‘People often judge themselves according to whether others find them acceptable or wanting’ (Tolan, 2003: 5)
Here at The Cloud 9 for Life Group, we believe that self-discovery and personal growth are keys to a happier, more fulfilling life. One fundamental concept in the world of personal development is the “Locus of Evaluation.” But what exactly is this concept, and how can it impact your journey towards self-acceptance and personal growth? Let’s delve into it.
Defining Locus of Evaluation
Locus of evaluation refers to “that to which people refer in order to make judgments about themselves, others, and the world” (Feltham and Dryden, 1993). In simple terms, it’s the place or perspective from which you assess yourself and those around you.
The term “Locus” derives from Latin and means “place.” It describes the place from which an individual makes value judgments. This profound concept was first introduced by Carl Rogers, the pioneer of person-centred counselling.
Carl Rogers (1951) wrote about the concept of Locus of Evaluation, stating that “In most statements which make or imply a value judgment, the spatial locus of the origin of the evaluation can be rather readily inferred.”
This “spatial locus” can generally be categorised as either internal or external. Let’s explore these two perspectives:
Internal or External Locus of Evaluation
- Internal Locus of Evaluation: When someone operates from an internal locus of evaluation, they trust their own instincts and judgments, relying on their organismic valuing process.
- External Locus of Evaluation: Conversely, individuals with an external locus of evaluation tend to internalise the values and judgments of others, often influenced by conditions of worth acquired during childhood. They may judge themselves based on the acceptance or disapproval of others, including parents, significant others, or societal norms.
As Tolan (2003) aptly puts it, “People often judge themselves according to whether others find them acceptable or wanting.” The values instilled by one’s culture can also play a significant role in shaping their external locus of evaluation.
The Fluidity of Locus of Evaluation
Few people consistently operate from an internal locus of evaluation. Instead, it’s common for individuals to oscillate between internal and external loci, depending on the circumstances and their emotional state. This oscillation is a natural part of human experience.
However, as individuals progress through the seven stages of the process, they tend to develop a greater ability to operate from an internal locus of evaluation. This progression is where therapy can play a pivotal role.
The Power of Therapy in Shifting Locus of Evaluation
Feltham and Dryden (1993) emphasise that clients often begin counselling from an external locus of evaluation. But as they progress and receive the core conditions of empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard from the therapist, they tend to develop a greater trust in their own decision-making processes. In other words, they become more in tune with their internal locus of evaluation.
Carl Rogers (1951) highlights the importance of keeping the locus of evaluation with the client in person-centred therapy. This approach emphasises respecting the client’s internal values, judgments, and decisions.
Examples of Locus of Evaluation in Practice
In a counselling session, a clear sign that someone is operating from an external locus of evaluation is their use of terms like “should” or “ought.” For example, a bereaved client might say, “It’s been six months since my mom died; I should be feeling better by now.” In such a case, the client is imposing external expectations on themselves.
Therapists need to be cautious and consider encouraging external locus of evaluation by offering praise. Instead, they should encourage self-reflection and self-assessment.
Unlock the Power of Locus of Evaluation
Understanding and shifting your locus of evaluation can be a transformative journey. It’s about learning to trust and value your own perspective while letting go of external judgments and expectations. Therapy can be a powerful tool in this process, helping you embrace your true self and make decisions that align with your values.
- Rogers C (1951) “Client-Centred Therapy,” Constable
- Feltham C and Dryden W (1993) “Dictionary of Counselling,” Whurr Publishers
- Tolan J (2003) “Skills in Person-Centred Counselling & Psychotherapy,” Sage