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Self-Actualization and Regaining your Locus of Control

by Tanaath on 12/12/13

The Corey Taylor Talks show was very interesting, especially since we had such a monster of a time actually connecting me to the show and staying connected. I wish we had more than an hour to talk, because there's a limit to how much ground you can cover in an hour, and when technical difficulties eat half an hour of it, it's even more limited. So I will be coming back on that show, I'll have to set up a date with them.

It was interesting to notice that my disconnects occurred when discussing a particular topic - that of self-actualization and regaining your locus of control. I had no idea one's locus of control was such a verboten subject, but apparently it is. So I promised to discuss it a bit in a blog post.

Simply put, your locus of control is how much you feel you are personally in control of your own life. If your locus of control is entirely outside of yourself, the typical consequence is depression, misery, anger, frustration, and a lot of negativity about everything. I know pretty well how it is, because I battle with this myself. A lot of us do. If you feel like there's nothing at all in your life that you have control over, it sucks. Conversely, the more you feel like you are in control of your own life, the happier you are, and the more you are able to put your effort to effectively achieving what it is you are working for.

Regaining your locus of control is one part a perceptual game and one part taking command of the parts of life you can actually control.

First off, the perceptual thing. Anyone who has driven a car and who has also been a passenger will understand this concept - you usually feel safer when it's you in control of the vehicle. That's a perception thing. You may not actually be safer (especially if you drive like my sister), but you feel in control. And that means you are more confident, and better able to handle the unexpected without fear.

When it comes to the self, how you perceive yourself is a really big thing. Unlike my sister's driving skills, it will have a large and noticeable impact on the rest of your life. Your mental toolbox will be full of tools, the car of your mind will be fueled up, well maintained, and ready to race a Ferrari. You won't be caught flat-footed feeling helpless.

The mind trick in this is in understanding and recognizing that some things will always be outside of your control, and choosing instead to only let the things you can actually control impact your mental state.

For instance - last week, my area had an incredible dumping of snow. We nearly broke a record for this time of the year. It was followed by very very cold temperatures, in the -20 to -30C range (-4 to -22F), and seriously icy conditions. The roads were a mess. My morning drive to work (I have given up the bus for the winter, as the snow makes service unreliable and I have no desire to freeze to death) went from 30 minutes to over an hour. Traffic was bad and there was over 2,000 accidents in a 10-day period. Even driving in a straight line could be difficult due to the snow and ice.

I had no control over the weather. I had no control over the number of other drivers on the road. I had no control over whether my route had an accident or whether an accident somewhere else had more people than usual using my particular route. I had no control over what the people around me were doing. It was a recipe for frustration and rage, especially when combined with the fact that I really hate being late for anything.

But there were aspects of this I could control. I could control my own reaction to all of this. And I could take steps to minimize my risk of an accident, and help make it so that even if I lost control of my vehicle, I wouldn't end up in trouble or hurt anyone else. I left early. I drove real slow. I mean, real slow - idling speed a lot of the time. I left a lot of distance between me and other cars. I watched where the cars in front of me slid around and which way their skids went, so I would be prepared when I hit that spot. I gave myself a lot of distance for stopping, and I kept my feet off the gas on any sludgy or uneven ground. As a result, I got to and from my destinations safely, and I felt less angry about all the delays, because I knew I was doing what I could.

There will always be things in your life that are outside your control. How well you deal with it is a mental game. If you focus on all the things that you can't control, you will be miserable. Your locus of control is outside yourself. But if you focus on the things you can control, you bring that locus of control back into yourself. Don't sweat the petty things. And if you have a major problem, start by looking for the things you can fix before thinking too much about the things you can't fix.

Unfortunately, this whole world has been designed to systematically erode our locus of control and shift it to someone or something other than ourselves. Yes, I fully realize that this world has a lot of outside pressures that we don't have direct control over - I live here too. I, too, have to find some way to feed myself and clothe myself and shelter myself, etc., and I fully realize that gaining control over my life will always be incomplete. That's why I'm not aiming for 100%, just 'as much as I possibly can'. Psychologically speaking, I give the stuff I can control much, much more 'weight' than the stuff I can't.

