Locus of Control

In Psychological terms people talk about locus of control, which in a pinch means: who or what is responsible for what has happened or how one feels about what happened.   So often it is hard to recognize our own part in how we are responding to the things happening to us in life.  Most of us tend to live in external locus of control.  From my perspective  external locus of control means that I am swept along by external events.  It tends to sound like: “You made me feel bad,”  “They pissed me off,” etc.  And, the sway of our emotions is moved by external events, something said or done to us, or just something we’re experiencing,  It is a focus on things that we are powerless to control.  External locus is a focus on what you say, you think, you do.  An external focus is if you say something and I don’t like it, you become the problem…

Conversely,  an internal locus of control means, I choose to focus on what I say, think, and do.  You said or did something and my feelings got hurt or I got mad, but my feelings are my own.  This is really hard to do in the real world.  It is especially hard if I don’t like what is happening in a situation.  It is far easier to feel like we are internally motivated when things are positive, example: ‘I made a pie and shared it with friends, everyone raved about how wonderful it was… but, I feel good just with having shared it.’  In actuality I may feel good for sharing it, but I might also feel good because people like what I did, if they had hated it, I might have felt like crap.  External locus.

Part of self esteem, self acceptance, and self love, is learning to shift to a more internal locus of control. We are less likely to have our ships crash against life’s rocks.  We start to believe in our own truth. I made a pie and no one liked it, “yet this doesn’t define me.” I can take the information and learn a new pie recipe, I can decide maybe I prefer to buy pie, I can decide to try the pie on new people and get more of a consensus, or maybe I will make salad in the future.  But, the choice is mine, I am aware, and choosing options for myself.  Internal locus.

Head Full of Doubt

Lyrics

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There’s a darkness upon you that’s flooded in light
And in the fine print they tell you what’s wrong and what’s right
And it flies by day and it flies by night
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

Fight, Flight, or Freeze… yeah, you

Most of us have heard of the fight, flight, or freeze response.  For anyone not familiar with these words, they are the survival responses that have been wired into our deepest parts, physically, mentally, emotionally, in order to survive the tiger running at us.  It tends to be a burst of Adrenaline and Cortisal, that motivates you to action, (fight or flight) or floods you so much that you are frozen in fear.  Fast forward 10,000 years, we don’t have so many tigers, but our brains and bodies still retain this strategy for survival.  And, since the world is filled with modern day threats, poor drivers, scary husbands, scary wives, scary neighbors, or kids, and we still use the fight, flight or freeze, in order to make it through the day.

In the brain, several items are crucial to understand.  Our brain wants to create connections and habits.  There are PET scans of brains learning new information and the amounts of glucose and energy required are huge.  So, it benefits the mind and body to habitualize reactions and responses, to be efficient.  This is great if the reaction and response is an effective one, but when we have habitualized ineffective reactions and responses, we may have a problem.

One of the benefits that relationships offer us, is an opportunity to learn to manage these fight, flight, or freeze reactions.  Because, nothing triggers these responses like someone we love, pissing us off.  And, for most of us, we tend not to feel like flight or freeze, but rather, ‘bring it on… let’s rumble.”

So, how do we calm ourselves before we get to rumbling.  Well, the newest info is that we need to start paying attention.  Awareness is a key.  Questions to start to pay attention to are: How is my body feeling?  Am I feeling tense or tight anywhere?  How is my breathing, slow and deep or fast and shallow?  What am I thinking?  “Fuck you you fucking fuck…” or something calmer?  All these signs can tell us if we’re heading into a meltdown.

First thing if you find yourself heading down the road of a rage is to take a break.  Work on breathing, HeartMath is a technique that can help.  In the world of the brain, practice makes perfect, so don’t wait till your about to flip your lid.  In short HeartMath uses a Freeze Frame model.  Think of a stressful situation, recognize the feelings in your body.  Then shift your attention away from the stress towards something fun or calming.  Imagine you are breathing through your heart.  Practice this daily.  Repeat as often as you need to, to create a new response and to build your brain’s ‘walk away muscles.”

em⋅pa⋅thy [em-puh-thee]

Empathy is a interesting word, the dictionary definition is:

1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself: By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.

We use it in our lives, often in respect to other people and our expectations of them, “they don’t have empathy” or “they need empathy,” but often, we don’t have a deep understanding of what empathy even means to ourselves, let alone what it means to others. For me empathy means, being able to put myself into someone elses shoes, to ask myself to suspend judgement and work to understand the other persons perspective, most especially if I don’t understand or like it.  In my mind, empathy isn’t about feeling sorry for the other, but rather to feel compassion for what their experience is.

In relationships, we often start off with love and affection. Due to the daily hazards of living with someone else, that love and affection can erode. We develop habits of interactions, conversations, expectations, and arguments. As we build walls against the hurts and disappointments, we tend to lose the empathy that allows us access to the other persons perspective. So, what’s a person to do to increase empathy? Increasing empathy requires awareness, if I understand that I’m pissed or hurt, I can take steps to remove myself until I feel better able to shift my focus to what might be going on for the other.  Then I can begin to work on depersonalizing myself from their reactions, focusing on the idea that people have different perspectives.  And, that they are at all moments living in the model of the world they have created, just like I am.  If I care about the person, parent, friend, child, lover, etc, it benefits me and the relationship to find the empathy to their perspective and work on finding ways to share mine without blame.  Blame just seems to sink their battleship and piss them off more, reducing empathy and increasing angst.

In “Mindsight,” the new book by Daniel Siegel, he discusses people practicing mindfulness and awareness to calm their bodies.  This practice helps them to manage their own emotional reaction and allows them access back to empathy and gives them the ability to work on repairing hurts.  I am only just starting this book, but I like it so far.

It is what it is…

Some issues seem to come up over and over again.  I’ve been talking with friends and each one of them, to include myself, express wishfulness over the past.  We wish something or other had happened differently, or that we could undo some event, or exchange what we have had happen, replaying situation or event in our heads until it either drives us crazy or wears us out.  We act like dogs with a good bone, working old angles for new outcomes.  But, the situations and experiences that we are obsessing over, are in the past.  No amount of thinking or rethinking, on an event that is over, will ever change what has already happened.  What is… is.  I don’t have Mr. Peabody’s ‘way way back machine’ (if you do, please contact me for a completely different conversation) and I can’t undo anything that has already occurred.  The obsessive thinking is like trying to move forward while all your attention in focused backwards, dangerous and foolhardy.  If we can get clear on the fact that ‘it is what it is,’ our job then becomes about, what did I learn, what clarity do I need in order to move forward and not reincarnate this issue at the next opportunity?  The best and most important part of looking at the past is to figure out how to live the future better.  What did I learn about my reactions/responses, other peoples reactions/responses, what worked, what didn’t, what could I do differently next time, to get a different result.  I often ask myself:  “What have I done in the past that worked better, how might I have used that information this time for a better result and how will I use it the next time a similar situation comes up?”