Psychological Self-Help

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The researchers, who believe our personality is set in concrete at
25 or 30, discount the idea of life stages or crises producing changes
in our character, as described in Table 9.1. Yet, some people's
personal traits clearly change after marriage, having a baby, getting
promoted or fired, a heart attack, a serious accident, a divorce, death
of a loved one, etc., especially if the person previously had certain
personality traits. The traits most likely to change are emotionality,
impulsivity, and irritability. I suspect we humans are capable of
changing at any time much more than we imagine or try to change.
Beware of over-simplified personality theories. Besides there being
hundreds of personality parts, many of our specific traits change from
one situation to another. We may lie and cheat only in certain
circumstances, not all the time. The introverted student, who won't
talk to his/her teachers, may be the most talkative person in his/her
peer group. The big grouch at home may be "Mr. Cool" or "Miss
Sunshine" at work. Indeed, some people put on many different "faces"
and play different social roles in many different situations, while other
personalities remain about the same wherever they are (see chapter 8
and Snyder, 1987). You probably know people who are chameleon-
like, eagerly changing themselves to meet their needs at the moment.
The degree to which we change our personality to please others is
probably another stable characteristic. Human personalities are
fascinatingly complex. 
Stages of life
Personality theories also describe the development of our personal
traits. This knowledge should help us understand the significance of
our history and the possibilities of growth in the future. 
I have summarized some developmental theories about life stages
in Table 9.1 and several references about personality development are
given at the end of this section. Obviously, a thorough understanding
of the normal process of growing up will require much more
information than I have provided. Moreover, to understand where we
went wrong, i.e. how our own personal problems arose, we need
general knowledge of normal development as well as serious probing
of our specifically unique history. Remember too, regardless of the
effort expended, that any attempt to understand ourselves has to be
tentative--an educated guess, at best. We can't be absolutely certain
of why we behaved or felt the way we did. In the later section on
Relationships Within the Family, Table 9.2 is provided. It shows some
current theoretical speculation about the possible origins of several
personality problems. Use it only as a rough guide to possible causes
and as a stepping stone to further exploration (see the autobiography
method in chapter 15). 
Table 9.1 provides an overview of personality development
throughout life. Even though certain traits are fairly stable over the
years, we all go through unavoidable stages of life. There is a time to
go to school, to go through puberty, to fall in love and have sex, to
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