Cultivating an Internal Locus of Control for Better Mental Health

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Closeup of an eye of a black man

Closeup of an eye of a black man

Maybe you’ve never heard of the terms internal or external locus of control, but you likely identify with either believing you are responsible for making life happen for yourself, or that life happens to you. In essence, that is what internal versus external locus of control means, and knowing which you identify with can explain your actions and reactions in life. Adopting the belief that you make things happen will positively affect your mental health while believing that things that happen to you will have the opposite effect.

Internal Versus External Locus of Control

“Locus of control” is a fancy way of saying how an individual perceives the controlling factors behind his or her life experiences. Someone with an internal locus of control believes that their hard work and decision-making directly impact outcomes. Those with an internal locus of control are less likely to be affected by other’s opinions, more likely to take responsibility for what happens to them, and feel confident in themselves when faced with challenging situations.

Those with an external locus of control believe outcomes are outside of their control, blaming outside forces or people for what happens. People with a dominant external locus of control don’t recognize their power in affecting their circumstances and will feel helpless and powerless when battling adversity. An external locus of control encourages passive participation in one’s life and can hurt a person’s motivation.

How They Impact Your Mental Health

Depending on your dominant locus of control, you can feel very powerful or powerless in your life. Positive beliefs about your ability to affect change in your life lead to better outcomes with stress management, having a positive mindset, and a high sense of self-efficacy and confidence in life. Having an external locus of control will often make a person feel helpless in their life and may cascade to feeling anxiety or depression from situations they feel hopeless about.

Taking inventory of what your beliefs are surrounding the influence you have over your life will help you make any mindset changes necessary to gain increased confidence in yourself and autonomy in your own life.

Having an internal locus of control instead of an external locus of control may help you have healthier emotional responses to events in life. It may also lead to a stronger sense of confidence and self-efficacy while people with an external locus of control feel helpless about their life circumstances. Avalon Malibu is one of the only residential treatment centers in California that treats both mental health disorders and substance use addiction. At Avalon, we offer a continuum of high-quality, integrated care that meets the many needs of our patients. Contact us when you are ready to take the first steps towards lasting recovery at (844) 857-5992.

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