooted (this argument has been going on for centuries), or because even if it's fluid, how do you discuss something that is fluid with any sense? Unless you can track and predict the kinds of changes that could occur (so as to define those as well), you lose the ability to define it and thus the point of discussing it.

Personally I don't feel like my personality has "changed". I have had periods in my life where I stretched and pulled and tugged at who I was, to modify myself and improve myself, but once I run out of energy, my personality collapses back towards a particular norm. I have met people in life whose personalities are much more like me, and I have met those with personalities not really like me, in general. And any long term relationships I've had, the people involved still have recognizable personalities even after life changes and the passage of time. My mom is a good example; she still fits super-well under ISFJ generalizations, even after being stretched and expanding over the years to accommodate new ideas. She still has these same basic core principles and approaches. The details change; the core is more recognizable.

I do not view personality as rigid and locked into very specific parameters, but I think there's a general personality style and preference that tends to retain itself. This does mean that even people who share a general "core" style can still look pretty different depending on the particulars of their experience and their current life situation and who they surround themselves by, etc. We all have "preferences." Even our pets have preferences.



EDIT:

I just skimmed over the link. Eh. Seriously? I feel like it's rather a straw man.

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES
  • You can categorize personality into “types.”
  • Your personality is ingrained and unchangeable.
  • What happened to you in the past determines your personality.
  • You have to discover your personality.
  • Your personality test results describe who you really are.

These are very vague and broad statements that, even as someone who sees general personality styles as existing, I would have trouble with these statements. Like, these are the kinds of statements that are abusive of type and lead people in the wrong directions.

And then I see this:

Every action you perform has a purpose. Another word for purpose is goal.

And whether you consciously think of them or not, your goals determine your identity.

Andre Norman’s experience of getting into Harvard after 14 years in prison is the perfect example of this. Once his decisions in his teenage years got him locked up, all Andre wanted was to climb the prison hierarchy by killing.

But after what he calls a revelation from God, he questioned his goals, upgraded them to be healthy, and changed his personality.

Again, a big WHOOPS on the author's part.

I was very much faith-oriented for the first few decades of my life, and even with shared goals and principles among other believers, we still all retained our unique personalities and identities. Goals are not personality. Goals are conscious decisions about what to pursue. Personality are the tools and traits we use to reach those goals. Sometimes the goals are dependent a bit on our personality -- like, maybe we won't have as a goal to be in charge of a large organization if we are not interested in directing people to start with and making decisions regularly is agonizing. It doesn't mean you don't improve what you can do over the course of life, if there is a need to; but some things are exhausting. I have to make decisions daily in my role as a team lead, but it took me a long time to reach that point of being able to do it (i had to shift my expectations and practice the skills as well), and it still can drain my energy if I have to operate too long in a vacuum.

Also, in my large knowledge of the Bible, I see all of the Bible figures as having distinct personality traits even though they were all supposedly sharing a goal of "following Jesus and/or YHWH". Goals are not personality. Moses and David and Elijah and Ruth were all very different people, this is obvious.

So this guy above changed his goals away from "killing people." That's great. I bet he still goes about not killing people similarly to how he went about killing people; that would be his personality style.

Sooo.... naw. I don't agree with this link. Frankly, it scans as a guy trying to package and sell motivation to readers -- he wants to make a living by convincing them they can do anything and change their lives as they desire. Not a bad message, but first he has to kill all limitations on a person's goals (so let's kill style differences) and he also sees it as an "in" because everyone is very excited to take silly personality tests online nowadays. It's the back door via which he can get inside their heads and sell his ideas. He's just another idea peddler trying to build his business/brand.
 

Vendrah

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A little bit before I left the forum the last time, I had similar sentiments to what the author expresses with authority here.

Personality Isn't Permanent Summary- Four Minute Books

He actually has sections about how to go about dealing with your traumas, stories, unconscious impulses, and inputs from your environment that make up what you think of as personality.

Perhaps this is controversial for a forum like this. But I also know a lot of people essentially come to similar conclusions after spending enough time studying these various personality systems.

So what do you think? Are you open to the idea that personality isn't permanent?

I already had this discussion earlier with [MENTION=40271]mancino[/MENTION] and [MENTION=39780]noname3788[/MENTION] .

My own "final" opinion is that it is imminent that we have a "core" personality part and a more "fluid" personality part. No test ever truly gets the core without the fluid on it.

