Sometimes simple is better. But despite that, we tend to over complicate everything we can get our hands on, don’t we?
The field of psychology is the worst at doing that when it comes to naming things. The worst!
Psychology has this amusing way of creating fancy, and sometimes obtuse, terminology to describe seemingly simplistic concepts. It never ceases to make me giggle when I think of words like anhedonia (when you stop enjoying things you used to enjoy), dysthymia (super bummed all the time) and my all time favorite, folie a deux (when you hang out with a person so much that their crazy becomes your crazy). The list is never ending, but today I want to talk to you a bit about another favorite psych concept of mine – locus of control.
Locus of Control
Locus of control is a fancy way to describe how a person views the way life happens. In short, it is a belief system or a perspective, meaning (spoiler alert!) it can be changed.
Does a person think that life happens to them, and then they are left to react? This is an external locus of control.
Or does a person believe that they are a co-creator in their life, and that while certain things certainly happen externally, they are also an active participant in creating their own experience? This is an example of an internal locus of control.
Out of all of the things I learned when I was in graduate school, I remember this so vividly because the difference between the two perspectives has a massive impact on a person’s life. I’ve linked this next sentence to the National Institute of Mental Health Study that shows that people who display internal locus of control are less likely to be depressed, whereas people who display external locus of control are more likely to present with depressive symptoms.
I talk a lot about empowerment and the idea of “inner-leadership,” and both of these terms are inextricably linked to the idea of locus of control. Bottom line, without an internal locus of control, you will struggle to feel empowered and your ability to be your own leader will be sabotaged by your own beliefs.
Turning Reactivity Into Creativity
The idea that life happens to you leaves you in a reactive mode. Your choices are always defined by the randomness of chance, and you are therefore in the victim/dependent role, which is a tough place to be. Truly, I think we have all been in that place, and I feel confident in saying that it just feels terrible.
The belief that, sure, life happens, but that you are a co-creator in the way it unfolds, and that you have agency and the ability to manipulate the outcome, leaves you in a very different emotional state. You feel your own personal power, which is defined as the capacity to take effective action to meet our needs, and having access to the materials and strategies to do just that.
And let’s get clear on one thing right now: This concept has nothing to do with the idea that we manifest our reality or the law of attraction. This is about your belief in your ability to affect change and influence the trajectory of your life; it is a tried and tested psychological principle that affects everyone. We all fall somewhere on the continuum between internal and external locus of control. It is not meant to deny that there are systems and structures that make life hard. It is simply the belief that despite the external forces of the world, we also have agency.
Empowerment – for me – is about helping people remember that they aren’t helpless. Not entirely. We can heal. We can change our thoughts. (Literally, our brains can rewire. Neuroplasticity for the win!) We can heal our nervous systems. We can change.
The Inner Alchemy Podcast is a great example of my own relationship with locus of control. 2020 was a shit show for many people, and Lord knows I was strapped in riding the roller coaster with the rest of you. I felt it all. And yeah, there was A LOT that was completely out of my control, happening to me, to us. I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
But I’m lucky enough to have truly nurtured my internal locus of control, so much so that it’s now pretty instinctive. So when life seemed like the worst kind of dumpster fire situation, instead of completely collapsing (because, keeping it real, there was partial collapse along the way – completely normal!), I tried to find where I had my own agency and ability to work with what was happening and see a doorway for change and growth.
And that’s how the podcast was born. It was messy and confusing and took a crap ton of revisions before I was ready to move on it, but it came out of my asking myself some pretty basic questions.
- What can I do? (So basic, but honestly one of the most important questions a person can ask themselves.)
- What am I already doing that could be of service to this change I want to see?
- What resources do I have that I could use? (In my case, I know a ton of really amazing healers and helpers.)
- What do I want to do? (This is where you let yourself dream and if you can do this, you realize that you aren’t as helpless as you are scared – but that’s a completely different blog post in and of itself.)
So – if you see your own beliefs in the external locus of control example, and you want to try and focus more on your ability to be a participant in the creation of your life, ask yourself these questions if you feel stuck. Journal with them. Give it a try and stay curious with your responses. Join the Inner Alchemist Society for community and encouragement as you get curious about these questions.
Our world is so desperately in need of leadership. But we cannot create leaders if people are not first able to feel empowered in their own lives, aren’t able to be their own inner-leaders. Every person that realizes that they have their own magic inside of them, and that they can heal, grow, and change is a new leader being born into existence. One belief system change at a time.
Interested in getting accountability as you work to become the co-creator of your own life? Join the Inner Alchemist Society, my free online community full of like-minded individuals, exclusive access to workshops, invitations to insightful discussions, and more!