I posted this over a year ago and thought I’d review, fix and rerelease it to you. Many of you were not following me then, but the message is powerful and poignant. Enjoy.
Locus of control is a state of mind where we place our belief in how the outcomes of our lives happen as either being internal or external.
Looking for someone else to make us happy is the external locus of control and a recipe for disaster.
Looking inward for control over our lives and destiny is preferable, but must be a chosen road.
My Words May Not Be Taken Well
This article based on my experiences with this problem that keep a person trapped looking for something they cannot have and that can ruin lives. Locus of control can be very tricky to approach with people, as some may interpret what I am saying is that I condone abandoning their loved ones who hold them back.
My answer is simple, can you work around those people? If not, would you not condone jumping off a sinking ship if there were no hope of salvaging it?
Are those people you are clinging to so dependent on you that they cannot go on with their lives?
Are you so dependent on them that you cannot do the same?
Pull It In
Locus of control is a phrase that, until recently, I had never heard. My Psychiatrist, when speaking to me about my anxiety, stated that my locus of control was outside of myself and that I needed to pull it in.
I looked at him blankly, not having heard the term before. I determined to look it up the phrase on the Internet when I returned home.
When I did, I found a concept I had not before considered.
The Definition of Locus of Control
Wikipedia states this definition for the locus of control.
“Locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control.”
When I read this, I was floored. The above definition describes in just a few simple words the entire focus of my almost thirty years of attending psychotherapy.
An External Locus of Control
Having an internal locus of control means one looks inside for acceptance and love. In this way, a person focuses on one’s strengths and abilities working toward goals independently of the actions of others.
While it is true that we will make mistakes if we focus on our abilities and accept the fact that we will fail. We can then refocus our efforts, and change course without the need to depend on the behaviors and attitudes of other people in our lives.
Putting the power in our hands instead of the hands of others puts us in the driver’s seat and eliminates the anxiety and pain of depending on others.
What are the Benefits of an Internal Locus of Control?
So, what are some of the benefits of having an internal locus of control? They are many and as you read the list, think of what you can do to change your locus of control.
- A sense of control over the events of one’s life and destiny
- More likely to actively look for solutions to the problems one is facing
- More likely see and to create positive outcomes in the future
- Less likely to feel like a victim of circumstance
It is important to mention at this point that it is not the circumstances we find ourselves in or the people we find ourselves attached to that make us unhappy, rather it is our response to these things that do.
Is a Cage Always a Cage?
A cage is only a cage if you think of it as such.
What if one thinks of that same cage as a safe place instead of a hindrance?
Some see being in a wheelchair as a hindrance, a burden they are glad they do not have to endure. However, to me, my wheelchair is a tool. It is not a burden; it is assistance.
If one maintains an internal locus of control, we can look at the circumstances we find ourselves in and find ways to leave the cage. Alternatively, we can take steps to make the best of our circumstances. In this way, we feel place ourselves firmly in control.
What I Learned
In the session where I had first heard this phrase, I had been complaining because I was very stressed over a relative’s drinking, fearing it would keep me from reaching my aspirations.
It was hard to realize that my Psychiatrist was correct.
What happened to me did not depend on what this relative did. My happiness, I realized, is based on my ability to move on with my life, it does not depend on the behaviors, attitudes or sobriety of someone else.
I know this sounds simple, and perhaps I am oversimplifying it. However, having an internal locus of control takes a lot of practice and soul-searching.
It means letting go of an illusion we have believed all our lives, letting go of the notion that others can make us happy.
Ultimately, it also means letting go of any belief that we might, in some small way, be able to control the actions of others.
New Solutions Come to Light
A beautiful thing comes from turning one’s locus of control inward, solutions you have never seen before suddenly become clear.
Answers to questions that have plagued us become crystallized and more easily seen when our emotional need to make the other person make us happy evaporates.
A Story from My Own Life
Here again, I can give an example from my own life. I have wanted to earn a Ph.D. in Psychology for many years.
(Note from the present: This next part is almost, I said almost, funny because I am miserable living with my relatives STILL today. Sigh. Maybe I will get my crap together.)
As you may know, I live with a severe mental disability and cannot live alone. The people I live with are not emotionally stable, and I found myself rolling about in a morass of emotions.
I both wanted to go to college and complete my degree, while simultaneously trying to find happiness through the actions of my loved ones.
Once my psychiatrist pointed out to me that my locus of control had shifted to outside, and that I was basing my happiness on the actions of these unstable relatives, I could then sit back and take a long, hard look at my situation.
(Another note: I have since left school because of a financial aid glitch which has left me owing over $1,000, sigh again)
To my relief, I found that I did not have to depend on these folks to earn my Ph.D., I merely needed to work around them.
I could have my cake and eat it too, one might say. While living with my relatives, so that I could have my physical needs met, I could go ahead and attend college and earn that Ph.D. I am now on my way to that goal.
I must Constantly Pull My Locus of Control Back Into Myself
If I spend too much time looking about at the actions of others and reacting to those actions, I find myself anxious and feeling trapped.
When I pull back and examine what is going on more closely, I come to understand that my life is NOT dependent on what these other folks in my life do. I love them, but because I am an adult, my happiness does not depend on what they do or say.
Locus of Control
Three little words with an enormous meaning. Take a good, hard, and honest look at what is making you feel happy. If your find yourself focusing on anyone other than yourself, then it is time to take stock and consider pulling that control inward.
You will never regret doing so.
“I am NOT a product of my circumstances; I AM a product of my decisions.” Stephen Covey