Thursday, January 10, 2008

After spending the last couple of days helping a friend through an unfortunate situation regarding someone who has a well-established reputation for being abusive, I found myself listening to the same statement I have heard time and again about this person, "______ will never change!"

Today, I find myself questioning the notion of whether people actually CAN ever change in those fundamental ways that make a difference to themselves and those around them. Will abusive people always abuse? Will liars always lie? Will control freaks continue to bully in their attempts to dominate everyone around them? Coincidentally,(and amazingly, under the circumstances) we touched on the answers to these questions in my psychology class this evening.

Behavioral theorists believe that change occurs in people because of cause and effect. A good example is the therapist who tells the sociopath that if he wants to stay out of prison he won't consider whether or not his spouse "deserved" to be hit. He will simply stop hitting her. If he wants to go to prison, he will continue to hit her.

Cause and effect.

Those who follow the tenants of Cognitive therapy will, perhaps, examine the individual's motivation. Another individual behaves as he does because his mother is a raging alcoholic. The person gossips, vilifies, lies about and has unreasonable expectations of others because the mother did the same to him and he now has all the classic characteristics of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. The cognitive therapist helps that person determine what motivates his/her client, addresses certain conflicts and can perhaps, result in there being a specific desired change consciously enacted.

People can undergo change because of experiential circumstances...perhaps they experience a heart attack because of their own gluttony and begin at that moment decide to appreciate and embrace life. Therefore, they begin to eat a healthy diet. Perhaps a man's wife leaves him and takes away his children because he refuses to stop drinking. This would be enough motivation for some to discontinue the consumption of alcohol, a big change.

Combined with experiential circumstances, there are times when interpersonal experiences such as religion come into play or perhaps an enlightenment or an "Aha!" moment pushes an individual toward change. In fact, any one or any combination of these factors can cause change in people to varying degrees and for varying lengths of time.

But at the end of the day, when you see the same things happening over and again, you have to face the fact that some people are just ass-hats, too blind to see the harm they cause others and too callous to care.

Those are the ones who will never change.

Stacy Alexander