This could be a matter of faith, although; Because some believe everything can change. But Im short in time for a long post, so I will point my points in a quickly way:
- If you go by scientific standpoint, I should point out that some genetic, likely the majority of it (I don't know much of the area, just the basics), is "fixed", even though some parts can be more or less active. It would be a quantum leap to admit that no gene can influence personality (or vice versa on a more spiritual route), so there should be at least some basic components that doesn't change.
- In the spiritual standpoint, how you expected to be identified after you die if everything can change? Any belief can fit anything but this doesn't fit most beliefs.

Now, the short case against the tests: The test-retest rate of MBTI type is too low (that is only 60-70% on a month, but it is 80 and some removing people who are from borderline, I think) to do such claim that the MBTI type can't change, and they have decades of history trying to make that up. They even have forced choice versions, systems that punctuate in order to try to remove you from the middle, etc... (I could link these but it would be a lot work to find the links again). Big 5 is a little bit different to evaluate, since its more trait-related than type per se, but follows somewhat similar lines with MBTI, it may (or not) be slightly better.

There is also this thing that came from INFJ forum which I reposted on my member blog, which is types and ages:
https://www.typologycentral.com/for...ies-stats-studies-possibly-2.html#post3201382

Hostarius (the guy from there) claims that it was taken from a page from paid MBTI, on a section area, and that is for the US only.
I did tried to look earlier studies and from US and general type distribution. They change the test form each time so it is impossible to do straight claims, but it seems that the US is getting a little bit intuitive each decade, on a rate like 0.5-1% per decade (yeah, this low), but there is nothing thaat really justifies that change.
I also had knew later that Perceivers very likely live less than Judgers due to lack of cautiousness - that is true for high and low Conscientiousness, and it should apply to J/P as well, so that justifies at least in part Judging increasing with time, but it does not entirely.

There is also the question of differentiation. People at their teenages, at least it was for me, are more able to be themselves than their adult counterparts - probably, Im not sure of that, but I get that impression. Just taking a very superficial phrase because I am short on time, adults joins the "SJ world" (it is not exactly that and it is more complicated than that but such things should exist, but it depends on which SJ you are talking about) and are forced to comply with things and forced to act out of character - that could justify the changes on the earlier ages. But, anyway, this and the test-retest shows that MBTI doesn't write concepts and definitions of personality that are permanent. So, MBTI does change, but that doesn't mean that everything on our personalities can change, and by that the post above me got good points (Im referring to post 3, [MENTION=7]Totenkindly[/MENTION], in case somebody had posted after).
 

Peter Deadpan

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It appears to me that people in general, even those in personality communities, have a poor understanding of what personality actually is. It is erroneously equated to things such as anecdotal examples of behavior. And while of course it is safe to conclude that many of our behaviors are influenced by our personality, fundamentally, it is more about the how and the why behind the what.

I am intensely opposed to the theory that your Enneagram type is caused by your childhood. I firmly believe we are all born with our types, or that they are formed nearly immediately (I think the former is far more likely). Your upbringing does not determine your psyche, rather your psyche determines how you interpret your upbringing. When you reflect back and say "this happened to me, and that is when I started to do/feel/think this" (specifically in relation to ennea-type), what you are actually saying is "I am inherently wired to interpret that experience as affecting me in this way because that is how I filter information about my experiences due to what my inborn type is".

People also have extremely poor understanding of the instincts, which are by definition instinctual. Being so primitive and essential to survival, they certainly do not change, in general or across fixes in your Tritype (if you subscribe to Tritype theory). It is simply illogical to say "I have a primitive instinctual survival drive for getting my self-preservation needs met first, but only in my heart... in my head, I need my social needs met first to feel safe". That's not how it works... like at all. That's essentially entirely opposite of what the instinctual theory actually means.

Cognitive functions are a bit more fluid (and the Enneagram in general is also somewhat fluid, but especially dynamic, with wings and lines of connection and such). I still firmly believe that it's best to observe functions in pairs, and to sort of assess both frequency of use of a pair, how natural/easy it is to use a pair, but also what pairs do you feel responsible for, regardless of skill.

That last point is where people get tripped up frequently, I think. For many reasons, such as trauma, we may not be raised in environments that encourage our natural development, and so we may develop insecurities, neuroses, and defense mechanisms. We may for example begin to use our extroverted functions in our heads, but develop social anxiety and feel less skilled in actually extroverting them to others.

