It isn’t events that cause us distress – it is how we respond to them. It is the meaning we attach to life. It’s what we think about and the core beliefs that define who we are in relation to our world. Its what we say to ourselves about our worth and our abilities.
Stress levels are affected by our personality traits as well as life experiences that shape and mold our responses to life. We make assumptions and interpret the present based on our past. But we can learn new ways to respond.
Who’s in Control?
When you believe you have power and influence over your life, you will be empowered to problem solve, look for options and make better choices. You will become pro-active.
If you are trying to control every aspect of your life, you will have difficulty relaxing and letting go. Holding a superhuman image of yourself will only keep you on a treadmill of striving and repeating the same things over and over again even when they don’t work.
When we are empowered, we can be flexible, let go of things that aren’t working, reframe our situations and refocus on those things we can do. We don’t beat ourselves up for perceived failures. We can ask for and accept help from God and others.
When we are pro-active, we don’t have to prove ourself to ourself or anyone else. We accept ourselves just as we are – with all our faults, failures, insecurities, fears, anxieties and inabilities.
We can identify and celebrate our strengths, successes and achievements. We humbly acknowlege our accomplishments and work on improving ourselves and our world. We realize we are not the center of the universe, all-knowing or perfect.
We acknowledge the gifts God has given us and thank Him for them. We acknowledge that we need God and Jesus Christ both for salvation and for the strength to develop character and live our values and principles.
If you do not feel you have any control over your life, you will become re-active to everything that happens. This usually leads to resentment, blaming, passive aggressive behaviors, anger, worry, and a victim mentality.
Perhaps you feel everything just happens to you and you are powerless to make a difference. Other people, your childhood, your boss, the economy, the stock market, the banks, the whatever all leave you with no options or choices. There is nothing you can do to change or influence what is happening to you.
If we continue in this realm of thinking, we not only will think we are victims, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and we become victims. But we have become victims to our own way of thinking.
There is a healthy balance between the two: internal locus of control and external locus of control. It is important to understand that you have the ability to choose how you respond to whatever happens to you.
You do not have control over all things. Your choices may be limited. But too often we limit ourselves and we inadvertingly choose to become a victim. When we do, we choose not to choose!
Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC