Hot-air Baloon

Ch-6: From External to Internal Control of Your Life

Part 3: Becoming More Internally Controlled and Assertive

Tom G. Stevens PhD
Psychologist/Professor Emeritus, California State University, Long Beach
Send Feedback/Questions to:
You Can Choose To Be Happy:
Site dedicated to enhancing human happiness, self-development, and success
SITE MAP: All free Self-help resources includes online book, You Can Choose To Be Happy, and SHAQ

Photo of Dr Tom and Sherry Stevens
search index brief sitemap advanced site search
search engine by freefind
Chapter  6, Part 3, from You Can Choose To Be Happy,  Tom G. Stevens PhD
Return to Happy Homepage
Go to book Contents      Go to chapter contents


How to become more internally directed and effective with others--
even controlling people!

Section Contents:

   Summary of internal barriers--dysfunctional beliefs 

Cope with internalized parental control statements 

 Replace avoidance, excuses, and shoulds 

Face fears and unpleasant situations 

 Remind yourself of external control consequences 


Become aware of non-assertiveness habits

Monitor external control focus

Identify hidden messages, manipulation, and games

Develop interpersonal skills--a checklist

Spend enough time in healthy social environments

Set boundaries of responsibility and control




I have addressed many individual factors such as low self-worth and low decision-making experience that trap people in external control. Suggestions were given for increasing internal control for each of these factors.

In the remaining part of the chapter I will suggest additional methods for overcoming external control. The first set of methods focuses on overcoming internal barriers to internal control such as belief systems, fears, and thought habits. The second set focuses on external barriers to internal control such as other people's manipulation. The first set focuses on what we tell ourselves and the second set focuses on what we tell other people.

In both cases we are attempting to become more internally controlled in a way that shows empathy and love of self balanced with empathy and love of others. Actively seeking this balance of caring is being assertive--seeking win--win solutions to problems. It contrasts first with nonassertive-not adequately taking care of ones own needs-I lose, you win. Non-assertion results in passive, dependent behavior. Assertiveness also contrasts with being aggressive-seeking ones own goals without adequate consideration of others' needs-I win, you lose. Aggression results in dominating, manipulative behavior.


Before exploring additional methods of overcoming internal barriers, I will summarize the internal barriers we have discussed so far. I will also describe some of the reinforcers that strengthen these internal barriers to internal control.

>Beliefs and other internal states supporting external control. The following list summarizes many of the beliefs, fears, and other internal states (discussed previously) that tend to increase external control and decrease internal control.  Valuing others opinions, beliefs, approval, expectations, and judgment more than your own.

  • Believing that you must have others approval and acceptance (for survival, happiness, etc).
  • Making acceptance by your family or others more important than your own happiness.
  • Believing that your individual happiness is selfish, immoral, or not important.
  • Low self-worth (low unconditional valuing of self )--a weak Higher Self.
  • Low self-confidence or low competence in some life area or task.
  • Fear of being alone.
  • Fear of not being able to take care of yourself adequately (or make yourself happy).
  • Choosing to be too dependent (example: financially, emotionally) on someone.
  • Allowing your opinion of yourself to be based on a public opinion poll.
  • Fearing some awful truth about yourself.
  • Being terrified of disapproval or rejection.
  • Being in codependent relationships (because you believe people are primarily responsible for others--not themselves).
  • Letting obedience or rebellion to rules become too important.
  • Letting internalized parents, peer groups, or media ideas become too powerful.
  • Beliefs in obedience, passivity, and nonassertiveness. We may believe that we should not question authority, should do what we are told, should not have any kind of conflict, or should always put others' desires above our own. Beliefs such as these support external control. We may have swallowed whole entire belief systems supporting external control. These are now important subparts of ourselves.

