Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Gate of Heaven and the Gate of Hell

One of my greatest challenges in my own life has been admitting to intellectual errors. “I don’t know,” “I made a mistake,” and “I was wrong about that,” have always stuck in my throat, but since becoming a mother I’ve struggled to make them part of my vocabulary (it’s so painful!) How else to reassure my daughter that her many mistakes along the path of acquiring a new language and alphabet are not just forgivable, but normal? This is a personal courage challenge I am constantly working at – to notice my mistakes, forgive myself, and move on, and to let my daughter see me do this. There is nothing to be gained by stubbornly clinging to an idea or answer or plan of action simply because we can’t admit we’ve made a mistake.

Here is a famous Zen story about intellectual courage, the ability to own our mistakes and change course.
One day a samurai visited the great Zen teacher, Haku-in. “My question is this: does paradise exist? Does hell exist?” asked the warrior.
Haku-in looked him up and down. “Who wants to know?” he said in a bored voice.
The samurai glared, very indignant. “I am a samurai! I protect the Shogun.”
“Really? You don’t seem that impressive, frankly.”
“What?” The warrior unsheathed his sword. “How dare you insult me!”
Haku-in glanced at the sword. “I doubt you can slice a melon with that, let alone cut off my head.”
With a cry of fury, the samurai raised the blade high.
“Behold! The gate of hell is opened,” Haku-in said.
In that moment, the warrior recognized the lesson the brave master was teaching, and replaced his sword in its scabbard.
“Behold, “ said Haku-in. “Now opens the gate to paradise.”

Courage Book Review – The Wanderer

Last week I reviewed two illustrated versions of the Iliad.  Today, we take up the tale with adaptations for kids of the Odyssey.  Although with the earlier epic highlighted the control of the gods, the takeaway for this week is self-control.  Once again, we explore internal vs. external locus of control.
The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Story of the Odyssey [WANDERINGS OF ODYSSEUS -OS]Again, we have the masterful Rosemary Sutcliff at work with The Wanderings of Odysseus.  As many adapters of the story do, she rearranges the events into a chronological narrative.  (The original is full of flashbacks and intercut with “meanwhile, in Ithaca” scenes.)  Sutcliff moves Odysseus briskly from the smoldering ruins of Troy to the island of the Cyclops, where they are captured by the bloodthirsty Polyphemus.   From the extreme external locus of control found in the Iliad, we now have an interior locus of control.  “The Greeks were near despair.  But there was a plan forming in Odysseus’ head, by which he might save at least some of them.”   In Homer (I have the Fitzgerald translation) Odysseus says, “And now I pondered how to hurt him worst, if but Athena granted what I prayed for.  Here are the means I thought would serve my turn.”  Odysseus gets credit now for the plan; you may recall Athena was responsible for putting the thought of the Trojan Horse into his mind.  So we have moved to an interior locus of control in this narrative – and it will be much to the regret of Odysseus, for as they escape from the blinded Cyclops, the cunning man gloats and mocks: “If anyone asks who blinded you, tell them it was Odysseus, son of Laertes and Lord of Ithaca, Odysseus the Sacker of Cities!”  It is this moment of foolish braggadocio that costs Odysseus so dearly, for Polyphemus cries out to his father, Poseidon, god of the sea, to take revenge.  Oops.

The Adventures of OdysseusA beautifully illustrated version of the story, The Adventures of Odysseus by Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden, although shorter and with fewer episodes, follows the structure of the original more closely.  We have a quick prologue about the Trojan War and then “Nine long years had passed since that great and terrible victory.”  The retellers give us a quick update on Penelope besieged by suitors on Ithaca, and then show us Odysseus washed up on the shores of King Alcinous’ island.  Brought in as a nameless guest, Odysseus begins to cry as a bard sings of the Trojan War.  Here, the tale begins in his voice, as he relates the dangers and tragedies Poseidon has subjected him to.  Here is Odysseus describing the events in the cave of the Cyclops.  “One of my crew drew his sword and stepped forward, intending to plunge the blade through the Cyclops’ skin and kill him as he slept.  I had to restrain him.  The Cyclops was our only means of escape.”  In this version the plan for blinding Polyphemus is presented as more of a group effort.   But then, at the escape, “I had to gloat.  ‘Polyphemus!  It was not Nobody who blinded you!  It was somebody!  It was Odysseus!  A ram among sheep!  King of rocky Ithaca!  Remember my name for the rest of your life of stumbling darkness!'” 
With both books we have the revenge of Poseidon which drags out Odysseus’ return for ten weary years.  Ten years is a long time to repent of gloating and bragging!  When Odysseus does finally reach Ithaca, his self-control is astonishing, for he does not run immediately to the wife he has been yearning for all these years.  No, he has to lay his plans for ridding his palace of the destructive suitors and reclaiming his rights as king.  In both versions, the destruction of the suitors is complete and merciless, meted out after careful, self-controlled planning.  You may have qualms about this aspect of the story, but it is true to the original.  And it does show an interior locus of control!  Both adaptations are excellent, although the Lupton/Morden retelling is shorter.  They are both great for older (10 or 11 and up) independent readers or for sharing aloud with them.  As with the Iliad retellings, these may be picture books but they are not for young children.  Not only is the violence quite gruesome, but the questions about responsibility and self-control are much more appropriate to tweens.  For them, both books are highly recommended.

