Change For Change’s Sake?

Hello everyone- how have you all been? This year has been very busy at Wanda Howell Counselling; I have embarked on yet more training (no, it never stops, if you were wondering!) and have been keeping busy with work, house moves and university at the same time. I have finally finished year 2 of my Doctorate!!! Very exciting times for me- only 2 more years left to go. I have to be honest and say that I have been a little slack with my reading lately, but I did just stumble over an article that caught my eye…

Frequently in my work, I work with young teens and their parents, from a whole range of difficulties like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-harm and more. Often the parents of these teens are very concerned; perhaps their teen has difficulties regulating their emotions, or perhaps they have difficulties with their anger. There are a lot of reasons why teens and their parents reach out for support, particularly in the private sector of counselling. Parents are finding it more and more difficult to access support in the NHS, for lots of different reasons.

The purpose of my post is not to bash the NHS or to apportion blame to anyone. Life is, I think, more difficult for teenagers now, and all of the teens I work with are simply trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in to society. It is a tricky time for them, and not matter how much support these teens do get, parents are always concerned that there is never enough. We all want the best for our children, so we all try and utilise the support we find, wherever we can.

For parents, it can be really tricky- worrying ‘what have I done wrong? My child does xxx- is it the way they were raised, or is it just their personality?’ Will it ever change, or if they are like this as a teenager, is it too late? The study was published in December 2016 and is the first of it’s kind to follow up on teenagers and their personalities, from the age of 14 to 77 (Harris et al., 2016) and the findings are good news for all worried parents out there!

The study was started in 1947, using the Scottish Mental survey, where teachers in Scottish schools rated 1,208 14 year old children on six personality characteristics. In 2012, the team of researchers traced as many of the original participants as they could, inviting them to take part in a follow up study to find out if there was a correlation between their six personality traits in 1947, and the same traits in them, as 77 year olds, in 2012- a 63 year period! You will be very happy to find out (or not!) that personality does change over time, but that some aspects of personality, such as conscientiousness and stability of moods, do not, suggesting that some of our personalities in older age may actually relate to our personalities in childhood.

So, is this good or bad? Well, I guess if, as a child, you had lovely sunny moods and were conscientious at picking up your toys when your caregivers told you too, then yes, this might be great! If you have a child, or if indeed you yourself, are the opposite, and struggle with mood and temperament, this study shows that it doesn’t have to be a difficulty for the rest of your life; we can, and we do, change. Life is different for all of us; our experiences, as well as how we are raised, make us who we are. Fundamentally, we as adults can take charge of this. We can mould ourselves, and we can be the people that we want to be and become.

I think the key point to take home here, is that we change, and that it is never too late to change. We all change, be it from choice or situation, and we can make changes to our lives if we don’t find those changes that are forced upon us as acceptable. So, if you find that there are elements of yourself that you’re not so keen on, with some progressive, and (dare I say it?), conscientious work, your life and your emotions really are within your own hands and it is your own ability that can ensure that things change for you.

Me? Well, I would like to slow down a little, so I am going to start working more on my meditation- I would like to do this a little more regularly, so that I can stop and smell the roses a little better. Otherwise, before I know it, they just won’t be there anymore.

Harris, M.A., Brett, C.E., Johnson, W. and Deary, I.J. (2016) ‘Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years’, Psychology and Aging, vol. 31, no. 8, December, pp. 862–874.