As I See It – The Art of Being In Control

1. The Birth of ILOC – Internal Locus Of Control When a baby is born it is itself. It is vulnerable, helpless and totally dependent on its caregivers to meet its needs. When its body needs food. It cries. When it needs sleep. It sleeps. When its brain is available to learn about the world. It is alert. When its needs are not being met. It cries. This is survival. The only control a baby has is through tears, body language, and later, smiles, words and movement.

If its needs are met with care or love, it will learn to feel protected and secure and be able to trust being OK in the world. If caregiving is neglectful, uncaring or unpredictable, the world becomes a threatening place and the baby will be stressed and insecure.

So gradually the baby starts to evaluate experience based on the positive or negative feelings it has in response to quality of care it is receiving from its parents or guardians. This later manifests as a need for approval, and proof of being loved. And can soon become more important, psychologically than its own internal referencing of its own needs.

2. The Birth of ELOC – External Locus Of Control

The problem is, if crying or pleasing doesn’t work, a baby has no means of regaining control to stay safe. If it is not heard, seen, acknowledged, cared for and reassured, and is left hungry, uncomfortable, afraid or in pain, the child soon learns to fear that its needs might not be met, and that this new and bewildering big wide world into which it has been born is NOT a safe place to be. External factors become scary and overwhelming, because the baby is helpless. Its resources are limited, so its locus, or perhaps more accurately Focus of control becomes externalised (ELOC).

3. ILOC/ ELOC – Where is the Focus of Control?

As we grow up we learn that survival and “thrival” depends on making sure that the people around us will help and support us.

When early experiences have been negative, insecurity and lack of resilience is the result and leads to increasing anxiety about possible external threats to our emotional, mental or physical wellbeing.

Instead of focusing on our own needs and on what WE CAN DO, to help ourselves, (ie our resources/capabilities), which is empowering, or ILOC, we divert most of our attention outwards – looking out for ‘danger’ in the external world. So the focus is not where it needs to be. This is ELOC.

Our focus, and therefore locus of control, shifts from inside to outside, internal to external. We end up ‘living inside out’ and lose our core stability. We forget we have the power to deal with life, an ability which should naturally grow and increase as we mature and gain experience and autonomy.

As adults, we can still make choices, however limiting our circumstances might be. Even when we cannot change circumstances, we still have the freedom to decide how to respond to them. Freedom is always possible in the mind, in our attitudes and beliefs and in how we manage our thoughts. This is ILOC.

If we have grown up in a secure and loving family or “tribe”, we are more able to trust that we can and will come through challenging situations. Free of anxiety, we are able to focus and draw on our inner resources and manage our lives.

We may find it easier to take things in our stride, to think positively about difficulties and live more in the safety and certainty of the present, rather than dwelling among the imagined dangers of the future. We become resilient and able to stay in control. This too, is ILOC. It ensures core stability of the mind, and the personality.

4. Self versus Other and The Art Of ILOC (with a K for kindness)

We need other people. We need to be part of a tribe because, like other animals, there is a primal sense of safety in numbers, which increases our chances of survival. To me this explains a natural craving for fitting in, for support, for being wanted and needed, for being acknowledged and accepted, for being one of the crowd. To belong. When we are in the right sort of tribe, we feel very safe. So we need to learn to socialise, be part of a team, and cooperate with others.

But there is also a powerful need to protect our own individuality and be our unique selves. We need to learn to journey through life on a quest to be the best we can be, through fulfilling our own potential, helping others, and/or looking after the beautiful planet we live on. There are no limits to the life stories we can write as human beings. And there are no limits to the differences between us. We are all gloriously, normally, unique.

Yet finding the right balance between Self and Others creates a dilemma, which is fundamental to the challenge of being human.

The question is “How can I be the individual and different person I really am, AND conform and be a valued and valuable part of the “tribe”, which I need for my wellbeing and survival?”

To be able to be different AND fit in, we need a fundamental belief that who and what I am is OK and valuable and acceptable. And we need social skills, empathy, and above all kindness, and respect for others, as well as towards ourselves. If we are those things, why WOULDN’T we be a welcome part of our tribe. What is not to like? Why would we not be wanted?