>Advantages (reinforcers) of external control. Underlying beliefs that support external control are not the only factors that promote external control. Another factor is reinforcement. Hundreds of research studies have demonstrated that reinforcement is a powerful motivator. These reinforcers can trap us into external control indefinitely. But what could be reinforcing about giving up control of our lives to others? Following are some common factors why people get trapped in external control.

>Avoidance. We may believe that allowing others to direct us lets us avoid responsibility for decisions, avoid failure, avoid conflict, avoid rejection, avoid doing what we don't like, avoid taking risks, or avoid work.

>Social rewards. There can be social rewards of others believing that we are nice, agreeable, weak, or even incompetent. The weaker we are viewed, the more some people will take care of us and do things for us (that we don't want to do for ourselves). However, the cost can be high--giving up our freedom and happiness.

>Underdeveloped sources of internal control.  Our more positive sources of internal control may be underdeveloped. Developing our competencies may require time, effort, and money. Remaining dependent on others may be easier or safer.

Disarming dysfunctional reinforcers.  These advantages or reinforcers are only reinforcing to those who believe that they are advantages. Avoidance behaviors and dysfunctional social rewards usually cause so much long-term damage that they are not worth the short-term benefits. Once someone gains that insight, avoidance stops being so reinforcing. Insight helps short-circuit dysfunctional reinforcement.

Similarly, once we understand the long-term benefits of developing competencies and becoming more self-reliant, then we may become more tolerant of the short-term disadvantages. Following are additional methods we can use to get more control over these internal subparts that make us so vulnerable to external control.

Return to beginning


When I feel guilt, it could be that my inner parent is sending a message. When my inner parent says I should or must, my inner child may rebel and feel like doing the opposite. The result is deadlock--no action.

Instead, I let my Higher Self listen to all inner points of view including my inner child and any other inner subparts that have something to say. I take the needed time to have a dialogue between the inner parts until some resolution is reached. I won't allow one inner part to bully or name-call (selfish, childish) another inner part and get its way. It's a lot like marriage counseling.

We have already examined ways of responding to internalized parents (or other external control belief systems) by methods such as converting shoulds to wants. However, if this has been a long-term problem, and self-help efforts are not working, then I strongly recommend you seek the help of a competent mental health professional who has a positive philosophy. If you are still not making adequate progress after a few sessions, discuss it with your therapist. If that does not help, then find another therapist.

Return to beginning


Avoidance Behavior--avoiding negative consequences--is one of the primary reinforcers of allowing external control. Letting others make decisions and take responsibility for a situation may be easier than facing the situation and taking responsibility for it ourselves. The situations we are avoiding could be rejection, conflict, being alone, work, being wrong, failing, being criticized, or any situation which leads to unhappy emotions such as guilt, anxiety, or boredom.

I don't know anyone who really enjoys rejection or anxiety. Nothing is wrong with wanting to avoid unpleasant situations. Avoiding an unpleasant situation is only a problem if facing the unpleasant situation is necessary to accomplish an important goal--such as saving a relationship, getting a job, finishing a class, or fighting cancer.

Face fears and unpleasant situations to establish self-confidence and independence. We may have built a huge set of avoidance habits that keep us from facing problems we need to solve to be happy. External control beliefs give us a rationale for avoiding unpleasant situations. They provide good excuses for avoiding responsibility and tough situations.

Giving an excuse means that we are being dishonest with ourselves or someone else. It is dishonest because the real reason we are making the choice is not the reason we are giving.

Many of these excuses are socially acceptable. We tell people that we are too busy to stop by, not that we are bored with talking to them. We don't call in to the office and say, "I won't be in today because I don't feel like going to work and would rather play." Instead we may call in "sick."

These socially acceptable excuses are not so dysfunctional, because they may add more happiness than then they subtract. Nevertheless, we are still paying the internal price of dishonesty and of knowing we are not secure enough to face the consequences of telling our boss the truth. At least--in this case--we are being honest with ourselves.

