Internal Vs External Locus of Control
By: Rose Lockinger
Before getting sober, many addicts and alcoholics believe that all of their problems are the direct result of external influences that are beyond their control. They believe that if their families only acted a certain way, if the police would leave them alone, or if their boss would stop being a nag everything would be okay. Few if any active alcoholics or addicts have the wherewithal necessary to see the fallacy in this type of thinking and so many believe they are victimized by their environment, unaware that many of these problems are the result of their actions.
I know that this was the case for me. When I was still drinking I blamed the chaos in my life on the circumstances in my life unable to accept my part. I felt that my life was completely out of control I knew that using contributed but I also had lots of others to hold responsible.
This was until I got sober and was introduced to the ideas that I should quit playing God and relinquish control to a power that was greater than myself. I also had to learn to forgive myself and let go of the past I remember that these ideas were revolutionary to me because for so many years my alcoholic thinking would not allow me the self-reflection necessary to understand this and so I blamed everyone and everything for the problems in my life.
Essentially what getting sober allowed me to do was to change my psychology from an external locus of control to an internal one. This was not necessarily the goal when I started out on my journey of recovery, in fact the initial goal was to just be able to stop drinking and drugging, but over my time in sobriety I have found this shift in thinking to be invaluable to my day to day serenity.
Locus of control is a part of personality psychology that describes an individual’s expectations regarding the forces that determine rewards or punishment. A person can either have an internal locus of control, where they believe that events stem from their own actions, or an external locus of control, where they believe that events stem from external forces that are beyond their control. While both internal and external loci of control have their benefits, for me having a completely external locus of control was exceedingly negative when I was actively using.
Having an external locus of control meant that I constantly had to try to control everything around me. This is was because I believed that everything that happened in my life was the result of outside forces. So I would attempt to control people and their actions to the best of my ability because I was afraid if I didn’t then I would not get my fair shake. The interesting thing is that no matter how hard I tried to do this I was never very successful at it. I could manipulate and get people to do what I wanted for a while, but this method of living had its limits and I was always left disappointed and unsatisfied in the end.
Once my locus of control switched to an internal one I realized that I no longer had to try to control everyone and because of this a lot of the stress that came from this was gone. This freed me up to focus on myself, and my own actions and in doing so I was not only happier, but things got better. When I got out of the way, life unfolded in a manner that I could never have imagined.
I began to understand what the serenity prayer really meant.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference
That there were certain things that I could change, mainly my actions, there were things that I could not change, other people’s actions, and knowing the difference would make a world of difference in my interactions with others. I began to be able to respond to people and life rather than react to them and because of this I was happier. If I was stuck in traffic I no longer believed that it was happening to me, and when someone did something that I didn’t like or agree with it I didn’t take it as personally.
This inner journey has been huge as I began to realize that I am no longer a victim to life, that instead I have power in my life and it is very real and tangible. At this point in my life there are many things that are out of my control. They are not just little things either. However through shifting my perception to what I can control. Prevents me from getting lost in everything I cannot change. It empowers me to take direct tangible actions on the things that I can control which is me. I can control my reactions to life. I can temper my responses to show compassion and humility instead of judgement and anger. I struggle it is not easy, especially when dealing with people that have hurt me. I want to lash out and hurt them but that’s not the way I have to live anymore. I feel my emotions, and let them go.
Having an internal locus of control also allowed me to take responsibility for my actions. I was able to see that external forces did not always predicate the way that I acted, and what’s further that external forces didn’t need to control my actions. I was able to see that many of the things that I did in my active addiction were provoked only by my addiction and they were no one’s fault but my own. This has allowed me to make proper amends to my friends and family and in turn allowed me to try to not make those same mistakes.
Having an internal locus of control has completely changed the way I view the world and I believe it is partially why I am able to maintain my sobriety. I worry about myself and my own actions and allow others to do the same. This has transformed my life as I go from victim to survivor.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.
You can find Rose on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram