Once we establish our personality styles or paradigms to help us apprehend and navigate around the world, we can either keep them pliant, flexible, accommodating, and up to date; or we can rigidly maintain them, assimilating everything into them, and suffer what Joel Barker (1992) calls paradigm paralysis and George Kelly (1963) labeled hardening of the categories.
There are many reasons why we might not want to change our personality paradigms once we have formed them. They've worked for us and we've become successful experts within their existing range. Outside the range of our paradigm, we're back to average. The more adept we become within our style and the more we become invested in it, the more we have to lose by changing it.
Another reason for resisting change is that our identity has become intimately associated with our paradigm. We fear that, if we alter our paradigm, we will alter our sense of who we are and that will leave us feeling confused and lost. Holding onto our established identity and paradigm protects us from experiencing this existential anxiety.
We maintain our paradigms because they have become familiar and familial to us. We become accustomed to having them around. They feel comfortable and familiarity breeds complacency. Staying true to our schemas keeps us loyal to our family’s rules and roles. They give us a sense of belonging.
Efficiency, familiarity, comfort, and fit are some reasons why we hold onto our paradigms. How we hold onto our paradigms or schemas, even in the face of disconfirming evidence, requires some practice. For some insights into how our early schemas about our selves and the world are maintained, we can turn to the cognitive theories of Aaron Beck (1976) and one of his students, Jeffrey Young (1999), who has researched schema maintenance, schema avoidance, and schema compensation operations.