However, in cases when we lie to ourselves, the results are much more dysfunctional. When we avoid job responsibilities, shyness, problems with loved ones, finances, illness, or alcoholism and give ourselves dishonest reasons, then these excuses tend to perpetuate dysfunctional habits and undermine control by our entire executive self system. In essence, we become a slave to our habits--operating more like laboratory rats than thoughtful humans.

Return to beginning

Blindly following rules (or shoulds') is also dysfunctional. Blindly following rules--just because they are rules--is often similar to making excuses for what we do. Blindly following rules shifts the responsibility to the rule source instead of making our conscious decisions by higher values. We do it because we should without ever questioning if it is beneficial to self and others (our ultimate concern).

We may blindly follow the rule to avoid making an independent decision and facing the consequences (of rejection, guilt, or other penalties imposed by the rule-makers).

Eliminate excuses (and shoulds). If you are tired of making excuses (or avoiding independent decisions), use the following steps.

Step 1:  Observe and understand your own motives, excuses, and shoulds. Check to see if you are making excuses instead of facing your real motives. Or, are you blindly following rules (that might conflict with you highest values and goals).

Most excuses have the following characteristics:

  • They shift responsibility from internal to external sources.
  • They help you avoid a behavior or situation you dread. (A situation with negative consequences or that feels bad when you think about it).
  • They protect you from facing the real reasons why you are making the choice you are making: they are dishonest.
  • They give you a subtle message that you are weak and helpless, and lower your self-esteem.

Step 2:  Take RESPONSIBILITY for your own behavior and HAPPINESS.
  • Face the truth and acknowledge excuses and blind rule-following.
  • Examine your real motivation. What behaviors, situations, or consequences are you avoiding? What are your underlying fears or anxieties about? Use the self-exploration method to find them and deal with them.
  • Take control of the situation--make a conscious choice! First, seek a full understanding of the different values that will be affected by the choice. Weigh the immediate benefits of avoidance against the long-range benefits of facing the situation. Last, try my final decision test.

My final decision test (ultimate concern) is,
"Which alternative will maximize my own and other people's happiness?"
Focusing on my own choices and their consequences
gives me more internal control and gives me a positive message,
"I am in control of my own life and happiness."

When we let difficult situations, sources of external control, or excuses dominate us, we lower self-esteem. When we face difficulties and actively make hard choices that are based on our Higher Selves, we boost self-esteem.

Return to beginning


Following are some common examples of excuses to avoid negative consequences. These examples illustrate how we tend to give external control to others and give ourselves subtle "I am weak" messages--undermining our self-esteem and preventing us from reaching other goals. If one applies to you, try the internal control option instead.

"I'm powerless" versus "I have some power." "I can't do x..., so I will give up." versus "I may not be able to do x..., but I will...learn to do x, or do the best I can in the situation.

"I can't" versus "I don't want to." You may say, "I can't do this" to yourself or others when you just don't want to do it. ("It" could be math, cooking, a sport, talking to someone, etc.) Yet you may think that you "should" do it, so you say, "I can't" because "I can't" is more acceptable than "I don't want to." Perhaps you would rather the other person think that you "can't" than think that you "don't want to." Or, perhaps you would rather think of yourself as "I can't do it" than think of yourself as lazy,disinterested, or irresponsible.

You don't need to call yourself "lazy" or to hide your real motives from yourself. It is much more productive to explore why you honestly don't want to do something. Understanding why you don't want to do it gives you a stronger sense of self-control than believing that "I can't motivate myself."

After self-exploration, if you still don't want to do it, then you can assertively state, "I choose not to do it." Inside, you will feel more self-control, because you will understand your real motives for making the choice. Outside, people may get upset; but they will eventually respect and trust you more. No more excuses!

If you can't find a positive reason, always remember that the best reason is that you and/or others will be happier. Stand up for your beliefs!

 Blaming others versus "I have matter what you did to me." No matter what someone does to you, you have a wide range of responses to choose from. You do not have to be aggressive or nonassertive.

