Thursday, November 18, 2010

External Locus of Belief: Is it True, is it REALLY True?

by Sandra L. Brown, M.A.

In psychology, we refer to the belief about where control over events in our lives resides as 'internal and external locus of control'. This means we see our behaviors either generated by personal efforts or by destiny. We believe that we make things happen or we believe others do it for us whether we like it or not. 

But also related to internal and external locus of control is its effect on impulse motivation. This means that a person who has internal locus of control can self regulate their impulses and desires themselves. They find their motivation for behavior, choices, and reactions inside of themselves by themselves. (By the way, pathologicals normally have poor internal locus of control except for brief periods of time when they are conning someone. One of the true signs of pathology is poor impulse control).

Other people who have external locus of control (like the pathologicals) are not self regulated in their behavior, choices, and reactions inside of themselves. Instead, they look outside themselves for motivation and consequently since they don't regulate themselves well, outside themselves for limits on their behaviors. People with poor internal locus of control often need the external world to regulate themselves for them---unfortunately this is often the legal system, jail, or some kind of negative consequence.

But today, I am talking about internal and external locus of belief systems. Where is your belief system (especially about the pathological) located? Is it inside you or externally in others? Do you come to understand, see, and accept his pathology within yourself? Do you read materials, go to counseling and then come to believe and hold that belief in you that he is pathological, can't change, and destructive to your own future? Are you able to pull up inside of yourself the facts of his dangerous or misleading behavior in your relationship? Are you able to point to the ways in which he has been destructive to others? Are you able to latch on to his diagnosis and use it as a life raft for yourself to drift away from him?

OR, are your beliefs externally hinged? "If you say so Sandra--if you say he's pathological, then I guess he is." "If he scored high on the P-scan (developed by Dr. Robert Hare) then I suppose that is correct...."  Statements like these are related to people who have external locus of belief. They don't really believe it themselves; they are hinging their belief system to someone else's belief systems--usually mine or another expert in pathology. Somewhere along the line they haven't really 'come to believe' that the pathology is his. It's still some distant reality 'labeled' by a therapist but you don't own it inside your self. This makes accepting it, reallllyyyyyy accepting it, hard for you because you then need to be reminded every 30 seconds that he is in fact, permanently pathological. Once you are out of ear range of a therapist or some other external validating system (books, DVDs, CDs, etc.) will you still accept his pathology?

'Coming to believe' pathology is a hard thing. It's a shock to learn that someone you thought was the most wonderful person in the world is secretly very, very (did I say very?) sick.  NOT only do you have to believe that the person is very, very (did I say very?) sick, but that sickness has no cure. Not only are they sick and have no cure, but staying around them is detrimental to your own (and your children's) mental health. Not only that they are sick, have no cure, staying around them is detrimental to your own mental health but they have all the capacities of breaking both your knee caps--either financially or even physically given no conscience. This is a big wad to swallow all at once with no chaser of hope.

Most people need a time of 'coming to believe' -- it's like building faith in anything else--we study and come to believe. Pathology is the same way--you need some education, some time to digest this big wad of bad news, and some time to work a plan of 'accepting the things I cannot change.' Almost everyone who faces the fact of pathology in someone else has this same 'coming to terms' process. We expect it.

But, there is also the problem of when you don't ever come to truly accept it and then hinge your belief system about his pathology on some external person, organization, or book. The Institute can not be your belief system (He's pathological because Sandra says so). If after a few months, that belief system doesn't become internal for you (I know this to be self evident, that he is pathological and for all of these reasons....) then you're in trouble for potential relapse.

Just like in external locus of control explained above, external locus of belief stands in the same jeopardy--that someone else can't be responsible for what you do with what you know (or what you don't come to accept).  That your pathology destiny is not in The Institute's hands--it's in yours. That whether you ignore the info and go back is entirely up to you---not a support group, not a book, not a program or a retreat--just your destiny in your hands.

If your locus of belief is still external and it doesn't shift and become internal--just know this is a risk factor for you. Holding the belief system steady is the challenge of overcoming cognitive dissonance. When it doesn't get over come eventually, either you learn to do what the 12 Steppers call 'Fake It 'Til You Make It' (do it 'til you believe it) or face the rising statistics that you're likely to believe the internal chatter and make a Bee line back.

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