When I was earning my practitioners license from the Centers for Spiritual Living back in the late ‘90s I would drive home through the peaceful, expansive high desert of Nevada reflecting on all I was learning about the co-creative nature of reality and personal consciousness and responsibility. We were reading the classic writings of Ernest Holmes, Thomas Troward and others, and learning how to consciously move positive energy in our lives with our thoughts, prayers and consciousness. I would leave class filled with a sense of possibility about all I wanted to create and experience in my life. The beauty and expanse of the scenery driving home supported the beauty and expanse of the concepts I was immersing myself in. I was grateful to have found the tools to make my life the best it could possibly be. It felt like I was receiving divine answers - like there was a rhyme and a reason for why life unfolds the way that it does.
We then moved to Massachusetts and I entered graduate school for psychology and expressive therapies. As I immersed myself in this more ‘traditional’ curriculum, I found myself regularly wondering, “Why aren’t more people jumping on the personal empowerment bandwagon and taking control of their own destiny?” Why aren’t they adopting the idea that we each create our own experiences?
Then one day in our Culture and Identity Class – a course designed to ensure we were skilled to navigate different cultural mindsets - our professor offered us an insightful framework. This framework spoke to worldview and how a person has been conditioned to perceive their ability to effect change in their own lives. This framework seemed to offer inspired answers to my question about why we don’t all think in empowering ways.
I am grateful to psychologist Derald Wing Sue (1978) whose theory depicts four possible core worldviews that define a person’s sense of responsibility and control over his or her circumstances. In defining these, Mr. Wing Sue uses the terms Internal or External Locus of Control and Internal or External Locus of Responsibility. In other words, respectively, a person’s perception regarding how much control he or she has to change things and one’s perception as to how much responsibility is his or hers to assume in how things turn out. The combinations of these represent the four possible worldviews.
If a person has the combination of an Internal Locus of Control and an Internal Locus of Responsibility (IC/IR), the belief is I am master of my own fate and my actions affect my outcomes. I attribute my current status to my own unique efforts and abilities. I see my successes and failures as due to my own strengths and weaknesses. In this worldview, which is largely the worldview of the United States a person holds himself or herself accountable for all he or she manifests. While this view empowers the individual who fits the description of the dominant culture, it doesn’t take into account external factors such as racism and discrimination. *
If a person has an External Locus of Control and an Internal Locus of Responsibility (EC/IR) the belief is I accept the worldview of the dominate culture’s definition of self-responsibility but I don’t feel I have control over how I am defined by others. I accept the dominate cultural beliefs and standards but I feel less valuable as others in my culture. I feel responsible for the outcomes of my behavior, but I don’t feel empowered to be successful because of the way I am defined by my culture. In this more sensitive case, we have to be extra careful to not impose our worldview onto an EC/IR person.*
If a person has an External Locus of Control and an External Locus of Responsibility, (EC/ER) the belief is there is little I can do to effect outcomes. External obstacles, such as prejudice and discrimination are roadblocks to success and I can’t overcome them. This person feels helpless and acts passively. This person feels manipulated by outside forces and unable to see there are certain events, feelings and actions that can be controlled. An EC/ER person is aware of the cultural stereotypes and prejudices that thwart success and feels helpless to change them. This person often suffers in silence for fear of dominant cultural reactions. *
If a person has an Internal Locus of Control and an External Locus of Responsibility (IC/ER) the belief is I can control events in my life if given the chance by outside forces. I do not, however, accept responsibility for my present status and I do not see how my actions have contributed to my current circumstances. Like, EC/ER people, IC/ER folks are aware that issues like racism, limits them, yet because of their Internal Locus of Control, they feel able to challenge any perceived or real restrictions. While this person does not easily trust others, he or she will allow others to help him or her. *
This simple but powerful model shows us that a person’s worldview greatly influences his or her sense of power and control which determines what he or she feels entitled to create and receive, feels able to give, and it influences one’s ability to take responsibility for his or her own life.
Can you see how beautifully this framework addresses the question, why doesn’t everyone feel empowered to effect change in their life? Where does your thinking fall in this model? Do you have one worldview in one area of life (e.g. work) and a different approach in another (e.g. relationships)? Does this help you understand why others may think differently than you or shed light on why others don’t take the bull by the horns in certain areas of their life? It really helped me.
Information changes things and that’s why I offer this framework for your consideration. Sitting in class that day in Cambridge, MA wasn’t the same expansive environment of driving home in the wide-open mountains of the high dessert, although it was for my mind. It gave me understanding. True, I love my empowering philosophy but I love acceptance, understanding and inclusivity just as much.
Please also see my other article on page 17 about Young Living’s Essential oil blend called Acceptance, which can help us all in this journey.