This is the third blog in a series which focuses on the subtle psychological processes involved in taking control of yourself, your health and wellness, and your life. You can read the previous two blogs on the illusion of control when it comes to our bodies and what to do when life starts feeling like a vicious circle.
You know that person you have to deal with regularly who you find annoying or downright difficult to deal with. You just wish they would stop. If only they would change, your life would be so much easier and you would be so much happier.
It’s common to wish for and want that. We all have that person in our life we wish would change. And if you find yourself in a place where you are wishing a fair number of people and situations in your life would change, you hear yourself often saying in exasperation, ‘If only they would…’ and ‘I wish…’ and a cloud of stress always seems to find its resting place on your shoulders, that can be a tough and miserable place to be.
Across my coaching, charity work and research, I have found that to be a common theme among people living with long-term conditions or serious illness/injury. It’s understandable. When you are living with ongoing health issues that can take their toll physically and emotionally and life continues to happen around you (and sometimes life can be tough), it is no wonder you get into that place and can feel a stuckness.
There is a way out
You can shift that cloud of stress off your shoulders and feel more free and able in yourself and your relationships with others. You have the power to do that and ‘power’ is the key word. It’s about your personal power, which is knowing what you need and want and taking action to get that and make things happen. And it’s also about holding on to your personal power and standing in it.
Important Tangent – When I say ‘stand in your power’, I do not mean that you are in power over others, controlling them so you are ‘greater than’ and they are ‘less than’.
So I’m going to share a way of thinking to help you identify when you are standing in your personal power and when you aren’t. Knowing this will enable you to take action to change things when you need to, to take control. It will help you manage unhelpful stress which is important within the context of a chronic condition as stress can exacerbate symptoms, disrupt our sleep, and generally wreak havoc on our bodies, minds, hearts and souls.
Know where your ‘locus of control’ is
‘Locus of control’ refers to the extent to which a person believes the outcome of their own behaviour is due to their decisions, choices, abilities, actions, personal characteristics, etc. versus it being due to others’ actions, behaviours, thoughts, etc., fate, luck or chance (Rotter, 1966).
So locus of control can be internal or external and is about what you are doing with your personal power.
If your locus of control is internal, you make things happen. You are standing in your personal power.
If your locus of control is external, things are happening to you, others have the control and determine how you feel or everything rests with fate, luck or chance. You are actually giving your personal power away to others.
To check out where you are at any given time, listen to the language you use because that is where it is often readily detectable. Here are some examples.
Another example can be found in the blog post on vicious circles. Look at step 3 of the vicious circle example – I wish someone would tell me I can go home. That is an example of a locus of control being external, a person relying on others to tell them what they can and cannot do. The external locus of control wasn’t helping this person to look after themselves. When they learned of it during coaching, they found it empowering because they realised what needed to change so they could feel better and that the power to change it rested within them.
What’s it like for you?
Do you sometimes find you give your power away to others? And in what situations do you find yourself standing in your power and making things happen? Feel free to share your thoughts below by leaving a comment.
The above scratches the surface and if you would like to know more, especially the nuances of internal and external control (when an external locus of control masquerades as internal), come back for more in 2-3 weeks’ time. And if this blog has sparked something inside you which you would like to talk through with someone, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.
P.S. Pass it on
Although these blogs are written in the context of living with serious illness/injury or a long-term chronic condition, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. So if you think a friend or family member would benefit from reading it, or you just want to share it with the world, share this post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or email using the icons below.
© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2015
Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80 (Whole No. 609).