When I was a younger man, I thought the human personality was a lot more pliable than it actually is. I thought I could change my basic personality with relative ease. Switch from being an introvert to an extrovert at will. Resolve my phobias. Or at least switch to different phobias. Like that.
I was greatly influenced by the rock star David Bowie at the time. Bowie was famous for constantly changing his image and his persona and even, seemingly, his basic personality.
So I harbored this stupid notion that the human personality was pliable. That it was like how actors picked and chose whatever role they wanted to play. We could pick any personality we wanted.
As Timothy Leary — one of the biggest imbeciles of the 20th century — once famously said: “You can be anything you want this time around.” What a WONDERFUL notion. To bad it’s completely false.
I wrongly assumed that our personality was basically just a social construct. It was a mask we put on, mostly as a way to function in society. And that, like with masks in general, we could take them off and on. I wasn’t even sure if there was anything behind the mask. It was like the famous Kurt Vonnegut line: “Be careful who you pretend to be. Because that’s who you become.”
I spent 40 years trying to smooth out the rough edges of my personality. With little success. I spent 40 years trying to un-warp my warped psychology. With little success. After undergoing endless therapies, I’m still basically the exact same person I was when I was 17.
When I was younger I was always hoping for a big, cathartic experience. Where I’d be “born again.” And heal my wounded psyche. Become a new person.
Nowadays, I realize, if I can make any changes, make any improvements, in my basic character. They will probably come in small increments. If that.