I got sidetracked after I wrote that sentence and before I sat back down to finish this blog post, I checked my e-mail. There I found the latest edition of Amber Starfire’s stellar Journaling Through Life Ezine. The first sentence in her feature article reads, “A recent article on health said that feelings of helplessness and lack of control are significant factors contributing to depression, particularly for women.” Well, hey! You know the saying, “Great minds run in the same channels.”
Back in the ‘70s when I was a psychology grad student, Locus of Control was all the rage, and research papers and theses (including mine) in psychology departments all over the country incorporated Rotter’s Locus of Control Inventory. A strong correlation was found between a strong external locus of control and depression.
Translated to Plain People Language, that means that the less control you perceive yourself to have over your own life, the more likely you are to become depressed.
Back in the day, I scored high on internal locus of control. I just found a self-scoring version on the University of North Carolina’s psychology department site. I don’t recall finding the test irritating thirty years ago, but today my preferred answer would be “neither one” for most questions, rendering my score personally meaningless. My path to that change of perspective could make a excellent personal essay topic.
In spite of being out of sync with questions on that scale today, I still subscribe to the message of Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning that others can control every circumstance of our lives, but they cannot control our attitude. To me, that’s the ultimate in Internal Locus of Control. To date, the most powerful tool I’ve found for maintaining attitude control is “root writing”, a term I introduced in my Tree of Life Writing post.
By root writing I mean rants, freewriting about puzzling situations, and journaling in general — personal writing best done “underground” and left unshared. This writing helps synchronize head and heart and maintain that sense of personal control.
Which brings us back around to the well-documented value of expressive writing for lifting the cloud of depression. Or maybe keeping it from settling in to begin with. There’s nothing like a good session with my journal for maintaining serenity and optimism.
Write now: click over and take the Locus of Control Inventory, then journal or freewrite about the thoughts you have about your score. If you are subject to depression, try using James Pennebaker’s formula for exploring some of the “out-of-control” circumstances that may be contributing factors.