There is a lot to discuss here, but I think the "program" is pretty solid and inborn, but that there are an infinite number of variables which can shape the external presentation of that program. You also have multiple programs running at once (functions, Enneagram, instincts, nurture effects/trauma effects, biological influences/disease, fuck... maybe even your zodiac).

I think it's incredibly dynamic, and that's why people get frustrated with difficulty in categorizing the complexities of human personality into neat little boxes with clear labels.
 

Anantashesha

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I agree 100% with what @Peter Deadpan posted above, and have expressed similarly myself about the Enneagram, but with less detail, and not all in one place such as this.

I also have thoughts about this, but will explain it through a typological lens as a shorthand and reference point, despite OP not bringing up typology.

One of the arguments I personally have against Enneagram being inborn is that if childhoods form your Enneatype, that implies that it would be possible to raise people into certain types (I'll leave you to crack that yourself, but TLDR; extremely unlikely). Even individuals with siblings close in age can see that they would interpret the same reality differently and form different opinions and mechanisms of dealing with it that each feel somehow is the 'right answer'. Personally, that showed me early on that people seem to inherently value, process, and are energised by different things. The outward behaviour one adapts may change according to the situation, the circumstances, but the core seems to remain the same- the reasons can be traced to a core outlook of the world and what one wants out of it, or for themselves.

I think the bit about people misinterpreting anecdotal behaviours as personality is spot-on. There are folks who, once explained how an individual behaves differently depending on the time, circumstance, situation, answers, "Then what's the point of understanding the system?"- they are trying to understand behavioural patterns and trying to determine consistency within those patterns- which isn't even what typology is about- then handwaving typology in entirely as baseless and unreliable once they see that there is no consistency to be found (person who is bullied is quiet, but with love they flourish and are extroverted, say). "See! It's about how you view the situation! Thinking you are a sad person is harmful!"- No, you're interpreting in the wrong place / had the wrong understanding of what personality means when explained in a typological system, and have mistakenly assumed that those behavioural patterns are supposed to more consistent than they really are. 'Thinking you are a sad person' is a part of basing your personality off of superficial / external behaviour patterns, which again, is not what typology (or personality) is about, though they are related.

I sometimes think of it as the difference between a person when they're rich and poor. When they are in abundance of resources, they can easily partake in many things without breaking a sweat- they have more of a luxury and freedom to try things out, even if they would abandon it within two weeks. They can afford to focus on the aspects of themselves they would normally ignore. When they are poor, their choices are constrained- and they would adapt a different behavioural pattern to adapt to the situation. The person's core personality doesn't change, and when choices are constrained in that way, the individual's preferences will show more clearly in how they choose to prioritise things, and how they prioritise things (or not at all, even)- and they may even begin doing things they wouldn't have had a preference for. The bulk of the core motivations / natural cognitive processes of the person is hidden behind a cluster of skills and adapted behaviours the individual has to resort to for survival, which gets mistaken as someone's whole 'core personality'.

In other words, I do think there is some internal (and inborn) consistency despite how an individual may choose to act on them at any given moment, and that at least some aspects of this 'core personality' is consistent, but malleable in presentation.


EDIT: apparently the link in OP links to an article that cites typology. Even better, since what I have written refutes the ideas in the article regardless.
 

Totenkindly

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A friend of mine who is a psychologist says personality is usually permanent, but trauma and significant life events can sometimes cause a personality change.

Trauma definitely can break things and thus also change our behaviors and our approach.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell what the changes are, if trauma happens when very young -- we can see what someone is like now but not like what they were like before, if there were differences.
 

Abcdenfp

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Basically people talk about it as if it were stable -- either because they either see it as rooted (this argument has been going on for centuries), or because even if it's fluid, how do you discuss something that is fluid with any sense? Unless you can track and predict the kinds of changes that could occur (so as to define those as well), you lose the ability to define it and thus the point of discussing it.

Personally I don't feel like my personality has "changed". I have had periods in my life where I stretched and pulled and tugged at who I was, to modify myself and improve myself, but once I run out of energy, my personality collapses back towards a particular norm. I have met people in life whose personalities are much more like me, and I have met those with personalities not really like me, in general. And any long term relationships I've had, the people involved still have recognizable personalities even after life changes and the passage of time. My mom is a good example; she still fits super-well under ISFJ generalizations, even after being stretched and expanding over the years to accommodate new ideas. She still has these same basic core principles and approaches. The details change; the core is more recognizable.