Dr. Wayne Dyer suggests making a BLAME LIST. Include everything that you blame your parents, significant other, friends, teachers, boss, or anyone else for. Then take each blame item and try to look at it from the point of view that you had/have power to make choices of how to respond to the situation that you were presented with.

Focus on your own choices. Take responsibility for making yourself happy for each of these situations. Be creative in finding new ways of making yourself as happy as possible with each situation. For example, spending time with a needy or demanding parent is a choice no matter how strongly you believe that you must do it (or owe it to them). It is not a must over which you have no choice.

Return to beginning


Another way to become more internally controlled is to remind ourselves of the consequences of being too externally controlled. Make a list of negative consequences that affect you. Following are common negative consequences of external control and reminders of key internal control sources. Remind yourself of these consequences--even carry the list with you.

>Attractiveness. If you are too dependent, externally controlled, or unhappy, you probably aren't as attractive to others--who may view you as too needy, insecure, or weak.

>Dependence--loss of freedom. If you get trapped in a poor relationship because of your neediness in one area of your life, you will lose freedom and could become miserable and depressed.

>Victimization. Have you been in the role of a victim? Say, "I am tired of being nonassertive, tired of being codependent, tired of being too dependent, and tired of being a victim. I can only respect myself if I look to my Higher Self and persist to get my inner needs met."

Instead of being a victim, you can remind yourself of the following.

>Many routes--not one. You don't need (must have) any one person. You can be happy alone or you can be happy in other relationships. Any good relationship is a gift--a bonus. No one owes you a good relationship; you can create your own happiness. Say, "There are many routes to happiness and I will find the right ones for me."

>Learning and experimenting. Sometimes being assertive means not knowing what you want and experimenting. In practice you will not always know what you will like or what will make you happy. You may require time for searching your inner feelings or experimenting to find out what you like and dislike. You can insist other people give you space, allow you to experiment, or even experiment with you.

>Trusting others versus trusting yourself. You can never trust others to take care of yourself as much as you can trust yourself. If you depend upon others for stability or direction, then you will constantly be insecure and ultimately anxious. Because, you will be at the mercy of their desires and the possibility that they may let you down or leave you. On the other hand, you know that you will always be there for yourself and never leave yourself.

>Loving yourself. Say, "I love myself, and I can create a happy life for myself. I am the person most responsible for meeting my own needs. If I am to be happy, I will choose to assertively pursue the values that lead to my happiness."

>Loving others. Say, "I can love others and create happy relationship(s) through my own abilities to be happy, and though giving undemanding love to others. I will treat others by what I believe--not by what others manipulate me to do."

Return to beginning




We have been focusing on what we say to ourselves in order to get more internal control. Now we will focus on other people who are influencing us and on what we say to those other people.

There will always be people who want to influence us. People who are more externally controlled will tend to automatically do what these people want. People who are more internally controlled will tend to check with their Higher Selves and other internal subparts before responding. Ultimately they will want to know the effects of the request on both people's overall happiness before agreeing.

While this chapter is not a course on assertion training, I will provide a few simple tips on what to do when dealing with people who are attempting to persuade, manipulate, or coerce you. Some of these people (especially parents) may truly care about you and have your best interests at heart. Others couldn't care less about you. They may simply be trying to sell you something for their benefit--not yours. Also, see Appendix E: KEY INTERPERSONAL SKILLS.