Are You Raising an Outy?

What does internal vs. external locus of control have to do with coaching courage in my child? 

Firstly, the cool thing about locus of control is that it is one of those few areas where parenting really matters!  It seems that locus of control is not a genetically-driven trait, but more a nurtured and learned personality adaptation.  The goal in parenting is for children to develop an increasingly internal locus of control over time, combined with a flexibility to move along the continuum depending on life circumstances. 

Given that a child’s sense of diminished control over his/her environment is associated with psychological vulnerability to anxiety in particular, it is imperative that parents coach their kids to really listen to their own inner thoughts, values, feelings, and body.  The more children believe that they are active agents in the successes or failures of their lives—the more likely they are to take responsibility for their actions and develop the six types of courage.

Secondly, the natural evolution for a child is to move from more of an external locus of control (relying on his/her parents, peers, luck, or other external circumstances to guide decision-making and behavior) to an internal locus of control (whereby a child is more self-motivated, self-disciplined, and believes his/her behavior is guided by personal decisions and/or efforts).  It is our role as our child’s parent to coach them to take increasing responsibility in their lives.  We do our children a grave disservice if we continually protect them from the consequences of their own behavior, for example. 

We’re all likely to want to rescue our child at some point during their development: deliver a forgotten instrument to school, pick up their smelly laundry off their bedroom floor, or sell their raffle tickets for the baseball team fundraiser.  But, here’s the thing: if we continue to be our child’s rescuer, he/she will be less prepared or emotionally, physically, morally, spiritually, socially or intellectually equipped to handle the challenges on the path ahead. 

No matter how uncomfortable it is to seem like a bad parent for not delivering the instrument, how nauseating the discarded dirty sock smell, or how much your kid will not look good to his/her coach and peers for only selling one raffle ticket.  Being willing to endure your child’s tantrum, the disapproval of others, and (OMG, if you’re like me this one really smarts) not looking good as a parent, leads to the long-term gain of your child’s increasing independence, confidence, and in psychology-speak self-efficacy

Trust me, you want your child to get the lesson the first time!  Otherwise, you can be assured you’ll be learning it again and again and again until your child achieves the kind of independence and self-efficacy needed to grow up.  My son only had to lock himself out of the house once to remember his keys for the next two years.  My daughter only had to forget her instrument once for her to remember that violin for the rest of the year.  Every time I overfunction and pick up the stinky socks at the same time I’m telling my son to do so, I’m turning him into an outy!  Surprisingly, he doesn’t seem so motivated to pick them up himself because the invisible laundry fairy continues to magically do it for him?!

The startling news is that today’s college student favors an external locus of control.  In other words, we may be dropping the ball as parents in preparing our kids to be powerful agents in their future success. Children and college students surveyed between 1960-2002 show that young Americans (by an astounding 80% increase) are more likely now than in previous generations to believe that the circumstances of their lives are controlled by outside forces instead of the result of their own efforts. Yikes!

This research could also be indicative of a significant cultural shift (since 1960) in favor of an external locus of control.  Kids are developing more of an external locus of control, not as healthy development would have it, by becoming increasingly dependent on their parents and/or influenced by outside others, forces, or trends. What does that mean about our children?  According to the meta-analysis conducted by Twenge, Zhang, & Im (2004):
         The results are consistent with an alienation model positing increases in cynicism, individualism, and the self-serving bias. The implications are almost uniformly negative, as externality is correlated with poor school achievement, helplessness, ineffective stress management, decreased self-control, and depression.
Read my previous post Are You an Inny or an Outy? to learn more about internal vs. external locus of control.  My next post, next Sunday, “The Cheese Stands Alone” will give an example of how humbling and hard it can be to raise an inny!