I do not view personality as rigid and locked into very specific parameters, but I think there's a general personality style and preference that tends to retain itself. This does mean that even people who share a general "core" style can still look pretty different depending on the particulars of their experience and their current life situation and who they surround themselves by, etc. We all have "preferences." Even our pets have preferences.



EDIT:

I just skimmed over the link. Eh. Seriously? I feel like it's rather a straw man.

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES
  • You can categorize personality into “types.”
  • Your personality is ingrained and unchangeable.
  • What happened to you in the past determines your personality.
  • You have to discover your personality.
  • Your personality test results describe who you really are.

These are very vague and broad statements that, even as someone who sees general personality styles as existing, I would have trouble with these statements. Like, these are the kinds of statements that are abusive of type and lead people in the wrong directions.

And then I see this:



Again, a big WHOOPS on the author's part.

I was very much faith-oriented for the first few decades of my life, and even with shared goals and principles among other believers, we still all retained our unique personalities and identities. Goals are not personality. Goals are conscious decisions about what to pursue. Personality are the tools and traits we use to reach those goals. Sometimes the goals are dependent a bit on our personality -- like, maybe we won't have as a goal to be in charge of a large organization if we are not interested in directing people to start with and making decisions regularly is agonizing. It doesn't mean you don't improve what you can do over the course of life, if there is a need to; but some things are exhausting. I have to make decisions daily in my role as a team lead, but it took me a long time to reach that point of being able to do it (i had to shift my expectations and practice the skills as well), and it still can drain my energy if I have to operate too long in a vacuum.

Also, in my large knowledge of the Bible, I see all of the Bible figures as having distinct personality traits even though they were all supposedly sharing a goal of "following Jesus and/or YHWH". Goals are not personality. Moses and David and Elijah and Ruth were all very different people, this is obvious.

So this guy above changed his goals away from "killing people." That's great. I bet he still goes about not killing people similarly to how he went about killing people; that would be his personality style.

Sooo.... naw. I don't agree with this link. Frankly, it scans as a guy trying to package and sell motivation to readers -- he wants to make a living by convincing them they can do anything and change their lives as they desire. Not a bad message, but first he has to kill all limitations on a person's goals (so let's kill style differences) and he also sees it as an "in" because everyone is very excited to take silly personality tests online nowadays. It's the back door via which he can get inside their heads and sell his ideas. He's just another idea peddler trying to build his business/brand.

I do think that people adapt and change and that goals can drive people to pull on different strengths within themselves based on the strength of their desire to achieve their goals. I also think there are states of being that drain us and also revive us.

I think adapting/ growing changing is a beautiful part of being human. We are the only species that are cognizant of our adaptations because of environmental factors and having the abilities to morph when necessary.

I also believe that there is something within each of us that makes us uniquely ourselves regardless of personality. Personality a barometer showing us strength weaknesses and areas that can be built on because we all have the same make up. Environment shapes some of this (as we all know) but the core/spark of who we are can be altered by only ourselves.
 

Abcdenfp

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Trauma definitely can break things and thus also change our behaviors and our approach.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell what the changes are, if trauma happens when very young -- we can see what someone is like now but not like what they were like before, if there were differences.

I have had numerous conversations on the effects of trauma on the personality recently and I truly believe that it can cause behavioral changes that mimic personality changes. But if trauma is addressed we can see the person attempt to come to center which is a calmer state of being. its almost like it puts the personality in overdrive.
 

Cor Luctis

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As with many things, it comes down to what is meant by "personality". We all know people who undergo a major shift in how they approach life and how they come across to others, whether because of trauma, unexpected revelations, religious experience, or whatever else. If that is one's measure, then sure - "personality" will change. That's basically saying that people change and grow vs. staying stagnant or ossifying. It also equates personality to one's observable manner or behavior, which anyone even moderately conversant with personality categorizing systems knows is unreliable. [MENTION=31348]Peter Deadpan[/MENTION] elaborated on this already.

As [MENTION=7]Totenkindly[/MENTION] observes, the argument presented in the linked article is little more than a strawman. It basically says that irresponsible use of typology systems is, well, irresponsible and likely to do more harm than good. No kidding. We all know that type categories take at best a broad brush to grouping people, certainly no worse than using gender, culture, or other factors. They describe something accurate but not complete; useful but not definitive.

As for whether personality is an inherent, consistent feature of an individual, we are back to what we mean by it. The two main systems discussed on this forum - MBTI and enneagram - focus on how we think and process information (cognitive functions), and our core motivations and internal responses to life. The first especially seems tied to how our brains are wired, which is inherent and unlikely to change. More on that later. The same wiring results in our handedness, sexual orientation, and other externally observable aspects of who we are. Yes, we can train ourselves to write with other hand when needed, but I suspect the inherent preference never goes away.

