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Inner Circle Part 2: ‘What is in My Control?’ Drawings Using Oil Pastels

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC


Your locus of control is the extent to which you feel you can control events affecting you. Our sense of control is a basic psychological need. We need to feel like we can influence our world, or else we can experience feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.. A person with a high sense of locus of control feels confident and in charge of the direction of their life. Are you in charge of your life, or do outside forces dictate what happens?


A large body of research has shown that your locus of control is a powerful predictor of mental health and well-being. If you have a strong internal locus of control, you’re likely to be happier and more satisfied with life, regardless of your circumstances. If you have a weak internal locus of control, you’re more likely to experience anxiety and depression.


At any given time, we can only control a very small portion of what happens in our lives. We may not be able to control the weather, our boss, or the trains, but we can always control how we react to them, our thoughts and emotions, our responses to others, and our own behavior in the face of things outside of our control. When we understand what is in our control and what is not, we can focus on what we can influence and take action accordingly.


Socrates said "The only thing I know is that I know nothing." The Stoics took this a step further, and claimed that the only thing we can control is our own opinion. We can't control what other people think of us, or what happens to us, but we can control how we react to these things. This is a powerful idea, because it means that we can be happy and peaceful even in the face of adversity.


This teaching can be difficult to accept, especially when we experience a negative event such as a car accident or the death of a loved one. In these situations, it can be hard to believe that we are not in control. When we focus on the things that are outside of our control, we can quickly become frustrated and unhappy. However, when we focus on the things that are within our control, we can take action and progress towards our goals, which can feel empowering.


We can use art to explore this concept further within art therapy by visually exploring what is within our control and what we accept to be outside of our control. In order to create this exploratory drawing, one will need oil pastels and a large circle outlined on a 12 x 18” paper. The circle can be as large as you’d like, but make sure to save some room outside of the circle on the paper.


Oil pastels are a versatile medium that can be used for a wide range of art therapy applications. They allow for a high degree of control and precision, making them perfect for detailed work. They can also be blended to create beautiful gradients and color transitions. They can be used to create both abstract and representational artwork, making them an ideal tool for exploring emotions and feelings. Oil pastels are a type of drawing medium made from pigments mixed with a non-drying oil, such as linseed oil, walnut oil, or poppy seed oil, and wax. The viscosity of the oil prevents it from being absorbed by the paper or board on which it is applied, allowing the artist to create vibrant layers of color. Their soft, creamy texture makes them perfect for creating expressive, colorful artwork.


Once you have your materials ready and your circle outlined on your paper, you can begin your drawing. Drawing symbols or abstract lines, colors and shapes, begin to fill your circle using the oil pastels with what you believe best represents your locus of control- what do you believe you are in control of in your life? On the outside of your circle you can then use your oil pastels to create a background of your choosing that is meant to depict all that is outside of your control. You can decide if you want to keep the circle completely closed or if you want certain areas to be open. That is your artistic and creative choice.


There is no right or wrong way to complete your drawing. At the end, you may want to journal and write down immediate feelings and thoughts about what has been created. Consider how the oil pastels contributed to your personal exploration of your locus of control.


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