I believe, to do this, you also need to take responsibility for your choices, and yourself – and to resist the temptation to blame others. There needs to be a K for Kindness in ILOC; there needs to be compassion and respect for others, even when you are saying no. This is an important part of ILOC (K), because it is the way to maintain a state of balance, peace and harmony in the community in which we live.

5. It’s All About Balance

As I see it, The Art of ILOC is the skill of balancing our own needs with the needs of others – the tribe. But we can only do that well, if we also matter enough. Our own needs are as important as the needs of others, and we have to learn to respect ourselves enough to put ourselves first more often. On a plane, we are told to put our own oxygen mask on before other people’s. You can’t help others unless you are OK yourself.

6. Living Inside Out is the consequence of ELOC

Many people don’t feel they matter enough, to themselves or other people. Too many people, for any number of reasons, have low self esteem and little confidence in themselves. These people tend to Live Inside Out – they tend to put other people first. Because, for whatever reasons, they are ELOC.

They feel they are not good enough. They feel they are boring. They might have social anxiety. They often don’t feel heard or noticed, or that their opinions matter. They imagine other people are judging them…they make negative assumptions (and then believe them) about what other people are thinking. And so on and so on.

Inside Outers will often go to extraordinary lengths to conform, to try to please, to put other people first, to impress or to prove themselves in order to feel wanted, needed and accepted by the Tribe. They will almost always put other peoples oxygen masks on before their own.

Or, some Inside Outers will avoid taking responsibility and dealing with their own issues. They can be quick to blame other people, or the outside world for their problems or behaviours. They may end up as bullies, rescuers, pleasers or victims.

Their attention is externally focussed usually because of some kind of fear. Fear of loss, fear of rejection, fear of humiliation and shame, fear of being hurt, fear of facing the challenge of learning to accept themselves as they really are. They are ELOC. And as such they give their power and energy, self respect and internal resilience away.

The price we pay for this is the sacrifice of own own Self – the spiritual, mental and emotional core stability of the personality. And this leaves a vacuum, a weakness. Nothing to rely on, nothing to come back to.

When our sense of self and self acceptance is weak, other people become ‘better’ than them, or more important, are always right, or can get away with bullying them, using them, manipulating or disrespecting them – and the Inside Outer finds it difficult to stand up to them. They readily buy into other peoples beliefs, become easily hurt, roll over, accommodate, apologise.

The result? Hopelessness, depression, anxiety, despair, anger, frustration, upset, hurt… the list goes on. The real person is Out. Not at home. They become, as it were, empty… disconnected..not themselves.

By Living Inside Out and being ELOC, focussing on other people and external things, we overlook our own needs, feelings, opinions, and loose connection with our Self. In short we end up compromising our unique and true self. We do not have the courage to speak our truth, walk our talk or be authentic.

7. The Joy of Being ILOC(K) – Your Self

When you accept who and what you are, you MATTER.

Then….. your energy flows, you feel strong. You feel well. You feel confident. You feel safe and in control. You have self respect. You can stand up for yourself and have good boundaries. You can make good choices and stand by those choices because you are clear why you made them. You can balance your own needs with the needs of other people.

ILOC means having good strong boundaries. You can refuse to be bullied, manipulated, used or abused. You are resourceful. You are resilient. You are connected and in touch with your own strengths and capabilities so that you can tap into them when you need them. You are clear about your values. You are strong. You can relax and Be Yourself.

A strong Self has positive self belief, self confidence, self respect. You can feel comfortable in your own skin and be happy to be the unique person you were born to be. You may not like everything about yourself, but, just as an oyster works on a piece of grit and turns it into a pearl, you can work on the bits you don’t like, to be the best you can.

That’s human . And it is good enough.

Life becomes easier, more manageable, safer. There is less fear because you know that you have everything you need to face challenges and difficult situations. You can take control of your thoughts and feelings because you are coming from your Internal Locus Of Control. You can be authentic and live according to your own values, dreams and passions. People will know where they stand with you, and trust that you will be kind and respect them. They will like you more for that.

This is ILOC. It feels strong . It feels powerful. It feels in control. It feels good.

Written & shared by Gill Wood – Cognitive Hypnotherapist, on the QCHPA members site