We may so habitually conform to doing what others expect or want that we are not even aware of it. Becoming aware of automatic conformity is the first step to consciously choose what we want. Consciously choosing what we want can greatly enhance our sense of personal freedom and self-esteem. Think of any relationships in which you feel restricted, controlled, or have difficulty being yourself. Become more aware of any feelings that precede or follow nonassertive behavior. These feelings may include:

  • Feelings of pressure or anxiety
  • Feeling weak
  • Feeling dependent on the other person
  • Fear of being rejected or hurt by the other person
  • Feeling afraid of something the other person might do as a punishment or retaliation
  • Feelings of guilt or anger at yourself--(often occurring after nonassertiveness)
  • Feelings of apathy, loss of motivation, unhappiness, or depression (often occurring after nonassertiveness)

When you get one of these feelings, imagine a big red flag. Then take some of the steps below to become more aware of the consequences of external control and focus more on what you really want.

Return to beginning


Learning which external and internal messages to focus on is a key determinant of achieving successful internal control and assertiveness. External control focus means focusing on what the other person thinks, feels, and wants without weighing it adequately against our own thoughts, feelings, and wants.

Internal control focus means primarily focusing on our own desires, feelings, goals, plans, and thoughts. An assertive stance is to be sensitive to both your own and the other's values, but normally (1) giving some preference to your own values and (2) attempting to achieve win-win outcomes (so both are happy). Use your Higher Self's genuine empathy and love of self and others as a guide.

For people who are too externally controlled. If you are in the habit of trying to please (or rebel against) others, then it is important to put an extra emphasis on looking inward for awhile to see what you really want. Try some of the following suggestions.

  • Get away from the influential person (even for five minutes) and focus on your own inner dreams, desires, subparts, values, and goals.
  • Talk to other people who are more internally controlled, are on your side, and are more objective.
  • Make your decision based primarily upon what you really want. First decide what you would want or do if the person whom you normally defer to did not even exist. This can help to clarify your own feelings without interruption from your internalized other.
  • Role-play in your own mind what the other person might say and what your new, assertive position is. Would they make some valid points that you honestly want to consider? Mentally practice how you will deal with any consequences of your new assertiveness.
  • Normally, seek the opinion of a dominating person only if they are directly involved or will be directly affected by your decision.  Make the final decision alone--without any other person present.

Focus on internal sources of control to get more control of emotions. When we focus on external sources of control, we will often feel weak, helpless, and out of control. The emotions we get will likely either be anxiety, guilt, hurt, or depression. Those emotions may trigger a nonassertive mode of thoughts and actions.

On the other hand, emotions of resentment or anger may trigger an aggressive mode. Often feeling hurt precedes the anger. We may try to do the opposite of what the other wants (rebel) or try to get even.

When we focus on constructive, internal sources of control (such as our Higher Self or other constructive beliefs, desires, and goals), we feel more in control, feel more determined, and feel calmer. This is an assertive mode. I ask clients to change focus from external to internal sources of control in my office, and they are amazed at how much more confident they feel within seconds. Try it.

Return to beginning


A husband (in front of guests at a party) says, "Honey, I'll bet that if you didn't spend all that time watching game shows after work, you'd have time to cook dinner for me now and then." Everyone laughs. His wife responds, "But I'm really tired after working all day and need some time to wind down." Husband, "I know that, I was only teasing."

What has just happened here? On the surface, it appears that the husband is teasing his wife about game shows and cooking. According to the social rules of teasing, everyone laughs at his wife and she is supposed to be a good sport and laugh too. However, the wife heard the (not so) hidden message that her husband really is upset with her for watching TV instead of cooking dinner. He wants to embarrass her in front of their friends and to use group pressure.

She is upset by that hidden message. He did not want their friends to think he would intentionally embarrass his wife in front of them, so he denied that he was playing a game and insisted he was only teasing.

The game is a subtle way of getting her to feel bad about her behavior and change it. It is manipulation because it is dishonest--he is pretending that he is only teasing. Dr. Eric Berne described many such manipulative social games in his classic book, Games People Play. Berne calls this game "Sweetheart," because often the manipulator says, "Isn't that true, Sweetheart." If he disguises his attack by smiling and saying sweetheart, she is not supposed to respond negatively.

How could she tell if he were not playing a game--if he were really teasing? If he had been honest and had previously resolved his problem about dinner and if his real goal was to play, then his statement would not be manipulation.

Return to beginning


In the above example, the wife could have screamed, yelled, called her husband names and gone on a tirade. However, such an aggressive (or domineering) response would probably have made her seem to be the bad guy and alienated her friends as well as driving a wedge further between her and her husband.

She also could have smiled and pretended that she believed he was only teasing. However, this nonassertive (or passive) response will only encourage him to keep manipulating her and will increase his control of her life.

A more skilled, understanding, and assertive response would be to say something like, “Honey, it sounds like you are really bothered by my watching TV after work, perhaps we should talk about it later?” By this assertive response, she shows understanding and concern for him and simultaneously cuts through the dishonest game to the heart of the issue. If he persisted, she could add, “You don't want to discuss it here and now in front of our friends do you?” Recall that in our studies on the SRQ we found that assertiveness and intimacy each correlated over .70 with relationship happiness. SHAQ incorporates the SRQ scales. See the box below for more information.

Most people do not have good assertive communication skills. Assertive skills take time, study, and practice to learn. Following are a few characteristics of assertive (nonaggressive, non-passive) interpersonal communications. Try these tips to become more assertive and to resolve disagreements more constructively.

>Empathy. Attempt to understand the other person's point of view thoroughly.

>Care for other. Express respect and concern for others and their feelings. Tell them and show them you care--even if you are angry.

>Care for self. Focus on own values, goals, feelings--clarify them to yourself and to others.

>Seek win--win solutions. Avoid win--lose solutions (even if you will be the winner). What do you win in the long run when you hurt someone you care for or conduct business with?

>No name-calling, attacking, or blaming. use neutral, descriptive language-- avoid name calling, negative labels, or personal attacks of any type. Don't blame other or self. Focus on causes and solutions--not on assessing blame and problems.

>Issue-oriented.  keep your focus on one important issue at a time and be willing to take whatever time is necessary to reach an eventual solution for important problems. Be flexible about when to talk. Make sure there is balanced turn-taking of whose main issue is being addressed.

>Calm. Attempt to keep an atmosphere of calm concern and understanding by both parties. If emotions get too intense, take a "time-out" (time and space necessary to regain calmness by either party).

>Listen empathetically. Listen to others first. Let the other thoroughly explore his or her point-of-view. Frequently summarize the essence of the other's emotions and content.

>Ask the other to elaborate his or her point of view, so you can understand it in more detail--even if it is critical of you. Ask them questions like, can you give me examples?, can you tell me more?, or what else bothers you?

>Get to heart of problem. Encourage clarification and exploration of underlying issues. (See self-exploration method in chapter 2 and apply method to both parties.) help both parties discover the underlying, bigger themes behind the feelings.

>Be caring, but firmly respond to manipulation. Respond to emotional outbursts with empathy, but do not be manipulated by them. (Example, "I can see you are angry about XX. I care about your feelings and want to understand why you are so upset.") Often, the best alternative is to take a TIME-OUT if either party gets too out of control.

>Bargain. Be willing (and learn how) to escalate carefully and bargain with rewards and punishments if the other person becomes too manipulative or if simple agreements do not work. Use a calm, but firm approach to de-escalate anger or attacks. If you believe that you are being treated badly by the other person and they refuse to bargain, then consider taking action yourself to better take care of your own needs--even if it upsets them. It might bring them back to the bargaining table!

>Focus on changing self--not other. You can only control your own thoughts, feelings, and behavior--not the other person's. Offer suggestions of actions you can take to improve matters--especially those that also take better care of your needs.

>Actions consistent with words. Follow up with actions matching words--persistently. No deceit. If the other does not keep an agreement, examine the problem alone. Discuss the broken agreement.


