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People who have never experienced therapy often ask:
“Do people really change?”
People who have experienced good therapy know the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
[If you wonder about this yourself, please read: “About Change.”]

But there’s a related question that even some therapists wonder about:
“Can people change their basic personality?”

This answer is also a resounding “Yes.”
Most people don’t change their whole personality in therapy,
but some do.

This topic is about how they do it.


Most self-aware people remember times
when they said something and believed it completely,
and then, maybe even later the same day,
they said the exact opposite and believed that completely too!

When they noticed this they might have wondered if they were going crazy,
but this apparent “craziness” gives us an important clue
about how our personality works and how it can change.

Our personality consists of five different parts.
These parts often disagree with each other
– and most of the time we aren’t even aware of it.

When we “change our mind” about something,
we are changing a minor belief in one personality part.

When we change our whole personality
we are changing major beliefs
in at least four of the five parts of our personality.


We have five separate and distinctly different personality “parts.”

Some day I’ll probably tell you more about each of these parts and how they work,
but for now I’ll just use them as an example and show you how they can change.

I’m going to use a stereotypical male alcoholic as my example.
[If you are a male alcoholic, please forgive these generalities. I know every person is different.]

What He Believes BEFORE He Changes:

Nurturing Parent Taking care of himself “I shouldn’t drink. It’s so bad for me.”
Structuring Parent Protecting himself “I won’t go past the bar on the way home.”
Adult Getting the facts “Drinking feels good but it hurts me more.”
Compliant Child Getting approval “Please forgive me for drinking so much.”
Rebellious Child Fighting authority “I’ll drink when I want. Nobody can stop me.”

When the alcoholic is in his Nurturing Parent
he strongly believes he shouldn’t drink.
When he is in his Rebellious Child
he just as strongly believes he should drink.
When he’s in ANY part he is equally sure of himself!
He only knows he’s confused when he notices
the inconsistency between these different parts.

If he’s going to overcome his addiction
the alcoholic will need to become aware of his different parts
and decide how to change deep beliefs about his worth
and about the best ways to get along in the world.
His therapist and his alcohol treatment sponsor
will help him to notice the parts and the inconsistencies.

He can even change his whole personality if he needs to.
If he does, he will be making major changes
in what each part of his personality says to him
over and over and every day of his life.

What He Believes AFTER He Changes:

Nurturing Parent Taking care of himself “I care about myself regardless of drinking.”
Structuring Parent Protecting himself “I’ll even give up my buddies if I have to.”
Adult Getting the facts “Drinking feels good but it hurts me more.”
Compliant Child Getting approval “I’m OK now, and I even did my best then.”
Rebellious Child Fighting authority “I’ll rebel against the alcohol.”

The Adult part doesn’t need to change unless the facts change,
but every other part of this man’s personality is VERY different than it was.
His whole personality has changed.


Please forget about the alcoholic now.
He was just an easy example I could use.

We all have these same personality parts
and we could change our whole personality if we needed to.
If we did, our path would be the same:

  1. We’d need to admit that we are hurting ourselves and those we love the way we are.
  2. We’d need to admit that we don’t know how to stop it without making huge changes.
  3. We’d need to learn a lot about how we work while working with a good therapist.
  4. We’d need to get enough support from friends, relatives, and support groups.
    ANYONE CAN CHANGE ANYTHINGOnly a tiny number of us will ever even try to change everything.
    But we all need to know we can change anything.Many changes happen without us even being aware of them.
    Other changes happen naturally
    as we connect with others and share our love.
    Some changes happen with professional help –
    whether it’s with a therapist, a dietitian, an MD, or a tennis instructor!Expect, allow, and learn to take charge of all your changes.
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