Can People Change?

Can People Change?


‘Can people change?’ The question may
sound somewhat abstract and disinterested, as if one were asking for a friend or for
the universe, but it is likely to be a good deal more personally – and painfully – motivated
than that. We ask, typically and acutely, when we’re
in a relationship with someone who is inflicting a great deal of pain on us: someone who is
refusing to open their hearts or can never stop lying, someone who is aggressive or detached,
someone who is harming themselves or managing to devastate us. We ask too because the one
immediately obvious response to frustration isn’t in this case open to us: we’re not
able to simply get up and go, we are too emotionally or practically invested to give up, something
roots us to the spot. And so, with the example of one troublesome human in mind, we start
to wonder outwards about human nature in general, what it might be made of and how malleable
it could turn out to be. One thing is likely already to be evident to us: even if people
can change, they certainly don’t change easily. Maybe they flare up every time we
raise an issue and accuse us of being cruel or dogmatic; maybe they break down late at
night and admit they have a problem but by morning, vehemently deny that there could
ever be anything amiss. Maybe they say yes they get it now, but then don’t ever deploy
understanding where it really matters. We can at best conclude that by the time we’ve
had to raise the question of change in our minds, someone around us has managed not to
change either very straightforwardly or very gracefully. We might ask a prior question:
is it even OK to want someone to change? The implication from those who generate trouble
for us is, most often, an indignant ‘no’. ‘Love me for who I am’ is their mantra.
But considered more imaginatively, only a perfect human would ever deny that they might
need to grow a little in order more richly to deserve the love of another. For the rest
of us, all moderately well-meaning and half-way decent requests for change should be heard
with goodwill and in certain cases acted upon with immense seriousness. Those who bristle
at the suggestion that they might need to change are – paradoxically – giving off
the clearest evidence that they may be in grave need of inner evolution. Why might change be so hard? It isn’t as
if the change-resistant person is merely unsure what is amiss, and will manage to alter course
once an issue is pointed out – as someone might if their attention were drawn to a strand
of spinach in their teeth. The refusal to change is more tenacious and willed than this.
A person’s entire character may be structured around an active aspiration not to know or
feel particular things; the possibility of insight will be aggressively warded off through
drink, compulsive work routines, or offended irritation with all those who attempt to spark
it. In other words, the unchanging person doesn’t only lack knowledge, they are vigorously
committed to not acquiring it. And they resist it because they are fleeing from something
extraordinarily painful in their past that they were originally too weak or helpless
to face – and still haven’t found the wherewithal to confront. One isn’t so much
dealing with an unchanging person as, first and foremost, with a traumatised one. Part
of the problem, when one is on the outside, is realising what one is up against. The lack
of change can seem so frustrating because one can’t apprehend why it should be so
hard. Couldn’t they simply move an inch or two in the right direction? But if we considered,
at that moment, the full scale of what this person once faced, and the conditions in which
their mind was formed (and certain of its doors bolted shut), we might be more realistic
and more compassionate. ‘Couldn’t they just…’ would not longer quite make sense.
At the same time, very importantly, we might not stick around as long as we often do. We
should at this juncture perhaps ask ourselves a question that may feel at once unfair and
rather tough: given how clear the evidence is of a lack of change in a certain person,
and hence of a lack of realistic hope that our needs are going to be met any time soon,
why are we still here? Why are we trying to open a door that can’t open and returning
to a recurring frustration and hoping for a different result? What broken part of us
can’t leave a lack of fulfilment alone? What bit of our story is being re-enacted
in a drama of continuously dashed hopes? And, if we are talking of change, might we
one day change into characters who don’t sit around waiting without end for other people
to change? Might we become better at sifting through options and allowing through only
those who can already meet the lion’s share of our needs? In addition, might we become
better at deploying a dash of life-sustaining ruthlessness in order to leave those who tirelessly
rebuff us? We may need to rebuild our minds in order – with time – to change into
people who don’t wonder for too long if, and when, people
might change.

Comments

  1. Post
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    The School of Life

    Do you think people can or should change? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to turn on notifications to ensure you don't miss our next film.

