PMH Tool 3 – Developing an Internal Locus of Control

Locus of control means where we see our feelings as coming from, what we see as the cause of them.

  • Most people have an external (outer) locus of control
  • They wrongly see what others say or do, and what happens (the events of their lives) as the cause of how they feel
  • You need only listen to the way they talk about their feelings, i.e. “That really ticks me off”, “My job is stressing me out”, “These kids are driving me crazy”

It is perfectly understandable that people look at life this way for a number of reasons

  • We all grew up surrounded by other people who look at, and talk about feelings in this way
  • Our feelings come so quickly after events that it’s understandable that we might conclude that one causes the other

There are a host of problems that come from looking at things this way

  • We give other people power and control over our emotional destiny (how we’ll feel in the next few seconds, minutes, hours, etc.) that they really don’t have
  • We give away the real power and control over our emotional destiny that we do have without realizing it
  • We can feel like a victim, powerless to change the way we feel for the better
  • We feel worse than we need to, longer than we need to, and worse than is helpful
  • We miss many opportunities to feel better

There is a formula for how life really unfolds: EVENT + THOUGHTS = FEELINGS > BEHAVIOR.

  • Anything someone else says or does, or that happens is just an EVENT in our lives
  • It’s really what we choose to think about what others say or do, or what happens that causes how we feel. THOUGHTS cause feelings not EVENTS.
  • Attitude (THOUGHT) is always the father of behavior
  • A person’s BEHAVIOR will tend to follow his FEELINGS toward his life EVENTS

This formula is a variation of Dr. Albert Ellis’ ABC Theory of Emotions.

  • Where A stands for an ACTIVATING EVENT
  • B stands for the BELIEFS we have about the EVENT, others, ourselves, and life
  • C stands for CONSEQUENCES, or what we feel and do as a consequence of what we believe about the EVENT, others, ourselves and life
  • It’s like that algebraic formula we all learn, A + B = C, where A is a constant, and B is a variable. If A stays the same and you change B, C changes
  • Likewise, if we change the way we think about what happens, our feelings will change, for the better or worse depending on what our new way of looking at things is

“It’s your choice how you want to feel” is actually a true statement. So is “No one upsets you, you upset yourself”. The reasons are:

  • There is always more than one way to look at anything
  • Some ways will make us feel better, others worse
  • Some ways will make it easier to deal with what we don’t like, others harder
  • When we pick one way to the exclusion of others, we make a choice. We could pick other ways and feel differently
  • The ways we look at things tend to be automatic from prior practice and rehearsal, which can cause us to lose sight of the fact that there are other ways
  • Since THOUGHTS cause FEELINGS, not EVENTS, and we always have a choice as the how we look at things, it logically follows that it’s our choice how we want to feel, and no one upsets us, we upset ourselves

We have a host of COGNITIVE CHOICES that we make all the time. It helps to remind ourselves of these choices on a regular basis, especially when we’re feeling worse than we want to.

  • It’s my choice how I LOOK AT things
  • It’s my choice what MEANING I attach to what does happen
  • It’s my choice what I FOCUS on
  • It’s my choice what I COMPARE things to
  • It’s my choice what I REMEMBER about the past
  • It’s my choice what I IMAGINE will happen in the future
  • It’s my choice what I EXPECT of others, myself and life
  • It’s my choice how much IMPORTANCE I attach to what does happen
  • It’s my choice what I spend my time THINKING ABOUT

It’s important we start talking in more semantically and scientifically correct and precise ways.

  • “I’m upsetting myself about that” instead of “That really upsets me”
  • “I’m stressing myself out” instead of “That’s really stressing me out”

“That hurt my feelings” is a common semantically and scientifically INCORRECT way people talk

  • Have you ever seen a feeling (an actual feeling and not what someone looks like when they have a feeling)? Have you ever held one in your hand?
  • If you can’t see one and can’t hold one in your hand, how can you hurt a feeling? The answer is you can’t. Saying that is semantically and scientifically INCORRECT
  • Semantic correctness and precision: “Sometimes, because of what we choose to think about others and what they say or do, we understandably make ourselves feel what we call hurt”

A second part of developing an internal (inner) locus of control is to recognize and remind yourself of what you do and don’t control.

  • Many people think, talk and act as if they can control what others think, feel, say, or do
  • However, we never really control what others think, feel, say, or do
  • We only ever control what we think, feel, say, or do, and learning to do this is a big enough job for most people
  • We can sometimes influence what others think, feel, say, or do, but never control it
  • Most people spend too much time, energy and effort trying to control what others think, feel, say, or do, and too little time trying to control what they do
  • The more we try to control what others think, feel, say, and do, the more out of control life can feel, and the more we’ll find to get upset about
  • The more we try to control what we think, feel, say, or do, the more in control our lives can feel

A third part of developing an internal locus of control is learning to not take unnecessary responsibility for how others make themselves feel.

  • If we do, it makes it harder for us to negotiate for what is best for us with others, and some may use it against us, to manipulate us
  • Anything we say or do is just an EVENT for others
  • They always have the same COGNITIVE CHOICES we have
  • Their THOUGHTS cause their FEELINGS, not what we say or do (that’s just an EVENT)
  • Therefore, whatever they think or feel is part of being human and understandable given their life experience, BUT it’s THEIR choice how they want to feel. No one upsets them, they upset themselves

Mental and Emotional Karate means learning to defend ourselves mentally and emotionally against the attacks of others like some learn to defend themselves physically against attacks in real karate classes

  • Developing an internal locus of control is a big part of learning to do so
  • “No one can make you feel bad about yourself without your consent” Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “Everything can be taken from someone but the last of human freedoms. To choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances. To choose one’s own way” Dr. Victor Frankl
  • Having a black belt in Mental and Emotional Karate would involve automatically responding to attacks with something like, “YOU can think, feel and say whatever you want to about me. That’s YOUR choice. But it’s MY choice how I look at and feel about myself. And you don’t get to make those choices for me. Unless I let you. And I choose not to.”

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