Reflection: Internal Locus of Control

In therapy this week I learned about internal vs. external locus of control. External locus of control people tend to think everyone else is at fault for their difficult situations, while internal locus of control people tend to think they are responsible for the outcome (e.g. I should have studied harder to pass the test vs. the test material was too difficult and that’s why I failed the test).

“Internals tend to attribute outcomes of events to their own control. People who have internal locus of control believe that the outcomes of their actions are results of their own abilities. Internals believe that their hard work would lead them to obtain positive outcomes.[7] They also believe that every action has its consequence, which makes them accept the fact that things happen and it depends on them if they want to have control over it or not. Externals attribute outcomes of events to external circumstances. People that have external locus of control believe that many things that happen in their lives are out of their control.[8] They believe that their own actions are a result of external factors that are beyond their control. Rotter in his study suggested that people that have external locus of control have four types of beliefs which include the following: powerful others such as doctors, nurses, fate, luck and a belief that the world is too complex to predict its outcomes. People that have external locus of control tend to blame others for the outcomes rather than themselves.”

I’ve probably mentioned it before but I deal with a difficult co-worker. The co-worker constantly badgers other co-workers about issues and problems, they demand quick responses, everything is an emergency to this person, everything is someone else’s fault, we all should have done it better and been able to read their mind. It can be very interruptive and it reminds me all too much of my abusive relationship, where I feel I have to do anything and everything to keep this person happy and from blowing up at me and other co-workers. When I used to never think anything of this type of relationship, now that I know better, I can’t help but speak up, say no sometimes, and grow very tired of it. They have an extreme external locus of control while I have an extreme internal locus of control.

I generally would like to stay away from people with extreme external locus of control. But, obviously I have to know how to deal with them when I do. And I would like to work on bringing myself more to the center than being an extreme internal locus of control. Last week I had also completed a survey that was part of a study for domestic violence survivors and the last section of the survey was about this internal vs. external locus of control. All of my responses had me at the extreme end where I felt I was at fault still and could have done something differently to result in better outcomes. The questions were centered around your every day events like situations at work, in the public, and etc. So it was clear to me I still need to do some work to pull myself more to the middle, where I realize I am not responsible for everything and cannot possibly prevent things that are out of my control like someone else’s behavior.


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  1. #1 by isthisusernametaken on May 2, 2015 - 5:30 pm

    This is really interesting because wherever I look on locus of control there’s all these website about ‘how to get an internal locus of control’, but like you I have TOO MUCH of an internal locus of control. If someone says something that upsets me, for example, I do not think ‘they have been mean’ I think ‘I have let myself get upset’. Everything is down to me. I too end up in abusive situations because they are not to blame for anything, everything in my life is down to me.

    On the upset, I see myself as extremely competent and able to get myself through anything.

    Yet websites keep telling me that with my extreme internal LOC I should be able to bounce back quickly from setbacks etc, which I don’t, because I’m spending far too much time tearing myself apart for failing!

    I don’t really understand why internal LOC is seen as such a good thing!

    Have you come across any resources for reducing your internal locus of control?

    • #2 by miaquinn on September 29, 2015 - 3:57 am

      I somehow missed this comment 5 months ago so I apologize for not responding to you sooner! I hope you have been able to work on this however. I found working on compassion for myself and recognizing when I was doing it (hypervigalence) helped me improve on it. There was an exercise I did for a while I talk about a bit in this post: where I would reflect on my day where things like this would come up and then think about how I would have addressed it differently. When you do this for a while, then you’re able to more easily recognize when you’re reacting to someone as if what you did was wrong and then recognize that that’s not true.

  2. #3 by isthisusernametaken on May 2, 2015 - 5:30 pm

    *upside, not upset…

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