So, if your locus of control has slipped away from you, how do you get it back? Start by taking a step back from your situation. Pretend it's happening to someone else, and make an inventory of what can and can't be changed. You want three boxes:

1. Really, truly, honestly outside your control. This is things like the weather, which you would literally need a super power to change. These are things that are either totally unchangeable, or effectively unchangeable.

2. Things that can be changed but not with your current situation or resources - these might feel like they can't be changed by you, but they are something that can be changed.

3.Things you can have direct control over. This is all the things you know you can choose or alter.
Analyze the underlying assumptions in anything that you decide can't be changed, so you can really be sure that it can't be changed. Then shove it in the 'can't do anything about it' box, and go back to the stuff you can affect... and the stuff that you can affect if other things happen to allow it (box 2).

Your energy and your focus should go into the things you can affect, instead of pooling around all the things you can't affect. Be aware of the things you can't change, but don't cling to them.

Take ownership of everything in box 3. Understand that it's yours, and that you can do something about it. It's your responsibility and no one else's.

Regaining your locus of control is all about moving the things from box 2 into box 3 as much as possible. Take it slow. You don't have to get it all at once. Take each piece of Box 2 stuff and analyze it piece by piece. Pick it apart as much as you can, always asking the question of 'what would it take to change this'. Not 'what should I do to change this', but 'what would it take'. Once you have that listed out, then ask yourself, of each point 'how can I work to achieve that'. Focus on what you can do, not what you can't do. If something is genuinely impossible, move on to the next thing, or the next best solution.

We humans tend to have an all or nothing way of thinking. But understanding that there are gradations and a spectrum involved, usually, is a big benefit. If you can't achieve outcome #1, what is outcome #2? Can you achieve that? Or #3, or #4, and so on, until you have the very best that you can get under the circumstances. If you can't get the best solution, try to figure out what the next best is and go for that. Go for the maximum bang for your effort.

In this community we freak out a lot about things outside our control. Interstellar flying rocks, volcanoes and earthquakes, political situations in other countries, natural disasters, manmade disasters, radiation, etc... these are things that most of us can't directly influence. It doesn't help us much to focus on them. Instead, focus on what you can do. In my own household, it's been a focus on sensible preparedness for a natural disaster or other interruption of services. We can't realistically be prepared for 5 years of interrupted services, but we can be prepared for a month or two, so we are.

In my non-physical life, I've been using what I do have access to - the Silver Legion, my own non-physical form and abilities - to effect what changes I can. They haven't trickled down here into the physical plane in a way that I can perceive, at least not yet. But I keep trying, because the payoff is worth it for myself and for humanity if we can succeed with this.

Geiger Counter - the Fukushima situation is a real great example of Box 1 material. If it's as bad as people are trying to tell us, there's not a whole lot we as individual human beings on Terra can do about it. Our fear accomplishes nothing but hobbling us and crippling us mentally and leaving us unable to deal with other situations in our lives that are more acute and pressing. We can't even reliably find out how bad the situation actually is, because the information sources are all completely unreliable and unverifiable unless you literally own a Geiger counter and live near Fukushima - in which case, you'll know one way or another, but the quality of information degrades rapidly the further it gets from you. Move on from the fear and start focusing on what you can do. In this case, ISON, Fukushima, and things of that nature are not things you can affect directly. Spare these things your fear and panic - be aware of them to the extent that you can be aware of them, but focus on the things in your life that you can change.

This is why fear-mongering is so very, very damaging. It's part of the general process of removing our locus of control from ourselves and placing it among externalities. Every iota of energy we spend on fear is energy we can't spend on something productive that actually benefits us. All the time we spend puzzling over whether or not ISON will smack us in the face is time we don't put to productive use. The time we spend complaining about how crappy everything is, is time we don't spend trying to make things a little less crappy.

Take control of as much of your life as you possibly can. Spend your time and energy trying to shove Box 2 stuff into Box 3. Even if it's only a little bit each day, make a pact with yourself to have no non-productive days and start working on how to improve things from where you stand. And if you have a zero-day, forgive yourself and don't let the next day become a zero-day.

It's an ongoing process, and even with this knowledge I still struggle with it. But I don't give up and I keep trying. There's a lot I can't do anything about, but I'm choosing to focus on what I can do things about. Even if my 'sphere of influence' is the size of an orange, that's one more orange in the world that's helping people than there was before.