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Locus of Control

In Psychology, there is a term know as Locus of Control. There are two types: internal and external. Internal locus of control are the things within us that we have control over, and we are able to accept that our actions have something to do with this control. For example, if we do poorly on a test, we might understand that if we study harder, we can have better results next time. Internal locus of control is what we have within our control. External locus of control, is the belief that others around us, including situations, are in control and determine what happens if our life. An example would be, not studying well for a test, doing poorly, and blaming it on the professor.


According to the American Psychological Association the definition is as follows:


Locus of Control:

A construct that is used to categorize people’s basic motivational orientations and perceptions of how much control they have over the conditions of their lives. People with an external locus of control tend to behave in response to external circumstances and to perceive their life outcomes as arising from factors out of their control. People with an internal locus of control tend to behave in response to internal states and intentions and to perceive their life outcomes as arising from the exercise of their own agency and abilities.


This topic seems very pertinent and timely due to the uncharted territory the entire universe finds themselves in. We do not have control over COVID-19. Having said that, how can we begin to expect to have any amount of peace or calm in these difficult and unprecedented times? While COVD-19 is out of our locus of control, or is an external locus of control, we do have things within our internal locus of control. I want to clarify that I am not saying we will be without fear at this time. I am saying that we do have some areas of our lives in which we have internal locus of control.


Things in our control during this time could include:


  • How we interact with our family/significant others during this time of safe at home

  • How much time we spend listening to the news/social media that could be causing us additional distress

  • How we are addressing our fear and anxiety

  • How we are treating others

  • How we are choosing to spend our time


Does this mean that we won't be feeling any stress, sadness, anxiety, or feelings of being overwhelmed? I am most assuredly not implying this. We will feel all kinds of emotions in the current climate. Be sure to acknowledge all of these feelings and emotions. That is to be expected. However, in focusing on what is in our control, and being motivated by and choosing an internal locus of control, we might have less stress, anxiety, depression and sadness regarding our circumstances and those things out of our control.


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© 2020 by Elizabeth Wray, LMFT  #elizabetherapy