Most of know what the word “control” means, but what is a locus of control? A locus of control refers to the degree to which people feel they have power over events that impact their lives. If you think you possess control over what happens, then you have an internal locus of control. If you think you have no control over what happens and outer factors are to blame, then you have an external locus of control. So, you may be asking, “Which is healthier? How do I find out which one I have?”
To answer the first question, neither internal nor external are inherently bad. It is not entirely possible to have a one hundred percent external or internal locus anyway. Most humans land somewhere between the two ends, and a happy medium is acceptable. Also, in terms of discovering where your locus is, you may start becoming conscious of how you respond to something that happens to you. Often, when the unconscious becomes conscious, we may begin to redirect where we think our control lies.
In many scenarios, having a primarily internal locus of control can be a valuable thing. An example is when someone does not take something personally, as they realize another person’s reactions often have everything to with them, rather than something they may have done or said. Furthermore, when a situation is truly outside of a person’s control, an external locus of control may be helpful. For example, many individuals may face systemic barriers that do not always allow them to have an internal locus. These may include ableism, sexism, or racism. An external locus of control may prove helpful when facing discrimination, as the person interprets something as a system-issue, rather than individual flaw.
Most importantly, a person’s locus of control influences how they respond to the events that happen in their life. Ultimately, no matter what barriers we may face, it is often beneficial to focus on the elements of our lives that we can control, rather than the ones we simply cannot. Rather than watching yourself as a bystander of your own life, think about the inherent power you have; this will impact the outcome of any given situation. See below for a list of things we can control versus ones we cannot.
- What we can control: When we ask for help.
- What we cannot control: The way someone helps us.
- What we can control: The boundaries we set.
- What we cannot control: The way someone responds to our communicated boundary.
- What we can control: How we speak to ourselves.
- What we cannot control: How others feel about us. We cannot control another individual’s actions, feelings, or beliefs.
- What we can control: How much we prepare for something important in our lives.
- What we cannot control: Whether mistakes are made (we are human).
- What we can control: How we interpret situations.
- What we cannot control: The narrative someone interprets about us. The idea someone has about you is not your responsibility to live up to.
- What we can control: How we respond to a situation.
- What we cannot control: Whether someone chooses to react adversely, rather than respond calmly.
If you would like to speak to a professional counselor about topics, such as the one featured in this blog, and are in the Chicago area, please contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.
Written by Liz, Mental Health Counseling Master’s Level Intern
Cherry, K. (2021). Are you in control of your destiny, or are you at the mercy of chance? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-locus-of-control-2795434
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