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Monday, July 30, 2012

Guest blog: Locusts of Control

My friend Skye posted this over on her blog and I loved it so much, I asked her if she would be willing to let me post it here too.

Locusts of Control

There is a psychological term called "locus of control". It basically means where you perceive the control over your life coming from: inside of you or outside of you. According to my therapist, people with an internal locus of control tend to be more successful and happy than people with an external locus of control. 

Having an internal locus of control means that you perceive that you are in control of your life and that what you do determines what happens in your life, as much as possible. 

Having an external locus of control means that you think that something or someone else — your parents, God(s), luck, the Universe, your neighbor's dog — determines what happens in your life; you don't feel that you have much if any control over it.

There is even a simple test you can take (the site asks for a name, but just so the program can be friendly and refer to you by your name; give it a fake name if you like, or just a first name), that will give you a quick and dirty determination of where you fall on the scale between 100% internal vs. 100% external control. Thirteen is 100% external — I got a nine. My BFF said he was pleased at that because he would have been unsurprised if I'd gotten a 13.

I titled this post Locusts of Control because while I often perceive a great, malicious Universe being in control of my life, I don't always. There are things I feel I am in control of (my side of a job interview, for example), and things that I feel that other people are in control of (whether or not to even read my resume, for example). For me, there are many loci of control, and sometimes they work in my favor and sometimes they descend like locusts and devastate my life (like my mother getting cancer and dying, or my being unable to find work).

Mind you, I would do better with a more internal locus of control, I know that. And I have been working on it, which is why I got a nine instead of a 13. But I doubt I'll ever have a one, for I have experienced the locusts. 

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" is a quote by Seneca, a Roman philosopher. I do believe that you have to be prepared to take advantage of when luck introduces you to opportunity. But bad things still happen that have nothing to do with being prepared and everything to do with rolling dice with the Universe. I know a woman who's life has gone to hell this year, and basically little or none of it was within her control. I think that in situations like that, your locus of control can only help you determine how to deal with what you have been given to deal with. After the locusts have gone, do you replant or do you give up and move to the city and try to make a living there? It depends on how you perceive life ("If I replant, the locusts will just come again" vs. "The locusts have come and gone. They won't be back this season."). 

I'd like to think I'd replant. That's basically what I've been doing by returning to Houston rather than running off to live with friends in Seattle. I still have some things to do that I am in control of doing; they may provide me with what I want. There are still options where the locus is within me. There are options where the control is part me and part others — do they want my skills and experience?

I know the locusts will return on and off again in my life and I perceive that the locus of control varies. Being able to perceive what I am in control of, and controlling it, will ultimately build a stronger and happier me. And that's what therapy's all about, isn't it?


Skye is a writer and editor of many things and has chosen to share her therapy with everyone in the perhaps-mistaken idea that everyone want to know about it.


  1. Hi Deborah,

    This was an insightful test to take. To my surprise, I scored a 4. I guess I'm a lot happier than I imagined. It also reinforces my philosophy that I have a lot of control over my life, but I need to take the right action to get the desired result.

    Thanks for posting this on your blog. By the way, I l-o-v-e your cat pictures! It always looks like you have such a comfy life.

  2. To my surprise I also scored 4. I know I try to be self-determining, maybe I'm doing better at it than I thought.
    In echo of Vonnie, I also love the cat pics - don't ever stop posting those!

  3. Good for you, Vonnie and Deborah! And I'm glad you like the cat pics--I always worry that people are going to get bored with them!

  4. I got a 4, too. Not surprising for an atheist.