Friday, November 09, 2012

That fricka-frackin' locus of control

Today's woo-woo discussion is brought to you by the letter "L."

Locus of control.

Have you ever heard this phrase?  Maybe it has been thrown at you in therapy.  Maybe, because I just said "therapy," you're already rolling your eyes.  Hang with me.

I love science.  I love it.  Not "science class."  I did not like that.  Okay, I liked biology, but that's only because I had a massive crush on Shane, my lab partner, who was sporting the hottest mullet in all of Cisco High School.  However, I'm talking about the systematic enterprise that is:  science.  I love logic and reasoning.  Don't let the dreads and hooping fool you.  I enjoy cold, hard facts.  I want to present a problem and have someone hand me a pre-determined checklist.  So, when I hear things that are solely based on "energy" or the like, I am always skeptical.  That's not what this is.  Hang with me.  This stuff is practical and based on your thinking.  Your brain gets into patterns.  Those patterns can be changed with repetition.  You can retrain your thought process, in much the same way your life events trained it the first time.

Locus is the Latin term for "place" or "location."  So, the phrase "locus of control" refers to where you place emotional control in your life.  If you accept responsibility for the things that happen to you and your response to them, you have more of an internal locus of control.  If you lean toward an external locus of control, you tend to feel that every situation leaves you with very little choice.  You are also less likely to take action or responsibility for your reaction to a situation.  You don't feel you are in control of the things that are happening to you.  Therefore, you don't feel like you can make a choice in how your respond.  

There are certain situations where my locus of control leans outside of me.  For instance:  I see an acquaintance at the grocery store.  I stop to say hello, and they are quiet or aloof or seem annoyed.  When I'm having a good day, emotionally, I may actually be able to say to myself, "Huh.  Something seems to be going on with them.  I hope they're okay.  I'm sure if it was something to do with me, they would tell me."  On days when my self-esteem is in the pooper, I think, "What have I done?  Did I say the wrong thing?  Maybe they have some stressful thing going on and I'm supposed to know about it.  I wonder how long they've been mad at me?" This line of thinking could possibly continue for several hours, and spiral into other things.  In this instance, my whole mood for the day can go farther south.  My self-esteem can go farther in the pooper.

Getting the gist of it, now?

We need other people.  They feed us and they support us.  Yet, it is not healthy to rely on other people to be the source for feeling good about ourselves or making a positive choice.  These other people may not always be there.  They may have their own bad day.  In reality, if our self-esteem is only based on others and the things that happen to us, then it's really not true, positive self-esteem. 

Sometimes we find our sense of acceptance, validation or worth from our spouses, friends and even our kids.  There's nothing wrong with feeling these things when our spouse compliments us in a room full of people, or when our children say, "Thanks, Mom.  I love you," or when our friends send us an encouraging email.  The big indicator is how we feel about ourselves in the absence of these things.

It's something I'm learning more about and examining.  I'm in a new phase of my life.  Four of my five children are teenagers.  They will be leaving my home soon.  In a blink.  My husband and I are nearing a new, completely different phase of life.  A lot of change is happening.  This is the season where midlife crisis sets in, couples divorce and families sometimes create distance.  It has become clear to me that an external locus of control could cause me a lot of heartache as I look up in five years and everything about my day-to-day life has drastically changed.  I thought it might be prudent to start evaluating myself now, and dealing with what needs some tweaking.

What I'm realizing, as well, is that this affects every thing I do and every relationship I have.  If your locus of control is more external, it affects how often, how strongly and how long you will have negative responses to things.  Those are the times that I truly believe other people or events make me feel what I'm feeling.  I'm learning that I actually have more control than I ever realized, over my feelings.  I don't want to realize that, because it's always much easier to blame someone or something else.  Ya' know, cause I'm human.  And I like to be right.  All the time.

I don't have any personal how-to's to share, because it takes a little time just to wrap your brain around this whole concept.  It then takes more time to admit how we each fall into an external locus of control in our own lives.  So, let me leave you with some grainy, terribly-designed power point presentations that are dry and choppy, but chock full of really practical information on this subject.  If it strikes a cord with you, do some of your own research.  Learn how you can actually have more control in your life, and take your power back when your emotions get the best of you.  Pretty cool stuff.

And if I have to be a grown up this week, so do you! Nya!

1 comment:

Rick Robb said...

I've been dealing with this the past few months after my marriage when to hell. It's also really helped, though,in working with my RAD/Aspergers kid.

Thanks for the insight, CM!