Locus of Control means where people see their feelings as
coming from, what they see as the cause of them. Most
people have an external locus of control. They wrongly
believe that what others say and do, and what happens,
makes them feel the way they do. This makes how they feel
depend on events and people they can't control. It makes
feeling better dependent on those events and people
changing for the better.
It's our thoughts about what happens that really causes how
we feel. The formula for feelings is:
EVENT + THOUGHTS = FEELINGS
Thoughts cause feelings, not events. Sometimes there are
imagined events that follow from a real event. But it what we
think about the real or imagined event that really determines
how we feel. (see diagram)
Remember the algebraic formula, a + b = c Where a is a
constant, and b is a variable. If a stays the same and you
change b, c changes too. Likewise, If an event stays the
same, and you change your thoughts about it, your feelings
change. They could change for the better or worse. It
depends on what your new thoughts are.
Dr. Ellis created the ABC Theory of Emotions. A stands for
an Activating Event (or Adversity). It can be real or
imagined. B stands for the automatic and irrational Beliefs
someone has about the event, themselves, others and life.
C stands for what someone feels and does as a
Consequence of their Beliefs about the Activating Event,
themselves, others and life.
We all have a host of COGNITIVE CHOICES that really
determine how we feel. Our choices include:
How we LOOK AT what happens
What MEANING we attach to what happens
What we FOCUS on about what happens
What we COMPARE things to
What we EXPECT of ourselves, others and lives
What we REMEMBER about the past
What we IMAGINE will happen next
How much IMPORTANCE we attach to what happens
What we spend our time THINKING about
We have a choice because there is always more than one
way to look at anything. There's always more than one
thing that something could mean. There's always more
than one thing to focus on or compare things to. We can
expect many different things of ourselves, others or life.
There are things we can remember that make us feel bad,
and others that make us feel good. We can imagine all
kinds of things happening ahead of time. We can attach as
much or as little importance to what happens as we want
to. When we pick one way to the exclusion of others,
On the home page, I noted that I promise to teach people
how to keep other people out of their heads. Dr. Victor
Frankl survived the Nazi death camps of the Holocaust.
When asked how, he said,
"Everything can be taken from us but the last of
human freedoms. To choose one's attitude in
any given set of circumstances. To choose
one's own way" Dr. Victor Frankl
What Dr. Frankl taught us is that people can't get inside our
heads unless we let them. We all have people living inside
our heads. It can be a good or bad thing. However, many of
us have people who have been living in our heads who
haven't been good tenants. We've allowed them to live there
rent free for much too long. Technically, we can't evict them.
(for reasons explained in Tool #10) However, we can learn
to defend ourselves against them. The power to keep
people out of our heads, or mute those already there lies
with the choices we all have. No one can make those
choices for us, unless we let them. People let others all the
time. However, with practice, people can stop doing that.
"No one can make you feel bad about yourself
without your permission" Eleanor Roosevelt
When I was a kid many, many years ago, kids would use
one of the following verbal strategies to protect themselves
from others attacks:
Developing an Internal Locus of Control also means:
1) Learning to recognize what we do or don't have
2) Focusing on and working with what we have
See the diagram to the right. That's how a conflict unfolds
and escalates. Which half of the circle do we control? We
can't and don't control what others think, feel, say or do. A
lot of people think they do, and talk and act as if they do.
But they really don't. We only control what we think, feel,
say and do. That's a big enough job. The more we try to
control what others think, feel, say and do, the more out of
control life will seem. The more we focus on what we think,
feel, say and do, the more in control we'll feel.
|It's our choice how we want to feel
|Semantic Precision and Correctness
|Keeping others out of our heads
|What we do, and don't control
|Not taking unnecessary responsibility
|Locus of Control and Our Emotional Thermostat
EVENT + THOUGHTS = FEELING
What happens Self-Image Self-Esteem
What others say and do
1) "You shouldn't feel the way you do"
2) "It's your fault you feel the way you do"
3) "There's something wrong with you for feeling that way"
4) "You're making a big deal out of nothing"
5) "It's okay those people said and did what they did"
It doesn't mean any of those things. It simply means:
1) There is always more than one way to look at anything
2) Whatever way we pick will be understandable given our unique life experiences
3) But some will make us feel better, others will make us feel worse
4) Some will make it easier to deal with things, others will make it harder
5) And we always have a choice as to how we want to look at things
1) Others don't make us angry
2) Jobs don't stress us out
3) People can't hurt our feelings
4) No one can put pressure on us
5) No one can make us feel bad about ourselves
6) No one can make us happy
Developing an Internal Locus of Control also means
learning to not take unnecessary responsibility for how
others make themselves feel. The way they feel will be
perfectly understandable given their life experiences.
However, like us, they have a host of cognitive choices to
make that determine how they end up feeling. We can't
control how they make those choices any more than they
can control how we do. They could disturb themselves a
great deal over what most people would consider nothing.
