Core Counselling - discover your true self

Our Sense of Control

As discussed previously, worry, the cognitive side of anxiety, occurs in the higher brain (prefrontal cortex). Thus, it is important to ‘stop-thought’ the brain from worrying about something right from the start, especially if the something is out of our control.

It is the mind that tells us that we do or should have control over something, when in fact we may not (So, why go there anyway!?). These false expectations around control add to our worry list (when we could rather just let them go).

What do we really have control over?
Take this quick ‘test’ [adapted from Forsyth & Eifert, 2007], by reading each statement and noting which ones you believe you can control.

1.    How often I think about something.
2.    Whether I do something I say I will.
3.    Whether other people do what they say they will do.
4.    What choices I make.
5.    How others respond to my choices.
6.    How I spend my time.
7.    What someone else is thinking.
8.    My values and what is important to me.
9.    What I feel at any given point.
10.   How I behave towards people.
11.   How nervous I get.
12.   The direction I want to go in my life.

Your control pattern:  The even numbered statements are items which one can control (or at least influence), while the odd numbered statements are items one can’t control (people, feelings). Do you over or under-estimate your sense of control? How do you view the difference between ‘control’ and ‘influence’?  How does compulsive or addictive behaviour fit into one’s sense of control?

We can also use reality-checking and problem-solving skills to help us when worry/stress does happen.  [And, it is interesting to note one’s level of worry before and after using these skills.]

Reality Checking: This helps one keep perspective about a concern (e.g., getting sick from touching something).Explore the evidence in support (e.g., germs can be picked up from contact) or not in support of the situation(e.g., I don’t always get sick when I touch something).

Problem Solving: This helps someone deal with a situation. Let’s take the above germ situation. What can’t I control? (e.g., touching the door knob). What can I control? (e.g., what I can touch it with; cleaning hands afterwards.) What steps can I take around what I can control? (e.g., using a paper towel; using anti-bacterial lotion in purse after.)

Remember, these methods work at strengthening the prefrontal cortex in order to compete with (cool down) the emotional hot limbic/worry patterns, and thus, theskills need repetition to be effective on a consistent basis.
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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.