Return to beginning


Moving on to healthier relationships. We can learn to get more internal control in a variety of ways. One important way to get more internal control is to (1) accept that any reference group or close relationship is going to exert some influence on your beliefs, thoughts, and behavior and (2) adjust the time you spend with others according to how positive you believe their overall influence is on you.

If you feel more unhappy, worse about yourself, and less growth because you are with certain people, take control. You have a choice! I have seen many clients who were much happier after they completely separated themselves from dysfunctional families. Some have not seen anyone in their family for many years. Generally, they learned to overcome guilt and loneliness. Most thought it was one of the healthiest things they ever did. As one said, "I quit letting them drag me back into the quicksand."

People leaving unhealthy relationships are often afraid that they will never find someone else who will love them and be with them. Yet, most people go on to healthier relationships. Those who don't get into relationships almost always learn to be happier alone than in that unhealthy relationship.

Return to beginning


SHAQ Research Results: Interpersonal Skills


�� The Interpersonal Skills scales focused upon intimate relationship skills. Combined, they correlated with Happiness, .59; with Low Depression, .39; with Low Anxiety, .38; with Low Anger-Aggr, .59; with good Relationships, .40; with Health, .49; with Income, .21; with Education, .15; and with college GPA, .19.


The eight Interpersonal Skills subscales follow.

1. Assertive conflict resolution. This subscale correlated with Happiness, .46; with Low Depression, .24; with Low Anxiety, .20; with Low Anger-Aggr, .36; with Relationship Outcomes, .37; and with Health, .31; and with college GPA,.08.

2. Open, honest communication. This subscale correlated with Happiness, .50; with Low Depression, .29; with Low Anxiety, .23; with Low Anger-Aggr, .30; with Relationship Outcomes, and .44; with Health, .29.

3. Love and respect for other. This subscale correlated with Happiness, .48; with Low Depression, .29; with Low Anxiety, .27; with Low Anger-Aggr, .43; with Relationship Outcomes, .43; and with Health, .30.

4. Positive and supportive statements. This subscale correlated with Happiness, .42; with Low Depression, .28; with Low Anxiety, .27; with Low Anger-Aggr, .54; with Relationship Outcomes, .27; and with Health, .31.

5. Collaborative behavior. This subscale correlated with Happiness, .41; with Low Depression, .27; with Low Anxiety, .24; with Low Anger-Aggr, .33; with Relationship Outcomes, .27; and with Health, .32.

6. Supportive relationship independence. Support to pursue own interests, goals, time alone, etc. This subscale correlated with Happiness, .38; with Low Depression, .29; with Low Anxiety, .31; with Low Anger-Aggr, .39; with Relationship Outcomes, .14; with Health, .30; with Income, .06; with Education, .08.; and with college GPA, .06.

7. Romantic. This subscale correlated with Happiness, .39; with Low Depression, .17; with Low Anxiety, .12; with Low Anger-Aggr, .24; with Relationship Outcomes, .27; and with Health, .18.

8. Liberated roles. This subscale correlated with Happiness, .17; with Low Depression, .11; with Low Anxiety, .18; with Low Anger-Aggr, .29; with Relationship Outcomes, .14; and with Health, .13.


�� The assertive, interpersonal skills guidelines in this chapter correspond closely to items on subscales 1-6 above. Follow them to improve relationships and happiness. Go to Appendix E and my website for more free self-help interpersonal and assertive skills training manuals.

�� ---------------------

Note: For all correlations, p < .0001 and Ns ranged from 2336 to 2906.



One of the key issues in any relationship is the balance of control. Is it 50%-50%, 80%-20%, or what? Who makes more of the decisions in each life area? Who gets their way most often during conflicts? Who gives the most? These questions raise the underlying control issue of "How much do I give to my own happiness versus how much do I give to the happiness of others?" Does a sister give up a kidney to save the life of her sister--thus increasing her own chances of death? How much do we each give?

