One of the aims of cognitive therapy is to bring awareness to an internal locus of control. That means that a person will come to understand that they have the ability to create positive change in their life. If we feel like we are out of control, that the rest of the world is dictating the circumstances of our life, that can lead to a sense of hopelessness. We’re suffering and there seems like there is nothing we can do about it. Sometimes, in order to create a sense of control we do all kinds of self destructive things. When we actively hurt ourselves and contribute to our own suffering it makes us feel like we are at least in control of that. When we want to stop suffering, we suddenly feel out of control again, because we don’t know how to do that.
To experience an internal sense of control we can always turn to our breath. We can take a deep breath, hold it for a second and let it out. At that moment, we are in complete control. Our ability to control the world is within us. That is a comforting thing to recognize. However, it is a big world. Just because we can hold our breath doesn’t mean that we are in control of life. What that shows us is that we can control what we can. That is all we need.
If we want to control somebody else’s breathing, we can punch them in the stomach, or ask them to breath with us. We don’t have a lot of control over other people. Yet as we explore our ability to control the world, we spend a lot of our energy trying to control those around us. We do it with our emotions, we do it with our actions. We try to make people think what we want them to think, yet they go on thinking what they think. We can’t really control that. We also can’t control the weather.
Where control is actually located is anyone’s guess. Feeling comfortable with what we can’t control is as important as recognizing what we can control. When we need to feel in control, we look to ourselves, we start with our breathing, where our eyes are looking, what sounds we listen to, and what thoughts we are thinking. When we need to feel comfortable with what we can’t control we look to somebody that we love, and trust that they are controlling what they can. When we pay attention to our suffering and their suffering we see how we are similar and we develop compassion. We breathe together and control what we can.