Or, they could choose to look at things in a way that
causes them to not get upset about something most others
would. We're responsible for what we say and do, but not
how they choose to look at it, and make themselves feel
People usually believe that others and the events of their
lives control their emotional thermostat. Developing an
Internal Locus of Control is the way to take control of your
own thermostat. Learning to have an Internal Locus of
Control is the single simplest and most important thing we
can do to reduce the frequency, intensity and duration
(FID) of emotions like anger, anxiety, depression, guilt,
The problem is, they may not. Looking at things this way
causes people to feel worse than necessary, for longer than
they need to. It can also cause them to feel like a victim, like
they are at the mercy of events and other people. People
often see no way to feel better and lose hope. That's never
a good place to be. Most importantly, it can cause them to
miss many opportunities to feel better.
|ACTIVATING EVENT + BELIEF = CONSEQUENCES (feel, do)
we've technically made a choice. The way we choose
often tends to be automatic. It's often the way we've made
that choice many times before. That's why we tend to be
relatively unaware that we've made a choice. However,
the way we make these choices is not "cast in stone". We
can learn to make them differently and better. With
practice and rehearsal, making them in different ways can
become as automatic as the old ways were (See Tool #10
for how to change what you think, feel, say and do)
"Life is MIND made" Dr. Chris Eisenbarth
EVENTS + THOUGHTS = FEELING
CHOICES = POWER AND CONTROL
How we think or look at things really determines how we
feel. We have a choice as to how we look at things.
Logically, it's also then our choice how we want to FEEL.
The first time someone told me it was my choice how I
wantedto feel, I didn't take it very well. I was upset at the
time, and just got more upset. It sounded like my friend
People often talk about where their feelings come from in
semantically imprecise or incorrect ways. Doing so often
causes them to feel worse than they need to, for
longer than they need to. It causes them to miss many
opportunities to feel better. For example, despite all the
beliefs and claims to the contrary:
Anger, stress, hurt, pressure, low self esteem and
happiness come from inside us, not outside. They come
from what we choose to think about what others say and do,
and what happens.
It's my choice how I LOOK AT things
It's my choice what MEANING I attach to what happens
It's my choice what I FOCUS on
It's my choice what I COMPARE things to
It's my choice what I EXPECT of myself, others and life
It's my choice what I IMAGINE will happen next
It's my choice what I REMEMBER about the past
It's my choice how much IMPORTANCE I attach to what happens
It's my choice what I spend my time THINKING about
It's my choice how I want to FEEL
Here are some other ways we can remind ourselves of the real power and control we have over our emotional destiny:
No one upsets me, I upset myself
I'm disturbing myself about that
What others say or do is just an event
My thoughts cause my feelings, not events
I'm responsible for how I feel, not others
It's not their problem if I feel bad, it's mine
It's not their job to make me feel better, it's mine
It's important toconstantly remind ourselves of the choices
we all have. These choices give us power and control over
our emotional destiny. For example,
1) "I know you are, but what am I?"
2) "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but
names will never hurt me."
3) "I'm rubber, you're glue. What you say bounces
off me, and sticks to you."
And they worked, as long as we kept repeating them out
loud. However, if we even for a moment started thinking or
saying out loud something like "How dare you call me that?
You can't say that about me!" that suit of armor we had
The adult version of these strategies, especially number 3,
would be the following:
"You can think and say whatever you want to
about me. But it's my choice how I look at
myself, and how I feel about myself. And you
don't get to make those choices for me. Unless I
let you. And I choose not to"
Imagine if kids (or adults) memorized these lines like they
do the lines of a poem or a school play so it would always
be on the tip of their tongue. It would be a perfect adult
response to attacks.
Low Self-Esteem is often cited as the reason people do
things that are unhealthy, self-defeating or even sometimes
self-destructive. It's often cited as the reason people don't
do things that might be good for
them to do, that would make their lives better. Self-image is
how we look at ourselves. Self-esteem is how we feel
about ourselves. We can plug these terms into the formula
Therefore, how we feel about ourselves is the product of
how we make those same choices listed earlier. For
example, what meaning we attach to what happens, what
we remember about the past, what we focus on about
ourselves and our lives, what we compare ourselves and
our lives to, what we imagine will happen in the future, and
how much importance we attach to what does happen, or
might. Therefore, in the end, it's our choice how we want to
feel about ourselves.
Others often try to boost someone's self-esteem by offering
affirmations. That's a nice gesture, and there's nothing
wrong with doing that. However, in the end each person
has a choice as to how they want to look at themselves,
and whether they want to look at themselves the way
others have suggested. Therefore, in addition to offering
affirmations, I believe we also have to let those struggling
with their self-esteem know that they have choices, and
what their choices are. We should encourage them to
make their choices differently and better, but in the end
remind ourselves and them that their choices are theirs
alone to make.
because of that. The way they do is understandable, but it's
ultimately their choice. Like us, they will have to suffer any
emotional consequence there might be from making their
cognitive choices the way they do.
To avoid taking unnecessary responsibility, you simply need
to substitute the pronouns HIS, HER or THEIR for MY in the
statements given above. For example, "It's HIS choice how
he LOOKS AT things" and "It's HIS choice how he wants to
FEEL". Then repeat such things to yourself, not out loud.
The goal is NOT to not care how others feel. It's just to
avoid taking unnecessary responsibility for how they do.
shame and loneliness in our lives. Doing that can reduce
any purpose currently served by unhealthy or self-defeating
behavior. It would free us to be more response- ABLE, or
able to respond to life in the best possible way. The best
part is it wouldn't cost anything to develop one, or teach
others to have one. Just time and practice.