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    Days of French 'n' Swedish

    WONDER. W-uh-nder. It rhymes with thunder and blunder.
    Wander = the walk around aimlessly or without a goal, and rhymes with yonder or anaconda.

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    Kitty Dreamer

    I don't think you can change anyone else. I think you can only change yourself & if that person who you're wishing would change doesn't connect with you anymore, then find a new person.

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    Wuggerups

    Trying to fix my broken relationship i have with a girl. I've asked her so many times "if you claim to care for me, why do you never make any effort to see me?" Answer's always work, her strict parents or she compares it to how much she allegedly sees her friends. Like that changes anything. Starting to wonder why i'm still trying. Maybe it is all my insecurity, maybe i'm just obsessed and she's not. Tell me people is it normal to not make any effort to see someone more than once in 3 weeks if you love them? Maybe i'm crazy but that seems sooo low

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    Al Sayed Ali

    The animation at the end….cutting ties and letting go….Truly heartbreaking…. But maybe…just maybe…. Liberating.

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    Julika7

    The noted fact that some people are unable to change (at least enough) because of e.g. trauma and that you should ask yourself whether to stay, brings me concerns that people with e.g. trauma are left alone which makes the problems worse. That's not a healthy system isn't it?

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    Michael Stubblefield

    I love The School of Life but can't help seeing the irony of being prompted, after having watched a video about the near impossibility of getting people to change, to visit The School of Life Shop to purchase life-changing gifts. Of course I have and will buy your wonderful books and games for myself, the only person that perhaps I can change.

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    Truong Laivan

    This is really weird. A classmate of mine is often bullied in the class because he looks helpless and way tinier than those at the same age around him. I tried to make friends with him and protect him over the year. I thought that he'd talk to his parents or stay away from them and form new friends, nevertheless he did absolutely none of that. Instead he failed me over and over again: he sometimes steals my stuff just for fun, goes to other classmates' and annoy the hell out of them, shows his incompetence in any possible situation ever, from academics to trivial stuffs like cleaning the floor. So I let him go (stopped trying to help him). Now he's just texting hot girls in the school so people'd make fun of him. He's also playing with people who bullied him and everytime he'd get his notebooks teared off or cry in front of the cameras. When there's something that needs two or more people to get it done, he never gets to be offered help, except from mine.

    I can't understand any of this. Few of my friends also tried to be nice to him at first, but they got so frustrated and ended up discriminating him. I've been tolerating his actions for the longest. I met his parents and his sister. His parents aren't abusive, but I feel like there's something wrong about their way of educating their son. I also guessed his years at primary school wasn't going really well. I'm kinda scared now because what if he's turned into a psychopath, like, a dangerous one?

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    This is Not The Algorithm

    I have made substantial positive changes in my personal life over the past year via exercise, meditation and letting go of my past.

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    Mohammad Suhail

    The way of presenting and voice is very bad, it is difficult to focus on the entire video though videos are very informative in this channel.

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    ProDoucher

    People change only when they have strong will to. No one can change somebody else but himself/herself. I learned it the hard way.

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    Crom

    Everyone can change. The issue is why, when and how. Most people are bad at getting / persuading others to change. Eg nagging, complaining, leaving etc. Of course it’s everyone’s own responsibility to change, but having the “fault” in the first place means by definition you’re not aware or don’t have the tools or an obvious path to solve it. It’s then up to other people to decide if they want to be there to assist and guide. And of course to bear the cost to themselves during the time it might take. So an abusive relationship, best to get out, but if someone’s smoking or has a bad diet, it’s perfectly reasonable to stick by them, lead by example and help them through it.