I cannot answer those questions for you. We each need to draw our own boundaries about who we will give to and how much we will give. However, in my experience with hundreds of clients, balance issues, control issues, and people's communication about them are usually the most important determinates of the relationship's success.

Overcoming conflicts about balance and control can only happen through good communication and a willingness by all involved to change.

PRACTICE: Examine current balance and boundaries of control in important relationships. Think of an important relationship you are not satisfied with. Examine the balance of control overall and balance in important areas of the relationship. Also, are there problems with dependence, codependence, or other control boundaries--see earlier sections. How can you more assertively communicate and act toward the other? What fears, underlying beliefs, and other internal barriers must you cope with to act more assertively with this person? Develop a plan to overcome them using ideas from this and earlier chapters.


SHAQ Research Results: Internal versus External Control


�The Internal vs. External (I-E) Control Beliefs scale correlated with Happiness, .49; with Low Depression, .42; with Low Anxiety, .46; with Low Anger-Aggression, .42; with good Relationships, .29; with Health, .38; with Income, .24; with Education, .14; and with college GPA, .13.


The three Internal-External Control subscales follow.

1. Autonomy, independence. This subscale correlated with Happiness, .55; with Low Depression, .44; with Low Anxiety, .43; with Low Anger-Aggr, .37; with Relationship Outcomes, .33; and with Health, .33; with income, .29; with Education, .15, and with college GPA, .13.

2. Not codependent. This subscale correlated with Happiness, .21; with Low Depression, .23; with Low Anxiety, .28; with Low Anger-Aggr, .24; with Relationship Outcomes, .09; and with Health, .25; with income, .09; and with Education, .11.

3. Not (adult) care provider. This subscale correlated with Happiness, .25; with Low Depression, .21; with Low Anxiety, .27; with Low Anger-Aggr, .31; with Relationship Outcomes, .18; and with Health, .23; with income, .10; and with college GPA, .06.


�� Internal control can help people achieve integrity—living by what they value and believe. The opposite is external control—letting others determine what you will do or even think. No wonder I-E Control is so large a factor in happiness and success. The autonomy subscale had one of the highest correlations with income of any SHAQ scale (.29). This chapter gives detailed help how you can achieve more internal control of your life.

�� ---------------------

Note: For all correlations, p < .0001 and Ns ranged from 2001 to 2646.


==> MORE HELP:  For more help and a more detailed training program
on becoming more assertive and developing your assertive conflict-resolution, intimacy, and conversational skills,

GO TO the following links: 

Assertion Training at

Conversational Skills at


Chapter Summary:

Many external forces try to influence our decisions--
including many people we love and respect.
Many internal forces try to influence our decisions--
including many lower and higher desires.
If we are too influenced by external forces,
we risk lack of inner satisfaction and depression.
If we are too influenced by our own self-directed desires,
we risk social consequences and guilt.
Allowing the Higher Self to balance empathetic listening
to both internal with external messages, and
to give primary responsibility for meeting desires to each individual
can resolve the internal--external control conflict.
We can attain internal control and win-win solutions.


Return to beginning

Go to Chapter 7: Harmonious Functioning Creates Peak Learning, Performance, and Happiness

The BOOK (free download): Go to Contents of Dr. Stevens'  book,  You Can Choose To Be Happy: "Rise Above" Anxiety, Anger, and Depression.

FREE SELF-HELP materials available on this web site (click here to see list)  

  How to ORDER You Can Choose To Be Happy  

Success and Happiness Attributes Questionnaire (SHAQ)  to assess self on many factors  including HQ-Happiness Quotient 

Email feedback to Dr. Stevens I welcome your comments about my web site or any of its contents.           

Self-Help and other resources on this website (and site map)

Web site created and maintained by: Tom G. Stevens PhD Psychologist-Faculty Emeritus,
California State University, Long Beach Counseling and Psychological Services.
URL of this web site:

Return to Dr. Stevens' Home Page

Copyright 2024 Tom G. Stevens PhD