Meta-Know-You: Feeling out of Control?

4 minute read

“One day when I win the lottery, all of my dreams will finally come true.” “If only those other people would see me for who I really am, I could finally get the kind of job I really deserve.” “It seems to me that everyone is always trying to hold me back, nothing works out the way I think it should.” 

These kinds of thoughts plague the mind of people who suffer from this next “way of thinking”.  One of the most destructive belief systems I have observed over the years is the core belief, that one’s life is simply in the hands of external forces, entirely outside of the control of the individual. The person struggling with this over-arcing lie has a very difficult time finding lasting freedom.

The official psychological, sociological term for this meta-cognition is, “locus of control”. Specifically, everyone of us has some belief about how much control we have over our life and our destiny.

Someone with an internal locus of control understands that they can influence directly the path of their life, and the way other people respond to them. They recognize that their choices steer them in specific directions. While we all encounter circumstances outside of our control, an individual with a strong internal locus of control recognizes that overall they must make choices and steps to arrive in the life circumstances and kind of relationships they desire.

An internal locus of control is crucial to experience true freedom. We must have the ability to make choices as we interact with God and others, or we are absolutely bound by circumstance and “fate”.

An individual with a strong external locus of control feels that they are constantly in the hands of powers and circumstances outside of their control. They are entirely dependent on people and circumstances for their happiness, and satisfaction in life.

Stated in this way, we can all see that the belief that we are at the mercy of others, other people, other forces, is a huge trap. It is sometimes difficult for this type of person to self identify. This difficulty is a direct result of the problem itself. When you have no sense that you can impact your own life, you wait on others to take care of you. When you do this, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Others, and circumstances dictate your life. To someone laboring under this meta-lie, it does not feel like a lie at all. It has been their experience.

It is easier for the person with the external locus of control to identify certain thoughts, as in the first paragraph. To them these types of thought and others are common. Always waiting for a break, often feeling misunderstood, or even opposed, people with an external locus of control see themselves as victims of the cosmos.

This particular meta-belief system dictates multiple thoughts. And this particular belief system is easily passed down through the generations of a family line.

Parents who force compliance and obedience only train their children that they do not have control of their own lives.  Parents who train their children in wise choosing, convince their children that they can significantly determine the course of their lives.

Other personality types that struggle with the external locus of control mindset, include people struggling with addictions, compulsive behaviors, and relational dependencies like codependency, or chronic financial struggles.

One of the greatest steps toward true freedom is the discovery that you can interact with God for yourself. You can stop other people from treating you badly. You can choose to stop and start all kinds of interactions.

I spoke one time with a person who was angry because of how another person had treated them during a phone call. When I asked why they had stayed on the phone, they said, “He would not let me off.” They could not see that they had the ability and the right to hang up the phone at any time.

If you have felt that much of your life was out of your own personal control, and you are stuck waiting for a change of circumstance before you can be free, consider that you may be deceived in this way.

Paul and Silas were completely free, locked in the inner confines of a prison cell. I know many who are absolutely bound in their expensive homes where they can come and go as they please.

If self-control is a fruit of the Spirit perhaps we need to discover al this means.

Think Differently. You can choose to do so. Really.

7 replies on “Meta-Know-You: Feeling out of Control?

  • Kelsey

    Bob, this is an amazing series. I very much hope that you will elaborate on this post before moving on to another “way of thinking.” I was curious about the same thing as Ted – How much of a role do we play in the will of God? Where he calls us to co-heir with Him, where does his sovereignty come in? If one identifies with the internal locus of control…what next? Also, I struggle with understanding how we can affect *other’s* choices, i.e. “You can stop other people from treating you badly.” What do you mean by this as I assume you do not mean avoiding any kind of conflict/confrontation… Thanks so much, Bob, for writing and for reading our comments (:

  • Babs Coppedge

    “Paul and Silas were completely free, locked in the inner confines of a prison cell.” I’ve heard this both from you and Alan, and each time I come across it I am challenged because there are times when, in the bleakest of circumstances, I have had complete peace and contentment. But then there are times when I feel like a victim of my circumstances, like I have surrendered my peace to my circumstances. I see now, by way of having a label for it, that I am not fully internal or fully external “Locused” (Is that a word?), but that by succumbing to my circumstances I am choosing to give the external my power. Think, Think, Think … as Winnie the Pooh would say.

    Curious, though, why you state that those who chronic financial issue struggle with external locus?

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