Women tend to have an external locus of control, and this is especially true for women with a history of substance abuse. For this reason, often, a woman’s journey towards sober living will include a look at her locus of control and her sense of internal power.
Psychologist Julian Rotter introduced and coined the termlocus of control in the 1950’s. Your locus of control is what you deem to have power over the successes and failures in your life. Do you believe that you have control over your life? Or instead do other forces such as authority figures, family members, a spouse, or anyone else who appears to be more powerful?
Another term for locus of control is the Attribution Theory, a theory that describes how a person explains the events in his or her life. If, for example, you did poorly on your chemistry exam and you can admit that you did not study all the concepts covered in class or that you were distracted during your studying, you are exhibiting an internal locus of control and taking responsibility for your grade. However, if you feel that your low grade is because the teacher does not like you or because the concepts are too hard or because you had an argument the morning of the exam, you are handing over a sense of power to external sources.
Having an internal center of control means that you believe in your ability to have control over the events in your life, to the degree that it is possible. This sense of internal power is considered to be the most psychologically healthy. It is living life with a feeling of having command over the things that you are able to have command over. However, an external center of control leads to relinquishing a sense of internal power to a source outside of you.
Sadly, this is true for many women around the world. The media, culture, and society’s expectations of a woman feed this psychological pattern. Often, a woman is encouraged to look and dress in certain ways which encourages developing self-worth based on her appearances, the comments others around her, and her interactions with others. On the other hand, a woman might feel a sense a self-worth based on knowing the value of your abilities, talents, and innate goodness.
For women, shifting from an external to an internal locus of control can play a pivotal role in healing from an addiction and establishing long-term sober living. In fact, at the root of addiction is the attempt to gain something externally (through alcohol, drugs, work, sex, food, or another source) that one can only acquire from within. Furthermore, men and women who are addicted to alcohol or drugs will tend to blame their addiction on an external source, such as a horrible childhood or an abusive relationship or the events of the past. An addict, in almost all cases, will believe that his or her addiction and problems are out of his or her control.
This is a critical point to apply when acquiring sober help. It is crucial to note that in order for women to recover from an addiction, her locus of control must shift from external to internal. If she is still blaming others for her addiction and finding cause for that addiction on the outside, reclaiming her sense of power can be the essential change she must make.
Taking responsibility and reclaiming that inner power is crucial for recovery. One of the most effective ways to make this external to internal shift is to return to the events prior to the addiction that may have stimulated a sense of powerlessness. Uncovering those events and circumstances can help a woman reclaim that internal power. It’s important to make a distinction here: an event in the past is not the cause for an addiction and so it is not to be blamed; rather it is the effect of that experience on a woman’s inner landscape that needs transforming.
Essentially, there is very little, if nothing, that a woman can blame for her addiction. Finding the power within her, even if she has to make that shift again and again, will accelerate her recovery from addiction and create the foundation for long-term sober living.
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