What are you doing to boost your own or your child’s internal locus of control?
Chorpita, B. & Barlow, D. (1998). The development of anxiety: The role of control in the early environment. Psychological Bulletin, 124, (1­), 3-21.
Rotter, J.B. (1966). Generalized expectancies of internal versus external control of reinforcements. Psychological Monographs, 80, (whole no. 609). 
Twenge, J., Zhang, L., & Im, C. (2004). Itʼs beyond my control: a cross-temporal meta-analysis of increasing externality in locus of control, 1960-2002. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8, (3), 308-319. Retrieved from
Weems, C. & Silverman, W. (2006). An integrative model of control: Implications for understanding emotion regulation and dysregulation in childhood anxiety. Journal of Affective Disorders, 91, (2), 113-124.

Courage Challenge of the Day

Lion’s Whiskers offers this courage challenge: Before school ends this year and you’ve lost the chance to exercise your social courage muscles, look around:  Is there someone in your child’s class that you and your child haven’t spent much time with? 

Seize the opportunity to arrange an end-of-the-year playdate or a chance to hang out. This potential new friend or family could broaden your social horizons in ways you may not yet have even considered! Everybody has a story. Unless we create opportunities to connect, we may never get the chance to know how that story may add a new chapter to your own life story.
After you and your child have decided whom to invite and what might be fun to do together, your challenge as the parent is to make these arrangements on the phone or in-person while your child is present.  That way you are modeling the kind of social outreach, with all the polite, preamble, get-to-know-you conversation that that entails. Whether you have a preschooler, highschooler, or someone in between, it’s never too late to help your child create a new friendship.

“There are no strangers here;  Only friends you haven’t met yet.” William Butler Yeats


What’s a true story from your life about a time you reached out to make a new friend or helped your child to do so?

The Rightful Heir

Does every child experience doubts about his or her parents? As in, “I wonder if they are really my parents? Who am I, really?” It’s very common (according to Dr. Lisa, and especially if there is an older sibling who has planted a few seeds of doubt!) for children to suspect that they have somehow been switched at birth and ended up in the wrong family. We may share our children’s birth stories with them, but working against them we have many many stories throughout history that speak of doubt, in the form of “foundling” stories or stories of abandoned children who achieved greatness.


One of the greatest of these is the story of Moses in the bulrushes. Because the Pharoah had decreed that the first-born sons of the Hebrews in Egypt must be killed, Moses’s mother put him in a tightly-woven basket and set him adrift in the Nile, where she knew the Pharoah’s daughter would find him. Long story short: princess finds baby, princess raises baby as royal prince, baby grows up surrounded by Hebrew servants, learns he’s Hebrew, demands of Pharaoh: let my people go! Leads Hebrews out of Egypt, parts the Red Sea, Ten Commandments,  and we know how THAT story ends. 
Or take the story of King Arthur, raised by Sir Ector. Sent to fetch his foster father’s sword, young Arthur took a shortcut through town only to find a sword handily sticking out of a stone. Little did he know that the prophecy said only the rightful king would be able to draw it out – he just pulled it out and took it to Sir Ector. Imagine his surprise when it became clear that he had just proven himself the king of the Britons!
From the Brothers Grimm we have Fundevogel (Bird-Foundling); from Ancient Rome with have Romulus and Remus, founders of the great city and thus the empire; Persian legend tells us that Cyrus the Great had been abandoned at birth; Blackfoot legend tells us about the Orphan Boy and the Elk Dogs who brought horses to his people; Perseus, infant son of Zeus and a mortal woman was also set adrift in a box at sea, but became a great hero; from Cambodia the legend of Bikkhu Sok tells of an orphaned boy who became a most revered monk. This list goes on and on.

The hard facts from history are, of course, that there were many foundlings in generations and centuries past, in every part of the world. Babies and children were abandoned on purpose or by misfortune. Being taken in by another family, or by a religious order or into service was a lucky break, no matter how arduous that fate might have been; how often lost or abandoned children were left to fend for themselves (or more often, to die) is unclear, but undoubtedly the numbers were huge. Again and again in traditional tales from all cultures we see foundlings rising to glory, the ultimate triumph for any child who feels insignificant or powerless or friendless – and that means most children at one time or another.

