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How To Feel In Control: External Locus vs. Internal Locus

This week, 'Therapy Begins with Tea' steeps on the differences between an external and internal locus of control & offers a body based check-in with your internal locus.

how to feel more in control; internal locus v external locus of control

Therapy Begins with Tea is a weekly newsletter based on the themes that come up in my sessions as a therapist who specializes in imposter syndrome, attachment styles in romantic relationships, and our psychological relationships with money. Each week consists of a 'steep' in thought reflection, an accompanying body based check-in, and tea card intentions for the week to come.

'Steep' in Thought (3-5 min)

How Do You Feel in Control?

(n). the power to decide the particular way in which something will happen or someone will behave.

Control is a core human desire -- and realizing how little we can actually control is one of the most uncomfortable lessons we have to navigate in life. But it’s the main way we’re taught to deal with uncertainty, so we become extra precious about what we can control -- we wrestle for it with ourselves, with each another, even with the universe. So let’s look at the two ways we feel in control.

The first is an external locus of control. It involves organizing our life so that our environment feels clear, defined, & accounted for. Our sense of control & certainty comes from managing what’s outside of us -- we think that if we can see the whole landscape, we’ll be able to predict (and prepare for) what’s ahead of us.

With an internal locus of control, our sense of control comes from the resources that we’ve built inside of us; we don’t need to know the future, with certainty, because we trust that we can adjust & adapt accordingly.

Maintaining the Balance

As with most things when it comes to wellbeing, balance is key. Most of us, though, lean more heavily into external control than we do internally. In its extreme, externalizing looks like anxiety & perfectionism, crowdsourcing personal decisions, spiritual bypassing, and even avoiding our own agency to make choices in life.

So next time you’re wrestling with control, check in with your inner resources (intuition, equanimity, trust, clarity, confidence, agency) & then utilize your external locus of control as needed.

Try out the full body check-in below to practice accessing your internal locus of control.

Full Body Check-In (2-4 min)

In through the nose, out through the mouth. And repeat.

The most direct route to our internal locus of control is through our breath. This presence of mind & body allows us to check in on our inner resources. So let’s really sink in & sync up to the rhythm, feeling the air fill your body on the inhale & noticing what happens on the exhale. Repeat the cycle as many times as you need to feel present, focused, & relaxed.

On the next inhale, imagine your ‘inner resources’ as tools in a toolbox. How does it look? Notice what tools are there. What does intuition look like? How about agency? What other tools are in your toolbox? Use them & this exercise when you need to access your internal control.

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