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    Amber Holland

    I no sometime when a person may move away , then come back, they may act different like they don't know you, what ever it is money fame , don't forget were you came from come, because what we are blessed with come God, you best believe that, life has away of turning tables,

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    fragabellissima

    Certain notions in this video are a little mixed-up, in my opinion. Changing and evolving are 2 different concepts. Once armed with (if lucky) intelligence and life experiences people certainly evolve. If they are self-reflective enough (intelligence does not imply the talent of self-reflection automatically, by the way), they will be able to work on themselves, hence evolve. But the character change, the ultimate 180 degrees cannot and will never occur. Because we all have our character cores. We were born with those and we will die with those. Yes, we can work on ourselves and (hopefully) evolve. But our cores will always remain. The task here would be to know our flaws as good as we know our strengths and to learn to live with them and make them bearable to others in order for others to be able to live with us. That's as good as it gets. My 2 cents. The End. 😉

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    OnixTV

    The key is you have to appeal to that persons mindset. Let me explain. For example if your politically incorrect dad doesn’t love you because you’re gay, you have to explain to him that being gay is not bad, but a simple talk involving feelings isn’t gonna cut it. Something like the TV show All in the Family will. It is offensive and crude but emotional and the main character Archie Bunker always has these revelations at the end of the episode where he grows as a human being. That’s how change works.

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    Natalie 82

    Personally, I try seeing the best in someone, to the point where what I see in them isn't even there from the start. Optimism is not always the smartest route. I think my biggest mistake with people is giving too much credit. Not everyone is worth your time and energy.

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    The One Minds

    “In right knowledge the study of man must proceed on parallel lines with the study of the world, and the study of the world must run parallel with the study of man.”- Jesus

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    Jay Jay

    It’s hard to change already. Being surrounded by people who do everything they can to make it even more difficult to change through abuse makes it even harder, yet these same people still have the nerve to make you the bad guy when you don’t change. Then you start to wonder “Why is it that I’m the one expected to change by people when these same people who are cruel on a daily basis can continue to stay the same without any expectations on them?” Life is annoying and I’m venting rn

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    The One Minds

    “Objective knowledge, the idea of unity included, belongs to objective consciousness. The forms which express this knowledge when perceived by subjective consciousness are inevitably distorted and, instead of truth, they create more and more delusions. With objective consciousness it is possible to see and feel the unity of everything. But for subjective consciousness the world is split up into millions of separate and unconnected phenomena. Attempts to connect these phenomena into some sort of system in a scientific or philosophical way lead to nothing because man cannot reconstruct the idea of the whole starting from separate facts and they cannot divine the principles of the division of the whole without knowing the laws upon which this division is based.”- Tha Buddha

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    Dread

    Justifying manipulation and destroying authenticity. People change when they change, not when you tell them to. If you want to waste peoples time and make them resent you, try and change them.

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    Liz

    The willingness to be starkly introspective, while at the same time able to accept input from trusted others, are the two essential components of change. The trust part is the most difficult. How many broken people fall victim to gaslighters and controlling narcissists?

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    Manuel Zaragoza

    There seems to be disadvantage for the people that are messed up. Because of their past. Maybe the best way to avoid this disadvantage is using social engineering.

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    World 21

    you must give up in this situation and don't chase people who don't want you especialy girls and stay with your dignity even if you chase them they might change even if they do you will stay as the dog who chased them forever.

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    Marc Guima

    Nope. Definitely not. Move on or live in a perfect agony for the rest of your life.
    WALK AWAY AND GET YOUR LIFE BACK.

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    irmawati febriani

    I learned that we cannot force others to change, they and ourselves are formed from the long journey of each other's lives. good or bad. Even if we can make someone change, it's very complicated.

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    Simon the Likeable

    @ 0:28 "Open their heart" is merely a metaphor. There has never been a channel from the ring finger. Objective comedy v. subjective tragedy.

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    Dwight Hayles

    In conclusion for people to change their character it's almost impossible without their being a motive however. the essence of the person still remains the same and will always need to be controlled in my opinion.

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    kevin griffin

    Change for the better, insinuates that a person would be better if they conformed to a mental construct I think they should be following. Whenever I think you should change, I realize the only thing I should worry about changing is my own thinking. That's a job in itself and completely enough. 😃

  59. Post
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    Camila Gonzalez

    Three years ago I started going to psychotherapy, after a hard break up and the loss of my grandmother. At some point I wanted to quit it because I felt better and I didn't feel the need to be there anymore. My psychologist said: "You are free to go, but eventually you will return again".

