Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Can a person fundamentally change personality - without brain injury?

There is a fairly strong agreement in development circles that humans; that is the part of humans that makes each one of us a unique individual, whether this "mind" is anchored firmly and exclusively in brain matter (a product only of our neural activity), or whether it that part of us many like to call our soul or spirit, is a result of nature (that which we inherit via DNA from our ancestors) and nurture; how we interact with our immediate and wider environment.

This development of self, from one's genetics and one's interactions with the outside world, would suggest that beyond a certain point (perhaps the first seven years of life?) our base personality is irreversibly formed, and from that point on, we can not change our basic view of, and therefore reaction to, the world.

A leopard can't change its spots, is how the saying goes - I believe.

Ok, so what if you REALLY want to change your basic personality.  Is that possible?  Can a person will themselves to be different.  Is it possible to wipe the slate clean and view the world differently?

There have been many documented cases of basic personality change in people who have suffered acquired brain injury.  Acquired brain injury, of course, changes some of the "nature" of the person - changing their neural pathways in some way, so that accounts for the personality change in those cases.

What about in people who have no physical changes to their brain.  Can they have profound changes to their personality?

What would it take to change?  How can past experiences and inherited traits be undone?  How can a brain that is fully developed by altered enough to produce a change in personality?  Or are people with bad personalities simply stuck with them until death provides blessed relief for everyone?

3 comments:

Spiralmumma said...

Interesting! No idea, but I don't think anyone should try. I'd consider it a recipe for disaster, and ultimately futile. Besides which, there's no such thing as a bad personality IMO. There's less desirable traits, but I believe firmly sociopaths for example are mostly made not born (though they would have some predefinited genetic traits I guess). I think for most people, there's traits we can work on changing-such as developing patience, overcoming phobias, becoming more outgoing etc but to change your entire personality is not really possible or desirable.

Sif said...

It's an interesting question, though, huh? Especially whether or not it is desirable. I think most people would say it's not desirable to try and change another person, however, if basic personality cannot be changed and some personalities are ultimately self-destructive, or other-destructive shouldn't change be attempted? If change is not possible, is there such a person as a "lost cause"? Can rehabilitation actually happen in the case of a sociopath or a pedophile etc. or are these conditions/traits always a threat?

Paul Barter said...

I came across this article doing a search for "profound fundamental personality change" I was looking for a "how" answer but I have an opinion also. I have seen the evidence of people changing their personality over the course of a few weeks or months as a result of emotional trauma. I know a woman who became suicidaly depressed as a result of drug addiction and as a result of the trauma of that time in a depressed state changed the fundamental characteristics of her personality. I also know of a man who was in a bad auto accident. there was no brain injury but he believed that he should have died in the accident and as a result changed his perspective of life and purpose almost overnight. I have done some research into neural plasticity and have come to understand that even the most strongly built neural pathways can be degraded and even stop working all together if a person stops using them long enouph. take a person who stops drinking coffee. in the beginning the desire to have coffee is very strong due to the pathway being like a highway. then over time if the person doesn't drink coffee it degrades to about a two lane road then a dirt road and eventually after a few years the pathway that used to scream COFFEE every day many times a day may only fire once a week or less. I believe change is possible but it takes a change first then time unless you want to have a near death experience or hit yourself in the head with a hammer. both of which I don't suggest.

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