I was watching the second episode of Perception, a new series on TNT, this afternoon and the question was posed at the end of the program. "Can you actually change who you really are?" Now in the past we talked about the masks we where, and how we use them to shield and protect us from emotional hurt. These masks are what the world around us see's and perceives us to be. When we talked about them, I explored that a person doesn't actually change, they way we see them and interact with them does, as we relax and drop our masks. But the bigger question to me is can a person really change? Does the core value system of a person adapt and change over time? Two very separate questions and two different answers. But I honestly believe that change comes through our experience. But our core value system remains the same through-out our life time.
In all honesty, unless something major happens in a person's life there is very little change from the person they were in let's say high school and college. No matter what occupation, how many partners and how many times they move around. A person pretty much doesn't change. Change comes from the result of an action, accident or injury. A tragedy of some sort or trauma, that causes someone to reinvent themselves or to accommodate something. Change is driven by an outside force in almost all cases. Using myself as case in point, it took serious illness to motivate me to change my life, lifestyle, habits and of course how I looked at myself.
Not all change is for the better. Over the past twelve years I have changed a lot, grown a lot, and in some small ways matured a little. I can tell you that the first changes were not for the better, as a matter of fact they were driven by a deep abiding depression that lasted for years. Out of that depression came a self-crisis, loss of identity, direction, and ultimately a certain pattern for self-destruction, and that was to last for almost seven years. Only till more tragedy piled on top of what I was already facing, forced me to turn my gaze inside and do some really deep introspection. Change became necessary to accommodate physical limitations and damage done to my body. The specter of dying motivated me to seek answers and become more philosophical, spiritual and ultimately turn my life in a totally new direction.
Trauma, injury, illness are great motivators, they can be major or minor, but unless you experience one of them, I personally don't think that you can possibly change yourself. You aren't forced to reconcile yourself with the problems, you can avoid them, bury them and remain the same. However, when tragedy or one of the others strikes you and those you care about, change is forced upon you. You have to adapt to the new situation, you have to maybe compromise and look deep within yourself. You have to be brutally honest with yourself and those around you. You have to be looking to change and understand what motivates your wanting to change.
However, no matter how much you change aspects of your life, I believe that your core ideal stay the same. You are still going to be the loving, kind person that you were, looking to help others, like me. Or you are going to still be selfish, unfeeling, vindictive, but that might be the very aspect you want to change because your tragedy or trauma has pointed you to those exact flaws. It took me a while to understand and comprehend, a person cannot want to change and just do it. There has to be a driving force or action that has caused them to change.
A person who abuses women, hits them, looses his temper quickly and is violent. Is not going to feel remorse all of sudden for the actions that he has committed. What he does to one he will continue to do to others. Now if the same person found out that he was dying and had only a few months to live, the story might be different. He might realize that he doesn't want to be alone and fight by himself, that he needs others to support him and help him through his illness. Thus an impetus for change. Just like with a habit or an addiction, you might want to at times give up that which is holding you down, like a habit, but unless something moves you out of the situation you are in, I don't believe you yourself is going to be able to get out of the track you are in. No matter what your intentions, the habit has got you and is keeping you held in place. Even if you meet someone that cares for you and wants to help you get out of the situation you are in. Unless, you are willing to make the change and do something about it and seek help. That person is going to be powerless to help you and might even get hurt in the process of trying to help you out.
Now, lets take a person who has a serious drug habit, and develops a terminal illness because of that drug, would that person be able to change. No! they won't, they may even end up doing more because the drug helps them escape reality, avoid facing and confronting the issue of being ill. However, if the person is wanting to get off the drug, and finds out that they are terminally ill, they may be motivated to make the necessary steps to actually change. In my experience, I used to rationalize to myself that I was doing drugs to help with the pain. I used to say I was doing so I could enjoy having sex and a whole myriad of excuses. The truth was just that they were excuses and the drug was my crutch to help me keep from facing the facts that I was sick and that nothing was going to change my fate.
I will also admit that while I was on drugs, I still tried to help people, and myself, but usually I just made things worse for everyone involved. Because I didn't realize that my attempts to help were only reinforcing their need to use, just like me. I was actually enabling them. I wasn't helping them. It took a lot of prayer and wanting to change to get me out of the situations I had put myself into. I had to make major changes in both my mental outlook as well as my physical location, and I had to realize that by doing the drugs, I was helping my body to surrender to the illness, and I was actually killing myself. It also took another friend to point out to me that I was floating along listless without a sense of self or direction and that it wasn't like me.
As I am reading over this and forcing myself to look at the complexities of the situation I realize that I couldn't have changed if I hadn't realized there was a problem. I wouldn't have stopped doing what I was doing if I hadn't found out that I was going to die. So maybe the answer is when you hit the bottom and have nowhere else to turn, and you start looking at yourself and really become honest with yourself, that you can become motivated to change. Trust me it is hard and scary and most likely you are going to be on your own and alone when this happens, because everyone around you is going to be gone. You have either driven them away with your drug use or abuse, or you have isolated yourself off from everyone, or you have just fallen to the bottom and are clawing and scratching your way back up.
I believe that if you are honest and serious with yourself and you have come to your crossroad, either through tragedy, loss, trauma, or illness you can make the changes you need to escape and ultimately change everything about yourself. I also believe that the culmination of these events and things will help you re-evaluate your core value system and if properly motivated that too can change. They say an old dog can't learn new tricks, but given the right motivation, and inspiration, and lots of support and patience I believe it can. Just like I believe that each of us change and adapt to the situations we find ourselves in. Remember I keep telling over and over again that we are the sum of our experiences, tragedies, triumphs, and choices, decisions and the consequences of every action we take. If that is the case, then our person, personality and persona has to change and adapt each time. These are surface changes and they last and stay with us for awhile, but eventually we revert back to the way we were. It is only through immense emotional, physical trauma, or pain that we truly change.
Honestly, if you change for any other reason than because you had too. You are going to revert. See I had to change what I was doing, or I was going to die. I now have a fighting chance because I have made the changes. But while I was at it, I identified areas that needed improvement and work, and I set out to make those changes too. I decided that I was going for a whole person make over. I am still the loving, gentle, warm person who wants to help everyone, but I also saw how letting people walk on me and use me, manipulate me and ply me with drugs caused me to stay down. So, I decided to come clean and when I did, I found that by admitting and being honest with myself and you and everyone who knows me, that I was free. I also realized that I needed to look out for myself and take care of myself, and that if I didn't do these things no one else would.
I made a change for the better, I have readjusted my focus, and changed my perspective, and I honestly see and react to things much differently now then I did in my past. I have grown and I have matured yes. I have looked for the things that are harder to see, because I want to understand them and comprehend them. But I also changed how I think about things, I use PMA (positive mental attitude) to look at all things, and I put it on every morning. It is just a process of psyching oneself out and making a game out of finding the positive in all things.
I hope this finally makes sense to you. I know that it might be hard to follow my train of though because I jump from thought to thought and it seems like I might be contradicting myself. But I am not. I don't think a person really changes unless they are forced to by outside forces. I also believe that the core value of a person, essentially stays the same no matter how a person changes. Again, I think that outside forces and consequences can make a person totally change. So bottom line is this, no matter how much you try to change your core pulls you back to what you were. Unless you hit rock bottom, or are affected by a tragedy, trauma, or illness of some sort. When you come to the crossroad you will know and you will make the appropriate changes and adapt to the situation accordingly.
I would like to hear your thoughts and opinions about this subject. Feel free to drop me a line, post a comment, or even reach me on facebook or twitter.
As always my hopes and dreams are with you,