What's in Control
Locus of Control Julian Rotter originally developed the concept of Locus of Control.
Since its introduction to the discipline of psychology it has been discussed and applied to numerous situations. We are going to discuss how locus of control influences us and our perceptions of stress, without placing blame, but, with true appraisal of the stress and its cause.
Locus of control can be defined as an individual’s perception about the underlying main causes of events in his/her life. Do you control your life, or is your destiny controlled by outside forces such as fate, God, or powerful others? It sounds like we have crossed over into a philosophy lesson, so let’s break this concept down into our everyday life and relate it to stress.
With internal locus of control, the individual believes that his/ her behaviors and consequences are driven by actions and decisions. With external locus of control, the individual believes that his/her behavior and consequences are driven by fate, luck or some other external circumstances.
Here is an example of looking at a situation with external locus of control: One of my students would come into class late looking very distressed and disorganized. I once asked him why he was coming in late each day and he said, “I get caught at the train crossing and that makes me late every day Ms. Brown; sorry I can’t get here on time.” Then I asked him if the train stresses him out. He said, “Yes, it comes every morning at 8:15, and I am always late for my 8:30 classes. My Monday class teacher said if I am late again I will lose points on my grade. Stupid train!” I looked at him curiously and asked if it was possible for him to leave his house ten minutes early so as to avoid the train. He responded, “I guess I could, but I like to hit my snooze button.” I laughed to myself a bit then asked him who was in control (or responsible for) his tardiness to class. He said the train. I truly believed he believed this. I then challenged him to take control of his destiny and leave his house ten minutes early to see if he could get to the crossing before the train, or perhaps find some other route for getting to school on time.
I am happy to report that he decided to take control of his fate and go a different route to avoid the train crossing and was not late anymore. He had found a solution to a situation he could not control (the train schedule) by changing something he could control (the way he drives to school). It is easy to see how internal locus of control (our belief that our outcomes are contingent on what we do) is helpful for reducing stress. Are some things just out of our control? Yes. But how we respond to them is our decision.
There are many things that are out of our control. I am not able to control that my child has Dravet Syndrome. It is a genetic disorder, and her seizures are random and sometimes long, over an hour. But I can become educated and stay informed to do my best to keep her safe and well. I am slowly becoming an expert on the disorder, and although I am not able to take the sickness away, I can fight alongside of her to make her life significantly better. Having an accurate appraisal about what we are and are not in control of in our lives gives us the foresight to know how to resolve situations and how to make our lives better.
Photo by Haley Floyd
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This blog was started as a fun way to get information out about various topics in the wide world of stress management. If you have any suggestions for posts, please feel free to comment below or send an e-mail. Sit back relax and enjoy.