There is good news to start the new year with today in psychological research. An analysis of 207 research studies that included 20,000 patients has found that people who are characterized by neurotic behavior change as a result of psychological and medical care they receive. In an article published in Psychological Bulletin, researchers from the University of Illinois, have found that people can change.[i]
Now this seems almost like a self-evident truth, but according to lead researcher Brent Roberts many “subscribe to the idea that once someone reaches adulthood their personality is set for life.”[ii] This is particularly true of individuals who are described as neurotic, who struggle with depressed moods, and feelings of guilt, envy, anger, and anxiety.
The research found that individuals who were cared for with cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling or medical treatment over 24 weeks changed! Those who struggled with anxiety benefited the most. Emotional improved by half and persisted long after the care was over.
Should we be surprised by this? Not at all, in fact it is really great when science tells us something that we have known for millennia. The Apostle Paul told us in his letter to the Corinthians that if “any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things have passed away, new things have come.”
It is not a bit surprising that people with anxiety would benefit the most from counseling. Jesus told us repeatedly to trust Him and to not worry. 3"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?...for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow…” (Mat 6:31-34 NAU) Jesus came as the solution to the things that make us worry.
From the time that the gospel was announced, it has always brought hope that men and women did not need to spend the rest of the lives as slaves to fear, worry and sadness. It is good to know that secular researchers have “discovered” this truth. As Jesus said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Mat 11:28-30 NAU)
People who struggle with fear, worry, sad moods and other emotional problems do no need to spend their lives believing that there is no hope for change. Current research tells us they can change. This has always been an essential part of the gospel message.
[i] Brent W. Roberts, Jing Luo, Daniel A. Briley, Philip I. Chow, Rong Su, Patrick L. Hill. A Systematic Review of Personality Trait Change Through Intervention.. Psychological Bulletin, 2017; DOI: 10.1037/bul0000088
[ii] University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Counseling, antidepressants change personality (for the better), team reports." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170106130918.htm>.