Traditional Western psychology argues that loss of control and learned helplessness are unhealthy and suboptimal. Normal control is defined as gaining control (which even includes an illusion of control) and is equated with mental health. This traditional view argues that instrumental control is good, and that the more control, the better.
The theory, research, and practice of control therapy agree that "normal" control is better than suboptimal. However, normal control strategies (e.g., external attributions for failure) can also be problematic. They can keep individuals from being aware of the unconscious, reflexive, and reactive nature of many of their control desires and efforts; they are often insular and self-serving; and they can keep people from learning about their mistakes.
Therefore, a concept of optimal control is needed. Optimal control, according to Control Therapy, involves the following:
• Increased conscious awareness of one's control dynamics, including affective, cognitive, and somatic experiences, in order to learn when and how desire and efforts for control are expressed; when control beliefs, goals, desires, and strategies are reflexive, limiting, and potentially destructive; and when they should be increased, decreased, or channeled
• Abalanced and integrated use of assertive/change and yielding/accepting modes of control matched to situation and goals, desires, and temperament
• The ability to gain a sense of control from both self (self-regulation of cognitions, affect, and behavior) and others (including religious and spiritual beliefs)
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