Do you ever blame others or circumstances for your problems? I don’t mean situations wherein someone did something to you. I mean your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Do you blame people for making you feel a certain way? How about causing you to do certain things? We all have a tendency to externalize our locus of control when we face difficulty.
Locus of control is psychobabble that refers to the extent to which individuals believe they control events that affect their lives. It is important to understand a couple of things about this concept. The word “locus” means a point of reference. It is where something occurs – location.
Understanding Locus of Control
People that have an internal locus of control will believe their life circumstances are largely the result of their own behavior and personal characteristics. In contrast, a person who has an external locus of control has a tendency to believe the circumstances of their life are largely due to outside influences. They determine this regardless of their decisions or personal characteristics.
Imaging you got a promotion in your job. If you have an internal locus of control, you would likely believe that your promotion came as a result of your hard work. Your success was a direct result of your effort and your effort was the result of your personal characteristic of believing that working hard is important. If you have an external locus of control, you may look at the promotion as being the result of external forces. The promotion was the result of luck, fate, good timing, or a blessing from God.
Let’s say you applied for the promotion and were denied. If your locus of control is internal, you would blame yourself for the failed attempt. Maybe you didn’t work as hard as you could have or maybe you have not had enough experience. If your locus of control is external, you might accuse the person who received the promotion a suck up, or maybe the boss has it in for you, or some other external factor.
Most of us are not completely one or the other but we usually do have strong tendencies in one direction. All of us have some level of external locus of control. It comes and goes at different times. Even the most responsible among us has used phrases like these:
- He made me angry
- I can’t believe you made me do that
- Stop trying to make me feel bad
- You don’t care about me
- If you would listen to me, I wouldn’t have to yell
- It’s your fault I was late
We use statements like these to preserve our self-image. We don’t want to see ourselves in a negative light. That’s not a bad thing, by the way. However, we do have to recognize when we are avoiding responsibility and placing too much blame for our problems on others. We can only change ourselves.
Understanding my own tendency is a key to making positive changes. As I learn to accept more responsibility for my life and my problems, I am able to take action toward changing things in a positive direction. Accepting responsibility for my problems does away with blaming others but it also gives me an opportunity. When I avoid personal responsibility, I am a victim of circumstance. When I accept personal responsibility, I am empowered to change.