    I missed two sessions and later I came back to therapy. I understood that it was the time to give up all my control and start leaving me in hands of a professional. I agreed to draw things, talk about deepest fears openly, do the homework, speak to my family in order to show my emotions, leave people in my life go away… In summary: to start the change.

    Now I'm in my fourth year, things have gone better and better. But now I look to the path I have completed and I don't know if everyone is ready to do something like that. Change is hard but after you do it, your life starts again 🙂

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    Hossein Sagheby

    Thank you for pointing out a very central aspect of many relationships and as always wonderful questions. My thoughts are: is it OK to help others change when they confess that though change might be helpful or necessary for them, they don't want to change? Is it OK (or ethical) to go beyond someone's will to enrich (or even save) love in a relationship?

  61. Post
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    Sir Paco Crisp

    Oh. Fuck. This hit too close to home…nail on the fucking head.

    I guess my only question now is, what's my past trauma? What damaged me? What broke me? Ok, three questions, but all related. Don't be so pedantic.

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    King Toasty

    I need to change but it feels insurmountable. My constant depression and obsession with someone in my life has made me a jaded, bitter person who lashes out at others at the loosest hint of perceived slights.

    I'm losing everyone around me and I want help so badly. I can't see myself cutting this person I've developed an unhealthy obsession over out of my life. We're best friends but seeing him happy with his significant other makes me miserable. I don't even know where to begin.

  65. Post
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    James Dunkerson

    You can only change yourself. Work on that. If you want someone else to change, it will only happen when they want to. Don't wait if they are a stumbling block to you.

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    Manuel TeNNoX

    I really like the question and part of the answer.
    But I'm missing the part where we should look into where we ourselves are resisting to change, and maybe cutting away people is just an attempt of getting away from changing ourselves…

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    SpeakUp RiseUp

    I don't think it is possible to change the base nature of individuals, people exist on a linear scale of psychopathy and that can't be altered without chemical intervention.

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    Like a Leaf in the Wind

    "What can change the nature of a man?", Planescape: Torment. 1998.

    Sorry guys, but we already nailed that pretty much two decades ago. It pays off to be a nerd, in the long run.

  71. Post
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    SCL75

    People can change.
    Paradigm shifts.

    You could also take a person with what’s considered normal behavior and throw them in isolation for year and most will have a major behavioral change. The title didn’t say good or bad changes, but if it can go one way it is possible to change for the better. Lessons learned can change someone.

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    Fruit hat

    Yes especially after getting mono from your fiancee you've been with for 7 years lots of uncomfortable question around that

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    Harmen Breedeveld

    People can change, the question is: arecthey open for it?

    My father is a cold, closed-off person. The type who will not hug, does not want to know what I thinks or go through, does not want to spend time with me and will never, ever say "I love you", even though he knows the words would mean everything to me.

    Needless to say, my relationship with him was superficial, like a tree where the roots never went deep into the ground.

    Then the storm came, of great problems in his and my life. And our relationship did not survive.

    I tried to get him to open up, to let me in. But he was like a massive wall, without a door. I spent years trying to find a way in. Sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways. I failed.

    I know he comes from a cold family. I remember his mother. She was hard. She had something bitter, lonely over her felt in the last years of her life. But I was a child, so it is hard to say exactly what was going on.

    I walked away from my father. It was the hardest decision of my life. And it took me much time to make and do this decision, it was a process.

    It was the right decision.

    Can people change? Yes. But only if they are open for it. That is my experience.

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    Joe

    How does SOL manage to adress the issues that people are going through in such a timely manner? I feel like this video was made just for me.

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    Celes Felgueiras

    I was the person waiting for people to change but when I realise that I was hopping all the time that people change for me but I didn't want to change my self for them when I was ask to, I knew something was off.
    Now, with therapy, I work in my insecurities and now I can a accept people the way they are or leave the relationship or put a distance if needed.
    thanks for this content, this videos help me so much! they make me more secure of some of my desicion or they rise awarness of the parts of me I need to work to. so thank you

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    Harukano

    Very interesting topic. By the way I recommend the show "Bojack Horseman" on Netflix that explores this exact same problem (and other interesting philosophical topics) in a very realistic (in my opinion) way.

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    JoMama123451234

    What about someone who thinks they must change everything about themselves because they arent good enough as they are? I have struggled for years with the desire to grow and improve with the act of loving and accepting yourself as you are.

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    Janelle Mottley

    Yes it's like banging your head against a brick wall. You can only do it for so long. I'm trying to change but like all things it's hard to do but I'm sticking it out because I have to. 👍 another thoughtful presentation thank you.

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    blam gam

    It's certainly not easy.
    Especially when society at large breeds and encourages destructive behavior for yourself and others.

  86. Post
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    Kyle

    Absolutely people change. My levels of anxiety have gone up and my ability to handle it has gone down. It's a negative change, but a change none the less. People change all the time, just not in the ways we want them to.
    The question is, how can we shape ourselves and others the way we want. And that is more malicious because we impose our will on others. Instead, what we need to do is listen to someone, discover their ideal self, and help to reinforce that behavior. It's called the Michaelangelo effect.

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    grimble

    People in general do not become more wise with age. It's only the occasional. It's very dissappointing to meet old friends and they have lost their humor and their sense of wonder and they have adapted to the rules marinstream culture. To be like everybody else does not mean that you are better than those who aren't.

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    Steve C

    "Doors bolted shut". Opening those doors was painful, after a lifetime of fearing them…yet I am glad to have lived through that awful pain. Facing the truth of ones fears is the only way to become fearless. I would add to your excellent advice: cut the cord of connection as you see fit…with dignity and compassion. A kind word, upon exit, may be a life preserver for one expecting nothing. Save the heavy bricks for your own new path.

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    Stupifying Stupedity

    I'm not sure if we really change or just end up finally finding our true way. We are all born mislead one way or an other, crudely (mis)shaped by the times we were small, irrational, impressionable and vulnerable. We grew up surrounded by people who didn't know better than they did. Most of them didn't really have a plan, even less an understanding of the game. We do not as much change as simply progressively cast out old illusions of others and of ourselves. What we change is our relation to those things, merely our perceptions.

    Case in point: I had social phobia for most of my life up until "I" (with a lot of luck, support, patience and effort) finally managed out of it. But "I" didn't change. It's my rapport to others that have changed. My perception of myself. My thoughts are more positive and constructive with the new freedom from fear. But my personality is the same. I'm just free to express it to others, now, rather than it being choked by anxiety. I didn't change, the anxiety was what was changing me.

    If we put it in a way that presents it more like changing something about yourself rather than Changing yourself, it would be more realistic and it would seem less like you are asked to carry your ego to the altar for some dramatic self-amputation.

    You're great. You're doing fine. Keep it up. You don't need to change; you just need to keep growing.

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    Keep Swimming

    The Universal Self is the agent of all change. It is therefore true that people can change, but false that they "change themselves".

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    Vittoria Aresta

    I've been engaged for two months so far and this video coming up in my recommended was spot on. When we first met we had noticed everything we had in common but with time passing by we started arguing because of my short temper and other traits of my personality my boyfriend and myself don't get along well. It's been 2 months I've been promising him I'll change and since I've started changing, I've already seen improvements in myself. Of course I have a different background so change isn't always easy, and things to fix are so many sometimes I forget some of them getting me and him fighting again, but I really want this cycle to stop and be happy with him.
    If you love him/her and you're completely sure he's the right person any change will always be worth it.

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    Undeviated

    Hardly. We are all conditioned by our life experiences. Telling someone to change is a huge challenge to the illusion of one's integraty. An attack on the ego. That's why we repeat the same mistake over and over and over. It's just that difficult to change.

  100. Post
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    Ōkami-sama

    my ex was expecting a different person, not me. i tried to change myself for that person, it didn't work and my ex left me.
    it's actually better for me in the long term, cuz i should have thought of my well being first, now im: exercising, finishing things i planned long ago, becoming more sociable
    it's better to change for myself as priority, not for anyone else

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