A colleague who works with criminals as a therapist, had a difficult week last week. One of his clients murdered someone. And this, understandably, upset him very badly. He felt he should have seen it coming. In the last conversation he had with this client, who appeared to be a very meek person, he had sensed that something was wrong. But he could not put his finger on it…. For more than a week our colleague could not sleep and he generally felt tense and depressed.
Then somebody asked him: “You are thinking about all the things that you could have done. But if you had actually done any of those things, could you have prevented what happened?” Our colleague had to admit that – within in his professional limitations – nothing he could have done would have actually prevented this death. Probably. And this thought gave him peace.
This started me thinking once more about the Meta Program ‘Internal Locus of Control‘. When you have an internal locus of control in a given situation, you believe that you have power over your circumstances. You can influence the world. You are in control. When you have the opposite, an external locus of control, you believe that the situation has power over you. You have to accept things as they are, there is nothing you can do. You throw your hands in the air; often literally. So, naturally, somebody who has an internal locus of control, tends to take responsibility. They are thinking: ‘I can change this’, and therefore they are responsible. Often, this is a good thing. People like other people to take responsibility. And having an internal locus of control also goes together with a focus on goals, with trusting in your own values and with looking at the bright side of things. So it is not surprising that this Meta Program has a good reputation.
There is, however, a dark site to it. As the famous soccer coach Johan Cruijf puts it: ‘Every advantage has its disadvantage‘. People with a strong internal locus of control will often feel responsible for things that are actually outside of their control. My colleague might be an example. He couldn’t sleep because he felt responsible. For something that he could not have prevented…. There’s a connection between a strong internal locus of control and being stressed out.
Bottom line? It all depends on how you handle ‘failure’. If you are responsible and bad things happen, how do you respond? What does that mean to you? If it means (to you) that you are doing everything wrong as a person, you are in trouble (everything = meta program general and you as a person = meta program people). It would be better to understand that this is just this one thing that did not turn out right, which had a lot to do with the world we live in today (just this one thin= meta program specific and the world we live in today as a cause = meta program external locus of control).
So at the end of the day, I am reminded of the famous prayer: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference”. In other words: help me be flexible in my locus of control! Even a hero cannot control everything.