But I’m putting this in Not-The-Archers because I do genuinely believe that people can help how they feel, if they’re willing to put some effort into it. I’ve had two major personality changes that I remember, one of which was definitely driven by a conscious decision on my part that this would be a better sort of person to be. And of course most new parents undergo a near-total personality rewrite. Is it really so unusual to do it deliberately – or as one might put it, to try to avoid dwelling on the things that make one unhappy? Or do people like to pretend it doesn’t happen and they were “really” like that all along?
Saying “it’s not my fault, it’s the way I am” means that one is saved an awful lot of trouble: thinking about ways not to be a self one doesn’t like much is hard work, and actually doing it is harder.
Possibly the silliest example of the "“he can’t help how he feels” way of thinking and excusing was heard by me in a newsagent, two women discussing the day’s headlines concerning the sentencing of a man who came out of jail after abusing his own children, shacked up with a single mother, and brutalised her child until it died. One woman said to the other, “Of course, the poor man couldn’t really help it: he is a sadist, after all.”
In answer to your question, I would say that seeing/comprehending that one is imperfect and it won’t do is probably quite rare, and making a conscious decision to do something about it and then doing so is even rarer.
…although to be fair, that’s mainly the effects of sleep-deprivation
I think it is possible to consciously change one’s outlook on some things which in turn is likely to modify behaviour, whicle CBT is based on the believe that it is possible to modify the way in which one reacts. But au fond, no, I don’t think one can change ‘how one feels’, only how one acts.
I don’t know. Take for instance a long-lasting and debilitating physical condition: when it is first diagnosed, feeling rage and fear and so on is a normal reaction, but really doesn’t help and in fact may make everything worse, so with conscious effort one stops railing against it in one’s mind and strives for acceptance. It is never going away, one will never be able to do again things which only a year ago were effortless… So one learns to feel less bad about that, and find things one can still do. Otherwise one would either go mad or become a complete and utter bore who never talked about anything else.
Ian COULD help the way he feels but first someone would need to sit him down & tell him how he acts, describe examples and why that isn’t acceptable.
He then has the option of discussing the details, working out why he does this and then trying to control his moods and actions … or punching the person, or at best flounce off in a great big huff.
I know where my money would go.