As a school psychologist, I would like to discuss the concept of “locus of control,” which was first introduced in 1954 by Psychologist Julian Rotter. Two types of locus of control are internal and external. An internal locus of control refers to the ability to control one’s environment, events and outcomes, while an external locus of control refers to the belief that we have no control over our environment and life’s circumstances that come our way; rather, outside forces, circumstances, and the environment control us. When you are confronted with a challenge in your life, do you feel that you have control over the outcome? If so, then you have an internal locus of control, and that will definitely work to your benefit in dealing with any type of chronic illness.
Unfortunately for people with chronic illness, it is quite natural to have an external locus of control. In addition to the actual suffering, this external locus of control mindset leads to depression and anxiety, as those with chronic illness experience higher than normal rates and often feel powerless.
Now I would be remiss to suggest that thinking positively and utilizing an internal locus of control mindset can reverse our condition. It can’t. We are dealing with a chronic illness.
Furthermore, most people are not at one extreme or the other on the type of locus of control; most have some degrees of both external and internal locus of control, and are somewhere along the continuum. That said, understanding the difference between what we can and can’t control is key to taking control of, and total responsibility for, our health.
The well-known Serenity Prayer says it succinctly: