When we state “A leopard doesn’t change its’ spots” what we usually mean is that we don’t believe that people can change, not in any real or significant way. The question that I am posing asks you to consider whether or not it is possible for people to change enough so as we’d notice.
The spots on a leopard do seem pretty much like a constant. But can people change? Can people change their personality and affect real change in their lives? Twenty years ago, I would have agreed that people can’t really change their personality. Today, if you ask me the question I’d answer, ‘If they want to.’
What is your personality? Is it a fixed entity? Can it change over time? Can it change if you work at it? Are you born with a personality or does it form over time? I believe you are born not with a personality, but with certain dispositions. It is these leanings that become a fully formed personality over time. I believe that the personality can adapt with the right tools and I have personal experience of this.
The reason that personality held such an interest for me was because I hated my personality. I was born screaming. No one was sure why. My parents couldn’t answer that question. They consulted grandparents, friends with children, and books on children, meagre as the information was in the 1950’s. No answers there. They took me to the doctor. He suggested rum in my milk. That made me worse. At 20 months I was sent to a psychiatrist. He gave me all manner of intellectual puzzles, told my mother I was highly intelligent, but suggested that my father was the problem. No clues there as to my personality.
These stories all form part of family myth, as did more stories of a baby so stubborn that a soon as she was able to hold a spoon, no one else was able to feed her again. The same screaming toddler demanded lamb cutlets and mashed vegetables twice a day and it had to arrive quickly or else. She was undemonstrative, cold and didn’t appear to need anyone for anything. I won’t go on. You get the picture.
These stories were constantly retold in the family as a source of amusement. I was not amused. How could anyone like such a demanding child? Surely angry people are un-loveable? My reaction was a judgement on myself so strong that it took me years to release it and to fully accept myself. I thought I had to change my personality or hide it or overcome it.
A personality is simply a combination of all the behaviour patterns that you have adopted in your life which are reflections on the life lessons you have chosen, but they are just that, patterns of behaviour. They are not the real you. You are much more than a collection of random patterns. The real you is a spiritual being and negative personality traits or patterns are only ineffective ways of getting your needs met.
If you are unhappy with certain aspects of your personality, do the unthinkable, the opposite of what we are told to do. This is one of the many ironies of life and only one of many paradoxes that you will find on the path of personal or spiritual development. Don’t try to change your personality. I wasted years trying to change my personality. The more I tried to change it, the more angry and demanding I became. Personality traits don’t need changing. They need acceptance. Truly accept your personality and it will give up the need to get your attention in order to gain acceptance. It will settle down, much like the naughty child who acts out for attention. It will no longer need changing.
The more I accepted my demandingness the less it made an appearance in my life. Funny about that.
It is very easy for someone else to tell you to accept yourself, or parts of yourself you do not particularly like. That is one of the main gripes I have with the personal development industry as a whole. If you could accept the not so great parts of your self, then you wouldn’t have a problem in the first place, would you? For me it has been quite difficult to alter strong judgements made in the past.
The concept of Acceptance lies at the heart of spiritual truth. Every spiritual tradition is based on this notion of acceptance, so it is not surprising that acceptance works in the quest for personal development. How then, was I able to arrive at this state of acceptance for myself? I was unable to achieve it intellectually. Oh, I tried. Sprouted all the spiritual truisms I could muster. Repeated affirmations until I actually thought I believed them. Consciously I did. But, unconsciously, I was only fooling myself.
I even tried hypnosis tapes for self acceptance, daily, for weeks. That made no difference to my feelings about my demandingness. I still hated it. Now, I know that what does not work for me can work for others. You might have great success with hypnosis. Unfortunately, I have been told my mind is too strong for hypnosis. That sounds good, like I’m some superior mental giant. The truth is I was t too stubborn for hypnosis. I’ve found a really good hypnotherapist now. And she can work remotely.
The only tool that made a difference to the way I felt about this demanding aspect of my personality was Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which for some reason takes you to a place of acceptance almost automatically. Sounds hard to believe I know, but true.
So, can a leopard change it’s spots? I believe that a leopard doesn’t need to change its’ spots, but those spots can more easily blend in when they have been fully accepted and integrated into the personality.