This gets to the heart of where the linked article goes wrong. It equates consistency of personality with somehow being locked in to certain modes of behavior, unable to grow or to choose our own path in life, partly because it sees personality in those external indicators. As others have mentioned, this is hardly the case. Personality influences how and why we do things more than what we actually do. Put another way: anyone can exhibit any behavior, work in any field, pursue any hobby, etc. Just as most people can easily use both hands despite a clear hand preference, we can use all the functions, overriding our preference when needed or desired. We will also be balancing multiple motivations. That is why typing by behavior is so unreliable. We must dig into the motives and methods to separate one type from another.

There is evidence linking extraversion and introversion to specific aspects of brain physiology. Similar connections have been made with key elements of the Big Five conscientiousness factor. I would not be at all surprised if other typological factors turn out to have physiological basis as well. As with any other theory, typology systems can and should be revised as we learn more about the neurological underpinnings of why people think, feel, observe, and react as they do.

A fundamental change in personality, then, would seem to require change on a neurological level. This can result from traumatic brain injury/illness. This happened to a friend, who noted distinct differences before and after. Certain behaviors have also been shown to influence brain function, e.g. a regular practice of meditation. It is also worth noting that MBTI at least is meant to describe healthy individuals, and cannot account for pathologies.

Bottom line: personality is generally constant, but is hardly limiting as it says more about how and why we do things than what we do.
 
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I think that book is trying to sell us something. Personality profiles don't usually change, it determines what one is more likely to do and what one is more capable of. Introverts are going to be tired out from pretending to be an extrovert, even if it is their goal to become more extroverted. That much is not going to change regardless of how one sets their goals.

Goals don't make a personality, and neither does self-help. Personality types don't necessarily limit self-betterment via goals, either. It depends on what scope this self-betterment entails, but in general, it is better to work with what one is already strong in than do something that they're ill-equipped to do. In short, it's not even a very good self-help book that takes into account the psychological needs of its customers.

Personality traits can change even depending on time and situation, but there usually is an underlying psychological profile that makes these changes possible and even the reactions to it probable. Someone low on openness to experience on the big 5 scale is less likely to react positively to a new experience that they don't necessarily like, whereas someone high on this scale may be more likely to take things in stride or even view it positively.

MBTI might not be the best predictor of actions, but the Big Five is a better predictor. The role of MBTI is to serve to help to understand these psychological profiles. Self-improvement can be pursued without necessarily discarding personality types.
 

Bacopa

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It's mostly permanent. But until you reach 30, don't be so sure. Especially men take a long time to develop.
 

mancino

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My 2 cents:

We have to agree on what "personality" actually means. If it means, for example, if you have a long/short dopaminergic pathways, that is for sure inborn and permanent, thus some components of E/I are inborn and permanent. This has been demonstrated by science.

However, if "personality" is the way you cope with the world, the way your life shapes who you are and who you are shape your life, the "core" or "essence" of your being, then I believe it is very malleable and changeable. It just does change over long periods of time and respond more to wide swings in the environment (e.g. trauma with PTSD). This is also demonstrated by science: going with the same example, with PTSD your amigdala grows, hence more anxiety response in the Limbic System and a different hormonal behavior. A simpler example: mood changes over the course of the year due to sunlight exposition. Just relocate to some place northwards and you'll see the effect it has on your behavior. Make it last and it will give you a permanent change.

So, I agree there are permanent components, but, to go with a poor metaphor that's been widely used, it's like having the operating system fixed at birth or during the first year or so. You still have a wide variation according to which programs/apps you install, to the point that a Mac OS and Windows can sort of do/be the same, while to Windows PCs can look and behave widely different.

I would choose the perspective that you find more healthy for living a good life, which is: you can change. Actually, you will change, whether you like it or not. Your 5yo, 10yo, 15yo, 20yo, 30yo, 45yo, 60yo and 80yo selves all share some commonalities, but differ so much that probably the best characterization to differentiate your 5yo self and your 80yo self is their age, not that they're both INTP or whatever.

Two side notes from different perspectives:

Buddhism can be distilled to the belief that you can change yourself by changing your behavior, and actually lays down a full program about how to do it in order to "cease suffering".

Novel writer Margaret Atwood has a great quote about this: "People are what happens to them"
 
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