In a nutshell, a person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she controls his or her own life. An external focus of control believes that they are at the whim of forces much greater than themselves.
I can make a good argument for either case: Your genetics, the place, time and circumstances of your birth, and the luck of accidents or even who you meet in the course of your life make for a matrix of overwhelming forces....
Except you will be hard pressed to find a circumstance so bleak that someone hasn't excelled, or a circumstance so privileged where someone hasn't failed.
I find an internal locus of control useful. It's where I am anyway and maybe that's just making a virtue of necessity, but damn. With an internal locus of control you can change things. You have choice. You have, as Kai would say, agency.
Everyone has these, of course. Always do and always will. But people with a strong external locus of control can't seem to see it, and if something is invisible to you, you can't use it.
You can tell an internal locus of control because they tend to take personal responsibility for their failures. The more extreme the ILOC, the more things they feel responsible for (seriously, I should have seen the economic crash coming. All the signs were there but I went haring off to Iraq...) An external locus of control, not so much. "I never had a chance." "They would never let someone like me..." "The ball bounced wrong."
Years ago, I got into a minor debate with a friend. I'm still not sure I'm right, but my gut feeling is that you can't teach an ELOC any form of self-help. You can show them everything they need to do to get control of their own lives and they will agree, and then just look at you with a blank face, waiting for everything on the to-do list to magically happen.
I had a minor epiphany the other day that got me thinking about it. A friend thought I would or should be mad at something that happened. I had to fix it, but it was a pure accident. No malicious action from anyone. Because it was her accident, she thought I would be mad at her.
This is just speculation (though it looks solid, thinking back) but with ELOCs, feeling what they do is the result of other forces, not really distinguishes between chance and their won actions...does it work the other way. Is it not just that they don't feel blamed for failure, but they do feel blamed equally for failure and for chance?
Don't feel I'm explaining this well. What I saw, was someone who didn't feel responsible but expected blame. Do ELOCs feel that there is no connection between not just result and action but reward, punishment and chance? Does the world look arbitrary to them?
Or are they the world? Expecting to be punished if the world does something?