(Ironically, I suppose, an adopted child, or should I say a child who knows she is adopted, is not subject to the fantasy that “these are not my real parents.” The question of “real parents” is a separate and complex issue for adopted and step-children, and not one I want to get into at this time, although trust me, as an adoptive mom I will have plenty to say about it later!)

You’ll also find this type of “rightful heir” or “child of destiny” story cropping up often in contemporary children’s literature. I give you two words: Harry Potter. Enough said. What foundling stories have to offer to children is a sense of destiny. No matter what your beginnings are or seem to be, you may yet rise to become a great leader, or the rightful heir to a glorious fate. If that fantasy inspires greater courage – moral courage, social courage, physical courage – that is a fine fantasy to inhabit.

A Mango Tree and a Baby

“Birbal the Wise” is a recurring figure in stories from Moghul India (16th Century). Birbal was an advisor to the emperor, Akbar, and was legendary for his cleverness, quick wits, and sagacity.
Two men lay claim to the same mango tree, and stood bickering and shouting in the palace courtyard. Birbal the Wise was asked to hear their case.
“I see,” said Birbal when it had been explained. “There is but one way to decide fairly. First, we will pick all the mangos and divide them equally between you. Then, chop down the tree, saw it into even lengths, and divide the wood equally as well.”
The first man readily agreed to these terms, but the second one was distraught. “But, Wise Birbal! I have tended to that tree for many years, pruning it and fertilizing it and keeping the birds and monkeys away! Please let this man have it rather than cut it down.”

Birbal turned to the first man. “I now know you are not the owner of this tree.”
Readers familiar with the Old Testament will recognize in this story The Judgment of Solomon. Whether that story made its way to Moghul India and influenced storytellers there, who can say? For those of you not so familiar with that Old Testament story, here is my paraphrase of it:
Two women came before King Solomon, both claiming to be the mother of a certain baby. The king’s decision was that the baby should be cut in half, so that each mother could have what she claimed was hers. The mother who cried in horror and relinquished her claim was the one Solomon declared the true mother.
A week or so after the Lovely K. heard the story of the Judgment of Solomon, I happened to overhear a drama unfolding in the kitchen, with K. giving voice to two apples who both claimed the same pear. “No, no! Please do not cut the pear in half!” one of the apples begged. “Take it all for yourself!” I don’t remember what piece of food was standing in for King Solomon. It might have been the jar of peanut butter. Clearly the story was already living inside her – if only in fruit form for the time being!  
As parents, we tend to make a big deal of sharing, dividing everything equally. “Fair is fair,” as they say. But some things cannot be shared. Intellectual courage allows us to question rules and discover when their application is destructive, rather than constructive. When rules are inflexible, the result can be a disaster: our children will learn tyranny rather than leadership, citing rigid laws as justification for cruelty, and as a substitute for their own better judgment.

Courage Book Review – the Black Ships

Yesterday Lisa talked about internal vs. external locus of control.  Today I want to talk about extreme-external locus of control!  I want to talk about Helen of the Fair Cheeks and the death of Achilles.  Yes, the Trojan War.
Offering the Trojan War (and its backstories) to kids 11 years old and up is a fascinating and dramatic way to explore the concept of personal responsibility.  The gods are the ultimate puppeteers here:  Thetis dips Achilles into the River Styx to make him invulnerable; Aphrodite sends Paris to go fall in love with (already married) Helen; Apollo sends disease to the Greeks to punish Agamemnon for kidnapping Chriseis;  Athena, Zeus, Hera — these gods can’t mind their own business for a moment!  They send dreams, they appear in disguise as trusted friends giving counsel, they produce obscuring clouds of mist at crucial moments of battle.  The mortals themselves accept this meddling as natural, if often inconvenient – like weather.
What is so fascinating about all this, aside from the great story-telling of it, is that consciousness itself may have been quite different at the time of these events.  People may not have recognized that their  thoughts, emotions and feelings arose within themselves.  (For a review of the difference between emotions and feelings, please revisit “What is Emotional Courage.”) Ascribing  insight, anger, jealousy or passionate love to an external force may have been all the Ancients could do.  And yet we see glimmers of personal responsibility and internal locus of control shining through chinks in the armor.  Behold the 11 year old child!


Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of 'The Iliad'Rosemary Sutcliff’s Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of ‘The Iliad’  is amazing.   The epic is rendered into dramatic and lyrical prose that retains much of the flavor and imagery of the poetry.  “Through it all, Diomedes of the Loud War Cry, with his battle drunkenness upon him, went raging up and down the plain, leaving dead men behind him as a flooded river leaves the torn-off limbs of trees.”  “Hector shook his head, and the high horsehair crest of his helmet tossed sideways on the wind along the battlements… He reached out to take his little son in his arms, but the babe shrank back, scared by the great bronze helmet.”  “They thronged about Penthesilea, who shone among her maidens like the moon among stars, tossing up spears in greeting, throwing flowers beneath her horse’s hooves, kissing her feet.”  
The IliadAnother version, The Iliad, retold by Ian Strachan, lacks the lyricism of Sutcliff’s. The compression of events falls somewhat flat as a result.  In this version, Odysseus conceives of the wooden horse, it is built and the ships depart in just three sentences.  Sutcliff’s description of this same pivotal episode is rich with detail.  However, Strachan’s version adds explanatory information to help  modern readers visualize scenes that may simply be too unfamiliar, such as this description of the Greek ships: “Built on huge oak keels, at the waterline each ship had a massive bronze barb jutting from its bows, for ramming and sinking enemy warships.  Eyes were painted high on their prows, intended to ward off evil spirits and help the boats find their way safely to their destinations.” 
Between these two versions there are subtler differences, which speak to the external/internal locus of control discussion.  Here is Sutcliff on the argument between Achilles and Agamemnon: “Then Achilles, who had grown to care for Briseis, would have drawn his sword to fight for her.  But gray-eyed Athene, who was for the Greeks because Aphrodite was for Paris and the Trojans, put it into his mind that no man might fight the High King.”  That is external locus of control. This is Strachan on the same event:  “Achilles was so furious his hand strayed toward the silver hilt of his sword.  Should he kill Agamemnon now or curb his anger?”  That is internal locus of control.  Then we have the origin of the wooden horse.   Here is Sutcliff:  “Then Athene planted in Odysseus’ mind the seed of an idea: one of the cunning ideas for which he was famous.  And he stood up and unfolded it to the listening Greeks.”  External.   Here is Strachan: “Finally, Odysseus came up with an idea that he believed might get the Greeks inside Troy’s unyielding walls.” Internal.  Sutcliff’s retelling thus strikes closer to the original external locus of control, while Strachan’s offers a more modern internal locus of control.  (FYI, the highlights are all added for clarity.)

In my opinion, Strachan is trying to have his cake and eat it too.  He wants to give Achilles and Odysseus credit for positive actions (controlling anger, concocting a genius plan) while still pinning the blame for the whole mess on the gods.  Achilles’ grief needs the consolation of his mother, sea goddess Thetis, and the gods are still to blame when things go against the mortals.  Zeus gets angry, Poseidon butts in, Iris sends messages, Apollo shows up —  You can’t have it both ways!  (Have you ever said that to an 11-year old?  I have!)  Either the gods are in control  of us or they aren’t.  Share both books with your kids if you can, but if you can use only one, use the Sutcliff book.  Ask your child whether she is as willing to take blame as credit.   Talk about the meddling of the gods.  You might be surprised by where the conversation takes you. 

Are You an Inny or an Outy?

Do you believe that you control your fate or that outside circumstances beyond your control do?  In 1966, psychologist Julian Rotter was busy trying to answer this question and bridge traditional psychoanalytic thought and behaviorism (the zeitgeist at the time) into what is now termed social learning theory.  One aspect of Rotter’s social learning theory, that is particularly relevant to the way we can parent a child to develop courage, is called Locus of Control of Reinforcement.  Locus of control is related to individual difference in the way we generalize our expectancies (i.e. what we think will happen to us in the future). If you want to help your child develop courage, teaching him/her to develop an internal locus of control is important.

