Locus of Control and Depression

The concept of locus of control is huge and defines how we approach almost everything in life.  It is a thinking style that refers to how you perceive the cause of life’s events. Do you believe that your destiny iscontrolled by you or by external forces such as luck, chance or fate? Locus of control is very closely tied to depression and hopelessness. Research studies in these areas have long exhibited a directcorrelation between mood and these thinking patterns.

There are thought to be two types of locus of control:
1.Internal Locus of control- This is the belief that our outcomes are contingent on what we do to make them happen- our own decisions and efforts. We tend to accept responsibility as well as credit for ouractions. This orientation has been shown to generate more effort and willingness to take risk as well as be behind high motivation and perseverance. If good things happen, I deserve credit for my hard work orabilities, if something bad happens, it is due to something I did wrong or could have done better.

2.External Locus of Control-This is the belief that our outcomes are contingent on events outside our control- luck, chance or fate. When bad things happen or we behave in a poor fashion we tend not to take ownership of it.  “The government was late with my check, it wasn’t my fault I needed money and had to rob the 7-11”. On the flip side, if something good happens or we are successful at something we take no ownership of that either i.e., if we get a job we wanted we assume there were no other candidates or the employer was in a hurry to hire someone.

In general it is considered to be more psychologically healthy to possess a certain level of internal locus of control. Locus of control is largely a learned concept. It may be a response to circumstances and in the case of toxic environments it is easy to see where this may go haywire. In general people with a more internal locus of control tend to have better paying jobs, be more achievement oriented and more resilient in the face of adversity. 

Perhaps you have been told by someone that you have no ability or are no good and worthless, chances are you then did not develop internal locus of control. You felt if something good happened it must be due to luck as you have no ability or innate worth. Not only parents are guilty of this message to young people but sometimes teachers and counselors as well. 

If you were never held to task for actual bad behavior you may have developed an external locus of control.  You may also have developed a sense of entitlement.  Your ego may not be able to handle the thought of a mistake or failure of some sort. This usually stems from a deep seated feeling of insecurity and inferiority. Perhaps you have been given the message that your circumstances are due to other’sgreed, a faulty government or some other perceived unfairness.

It is actually healthy to have a bit of both thinking styles in your repertoire. If you fail and then tell yourself you are totally a loser when perhaps there were some extenuating circumstances then you are likely notto try again. If you are able to say, I did my best but it was hard due to lack of knowledge, or just some specific circumstance like weather you are more likely to believe you will experience success again in the future.

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