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  • Resilient Practice

You have the Power


Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

-      Victor Frankl

 

How much of our experience in any given situation is down to the event itself and how much is down to us?

 

How is it that two people in the same situation can have a completely different experience?

 

The answer to this question is a combination of factors.

 

Firstly, we all have a unique model of the world through which all events are filtered. This influences what we believe about the event, our internal narrative or the story we tell ourselves about it, how we feel about what has happened, and ultimately what we do about it.

 

Negative core believes will influence our experience of any event in a negative way. For example if I believe no one likes me, if, when I go into a room a group falls silent, I may tell myself that they were talking about me. That will result in me feeling upset and I might lash out at people or decided not to speak to them. I might even report them and before long, no one will like me.

 

If I believe I am not good enough, I will look for evidence of this in everything. The product of this is that I will see feedback as criticism and not just the opinion of another, or useful information that could help me develop.

 

Alongside our core believes we also need to factor in our locus of control.

 

This is the degree to which we believe we can influence what happens in our life. It is a spectrum from internal to external. It was first described in 1966 by Julian Rotter[1]

 

Those with a strong external locus believe that external events dictate everything. Those people say

“You made me feel…” and

“I can’t because they said….”

 

Those with a strong internal locus of control, believe that they do have the power to influence what happens around them, via their own responses. They say things like

“How can I with…..”  and

“It’s up to me”

 

Where we sit on the spectrum of our locus of control at any given moment will have a huge influence on our experience of an event. When our locus of control shifts externally, we feel powerless or victimised. We blame others for what happens and how we feel. We may well feel the need to seek approval from others.

To have an external locus of control is to tell ourselves that we are powerless with no control over what happens. Giving away responsibility for our responses, our thoughts feelings and behaviours, disempowers us and leaves us vulnerable and less resilient.

 

In contrast when we work to keep our locus of control internal, we think in an optimistic way, we actively look for solutions to problems. We are empowered. With this mindset our experience of a situation is wholly different and we are happier and more resilient.   

 

So to go back to the original question

 

How much of our experience in any given situation is down to the event itself and how much is down to us?”

 

We believe it is all down to us.

 

Even when the event is horrible, working on our beliefs about it and responses to it, keeping our locus of control internal, helps us to recover from it more effectively.

 

The Greek philosopher Epictetus, the psychologist Alfred Adler, Albert Ellis who created REBT, the precursor to CBT, and Aaron Beck who founded CBT all said

“It’s not what happens to us it is the meaning we give to it”

 


Try this:


To move your locus of control towards the internal end of the spectrum and frame all events in a more positive way:

  1. Be aware of what you can and cannot control. Factors you cannot control are your limitations and energy spent trying to change them is wasted.

  2. Press pause and step into your observer shoes. Know that you have the power to effect change whenever you want to.

  3. Set the intention to reframe any negative core beliefs you may hold.

  4. Recognise that you are fully in control of all of your thoughts feelings and behaviours. No one has the power to affect your emotions unless you choose to let them. If someone is rude, they are rude. You decide how to respond. You can even choose whether it affects you or not. No one has the power to make you angry, upset or confrontational unless you give it to them. Take responsibility for all your responses.

  5. Reframe negative responses. When you notice a negative response in yourself; this may be physical – a sick feeling in your stomach a tight chest or palpitations; or a thought - I’m not good enough, I have failed. Stop and take a moment to examine that response. Ask yourself: Why has this response been triggered? Is my response appropriate? Is my response helpful? Is there a different response that would be more appropriate, more useful?  


For other tools and techniques that foster self-awareness and conscious responses have a look at the other articles on the website and try our book:


 

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