Mental growth ‘as a total person’ leads to a continual and lifelong change. Any other attempt toward change is mostly but a temporary glitch in the natural evolution. The reason is, simply put, complexity.
The complexity of the human mind is usually highly underestimated.
Looking at the brain increasingly shows – and also proves materially – the amount of complexity. The 100 billion neurons and 1000 x more synapses in one brain, each of which can be seen as a computer-like (yet rather analog) device, form only part of the complexity at many levels.
The reductionism of ‘mind to matter’ is little compared to the reductionism of this universe inside to the presence of a large but easily comprehensible set of mental building blocks.
The difference is still relative, but to such a huge degree that relativism becomes inappropriate for any pragmatical means. Therefore, this is crucial to the human being in anything concerning growth.
Nature versus nurture
There is an ongoing debate about whether A) people are (almost) entirely determined by their nature versus whether B) nurture can change them ― say, through education or therapy.
The A-team may acknowledge the influence of the environment on any individual. However, this influence is still seen as lasting only as long – more or less – as the environment exerts its influence. Take the environment out, and the person shifts to the baseline of his nature. Therefore, to make ‘good people,’ one continually needs to force them into the ‘good box.’
The B-team has a substantially more optimistic view of the possibility of change. For instance, a person can come to psychotherapy with some problem. Here, the problem gets clarity and therapy. After some additional consolidation, the person lives happily and sanely hereafter, in or out of the box.
I don’t see growth intrinsically on either side.
Growth over repair
In medicine, “the doctor cures; nature heals.” Important as the cure may be, it is seldom enough if it is seen only as repair. The human body is too complex to be repaired from sickness into health straightforwardly. The broken bone may be put together; the result is still the outcome of growth.
The human mind is possibly the most complex entity in the universe. Thus, growth is even more critical here than in somatic medicine. In the ideal case of psychotherapy, growth topples repair.
The same is relevant in any other human field. Treating a person as a complicated Meccano set will never do.
Many people speak too quickly about growth.
This is a big problem. As said, the underappreciation of the immense complexity of the brain/mind lies at the core of this.
So, ‘growth’ is tried out and seen not to be durable ― unfortunately, in many cases before being abandoned, leaving resistance to growth on top of an already present resistance to change. You can find here some more ideas about change and personal growth.
If not in all-in-all resistance mode, people generally resist change from the outside but welcome ‘change from the inside.’ The latter is a change in congruence with the total being. Look at anything in nature, and you see this as growth.
Growth – with durable results – is possible, even through nurture, but embedded in nature. For this, you need to appreciate human complexity to the full. This doesn’t mean capturing it in a box.
Growth is a necessary ingredient of Compassion.
Compassion is a prerequisite for growth.