Similar to many aspects of parenting, shaping locus of control is not an exact science.  Here are a few ways to help your child develop an internal locus of control:

  • Offer your child opportunities for mastery and success. Look through school extracurricular courses to see what is of interest, pick one per term to try and complete.  Take the time to teach the kinds of skills you hope they will develop before leaving home, e.g. washing their own laundry, loading/unloading the dishwasher, or any of the 5-Minute Courage Workouts and Challenges that we offer.  
  • Ask your child to become responsible for developmentally-appropriate chores and daily tasks.  The rule of thumb here is: show your child how to do the task, ask them if they have any questions, remind them they can ask for help if they need it, and then back away and trust in their abilities to complete the chore/task all on their own.  Notice when they do it without reminding and appreciate they job they’ve done!  
  • Encourage your child to become increasingly independent.  Plant the seeds for specific target dates or future milestones of independence by saying things like “Imagine how proud you will feel when you are in Grade 5 and can walk to school on your own!” “Imagine what you will feel, the personal satisfaction,when you first put on your black belt after completing all your training next year!”
  • Show and trust them to do the right thing.  Mentoring with respect for your child will help nurture the same respect for you from your child. It is hard to expect them to do a task without support the first time.  Talk about hard choices you’ve had to make in your life and how you worked through the pros and cons, risks and benefits.  Highlight people, stories, moments that you believe required moral courage. Modeling this kind of creative problem-solving will help them develop their own inner compass when it comes time to making their own tough decisions.
  • Help them identify the intrinsic vs. extrinsic rewards in all they do.  Instead of slathering them with empty praise, bribes, or otherwise external rewards, be specific by asking “What did you learn about yourself when you did that?”  “What do you think about your report card?  What are you most proud of?  How do you think you accomplished that? What would you like to improve on for next quarter?”  “How does it feel now that you made the team after so much practicing?”  Let the natural fruits of their efforts be enough sometimes.  Then, find special ways to celebrate and honor your own and your child’s accomplishments.  It could be a chore-free night, a special dinner or movie night together, calling a relative to tell them the good news, or buying something special to mark the occasion.   By periodically mixing up the reward system, kids are more likely to keep looking inside instead of outside for affirmation and/or approval. 
  • Model for them self-discipline, self-motivation, and how to take responsibility for their own fate.  When we share stories from our lives with our children, with ourselves as the hero/heroine instead of the victim, our children learn from us to expect that they, too, are responsible for the outcome of their lives.

On the other hand, when we continually rescue our children from completing age-appropriate tasks they are fully capable of doing, limit their opportunities to prove their worth and capability, push too hard in areas they are ill-equipped or disinterested in succeeding, or pull them back from accomplishing something due to our own fear, bias, or agenda—our children develop an external locus of control.  They learn to expect others to save them from the burden of responsibility for their life.

Internals (or as I call them, “innies”) learn to see a causal relationship between their behavior and rewards, whereas externals (or “outies”) miss the point altogether and attribute both their successes and failures to forces outside themselves.  

Let’s review:
At the internal locus of control end of the continuum, you have individuals who believe they can control the events of their lives through their decisions and efforts.  The more the internal locus of control, higher the degree of internal self-control, self-motivation, perceived influence on others and our environment, and the more intellectually curious and active we are in our own learning.  Prematurely developing an internal locus of control though, without first having opportunities to be dependent, to develop secure attachment relationships, and be actively supported in to become independent, can burden a young child and lead to egocentrism, alienation, or extreme competitiveness. 
The more we believe that outside forces like God, the environment, powerful others, or chance rule our lives, the more externally we place our locus of control.  Extreme external locus of control appears to be correlated with decreased levels of academic, social, and occupational success and increased levels of mood disorders, drug/alcohol use, and voter apathy (Twenge, Zhang, & Im, 2004).  That said, if the culture you live in embraces an external locus of control, it may be an adaptive response to develop this lens on the world.  The concern is if through this lens you or your child sees a world where your actions make no difference, where you feel alienated or powerless, and/or you want to look away instead of forward with hope for the future.  

Rotter cautioned broad applications of this particular construct in personality theory.  He understood that the interaction between the human being and his/her environment is complex and his/her responses fall on a continuum instead of one particular discrete style.  It may be, for example, a healthy response to fear and life challenge to rely on the spiritual courage associated with having a faith-based practice or belief system.  On the other hand, believing in yourself, using powerful visualization techniques and positive affirmations and having the physical courage to dig deep and finish that fitness training program, may be exactly kind of internal locus of control that is needed.

To find out if you are an ‘inny’ or an ‘outy’, you can take an abbreviated version of Rotter’s 23-item internal vs. external locus of control assessment by clicking here.


Rotter, J.B. (1966). Generalized expectancies of internal versus external control of reinforcements. 
     Psychological Monographs, 80, (whole no. 609). 

Twenge, J., Zhang, L., & Im, C. (2004). Itʼs beyond my control: a cross-temporal meta-analysis of
     increasing externality in locus of control, 1960-2002. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8,
     (3), 308-319. Retrieved from