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The Locus Of Control Shift In Abusive Relationships... And Why It Matters

Kundalini yoga class.

My yoga mat and I look precisely like a Maldives beach I've never been to.

Also, the mat is allegedly non-toxic, even though it smells really bad.

I don't know how I look, but I’m not wearing a bikini.

I awkwardly follow the class flow by doing “all those things.”

As I'm very uneducated, I have no idea what to call all those things but all those things.

I google it later; they call them kriyas, mudras, mantras, etc.

I don’t particularly like the room; it’s cold and somehow… impersonal. It’s not cozy. I miss warmness and softness. The colors are non-existent, and the smell is the smell of a big room that is rarely used. It’s not what I expected. Still, it all somehow works… until… the chanting part. This is where I do get lost entirely.

I’m not generally into reciting exotic words that mean nothing to me.

However, I do the chanting part because I’m a well-socialized, domesticated, traumatized cat able to feel peer pressure and social norms combined. Following the class seems to be the fundamental idea of coming here anyway.

Still, why the fuck would anyone want to speak all those encrypted words.

It reminds me of the Church that I left when I was 15.

I don't like the feel.

Sipping my post-class tea

(I know this also reads as post-coital tea, but please bear with me thx).

Back home, I make myself a cup of tea. I start feeling lousy. Cranky. Angry and irritated. I also reflect:

“I was moving and singing some words in a language I didn’t understand, and then we prayed. Now I’m sitting here, agitated and irritated, drinking this stupid herbal tea; all of a sudden, every-fucking-thing in my life seems to suck; how the fuck is this even possible, I was fine in the morning…??”

What did I expect?

I was moving, using my voice. My energy was shifting; it was a kind of healing work, and of course, I felt terrible afterward — due to repressed feelings in my tissues that came to the surface through that movement and vocalizing. Isn’t that always the case? Is this something new, Tina?

No, of course, it is not new.

Let’s say it together: “Environment fcking MATTERS.”


There is one detail I didn’t bring into the picture that day: sitting in my post-class misery.

The context.

Context / noun / the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea and in terms of which it can be fully understood.

The first layer of context?

There was this highly structured program of a specific yoga modality with its particular origin, tradition, and teachings. No doubt we were all practicing it in that room, touched by its morphogenetic field, which is presumptively saturated with information from all classes and any individual practices from all around the globe to that specific date (if we pretend that time exists and it’s linear).

Ask Rupert Sheldrake.

Secondly, I wasn’t alone in that uncozy chilly room. We were a group of people practicing, and there was a leader and a teacher. Just imagine the energy field in the room. All members’ thoughts and emotions floated through the group field as we worked. Do you know what it means to be highly sensitive, “energetically open”? It means certain parts of your energetic design are clean sheets; on these sheets, you amplify what’s going on with people in your surroundings.

I’m emotionally and mentally sensitive. (Don’t ask how I know)

However, sipping my post-class tea, I overlooked the context.

I was hyper-immersed in my irritation and did not think about the fact that I wasn’t in that class all alone with a plant named Clarissa.

I once had a plant called Clarissa in my therapy room.

This wasn’t the case. That morning, in the room I didn’t enjoy, there was no Clarissa but a bunch of us people. And contemplating my sudden cranky feelings, not for a second did I bring to my awareness the reciprocal effect of me plus:

a) the group, b) a leader, c) the spiritual technology (of Kundalini yoga).

But I should.

Because on an energetic level, plenty was happening in that class. I was spontaneously observing it all the time. Not only was I new there, but I’m also an observer, primarily by nature, some by trauma, and much by my profession. And in that class, I had numerous thoughts and sensations coming from the room and the people themselves. And they were not mine.

But at home, sipping that tea, I didn’t even think about context; I didn’t consider it. Instead, I willingly and spontaneously took full responsibility for everything brewing inside me. I did it the same way as saying, oh, sorry, when someone steps on my foot.

Good girl.

It’s a unique spiritual virtue to take everything on yourself.

Well, it’s not a virtue to take everything on oneself.

I don’t believe dragging the cross around is inspiring, desirable, needed, or healthy.

I believe it’s an echo of trauma and part of your post-trauma recovery, and that’s all it is.

Did you know that survivors take upon themselves the unconscious shame and guilt of their abusers? And develop a profound sense of inner badness while keeping that disgusting inner ugliness at bay by trying to be “good” and “nice”?

The locus of control shift - the survival mechanism

Suppose you have been abused, used, or neglected in your life. You know the point of suffering and you are aware of your past.

You also probably know by now that your life differs from those of people who didn’t suffer man-made trauma.

Because of your life circumstances, you’re vulnerable in a certain way and differently than people who were lucky enough not to experience what you had.

One of the vulnerabilities people with trauma have is related to the mechanism of the locus of control shift.

To put it briefly, this is all about attachment to the perpetrator.

The locus of control shift is a survival mechanism activated in abusive relationships. It implies a particular paradoxical, mental, and emotional perspective, in which the victim tends to see themself as the one in control of the situation. At the same time, they fail to critically evaluate the essential detrimental role of the people around them.

This is a standard perspective shift for any victim of abuse.

The locus of control shift is a survival mechanism.

Because, at the time of the abuse, it helps the victim to survive abusive situations while at the same time retaining attachment.

Attachment is king. If you imagine yourself being vulnerable, as in childhood, and you had to choose between being loyal to yourself, which is authenticity, and staying faithful to the crucial others you depend on (attachment), the attachment would always win.

With the locus of control shift, you retain a sense of control in uncontrollable situations. In this sense, it is a protective mechanism.

So, how does the locus of control shift work? It works when you blame yourself for horrible feelings when hurt or in pain, even though other people’s abusive behavior caused your hurt.

Doing this “shift” inside of you, moving the focus from others to yourself, is how to keep your attachment to others intact.

To put it differently?

If you could see the truth of an abusive relationship, it would jeopardize the relationship with a person abusing you and on whom you are simultaneously dependent. You cannot risk losing the attachment, so you trade your truth for attachemnt and the mechanismi is, you blame yourself for everything hurtful.

This is deep stuff to work with. It all sounds logical to someone who was not abused because it is. However, this logic can disappear in thin air in a second for the victim because of a specific internal working schema and fragmentation of the psyche.

If you are in post-trauma recovery, it’s imperative to understand this mechanism that helps people stay as much as possible sane in insane circumstances.

Awareness around the locus of control shift puts many struggles in perspective.

What happened with that Kundalini class anyway?

The yoga class itself was less important than it seemed anyway.

I took it as your typical example of a regular day in the life of an everyday survivor on a mission to heal trauma completely.

The fact is, I was in a nasty mood after that yoga class.

And the fact is, not for a microsecond I thought about the impact of the class on me until… memories of little moments from the yoga class started dripping into my consciousness, like soft drops of rain landing on my skin.

And after getting a distance and thinking about what happened in that class, I began to feel my usual, centered self.

The point is that what happened energetically in yoga class wasn’t as innocent as anyone would expect from a yoga class.

People attend yoga classes and expect to feel love and light; in certain spiritualized social circles, it is even expected to feel this way. But things are more complex. Love and light on demand is an illusion, a far-fetched fantasy that typically collapses due to the complexity of the human psyche.

As a survivor, always use your common sense mixed with intuition, and carefully weigh the role of yourself and the impact of others on your moods and thoughts.

Be honest with yourself and with your humanness, and also consider teachers, masters, gurus, mentors, coaches, therapists, and any education and spiritual systems who you allow to influence you.

The sketch from a yoga class is a relatively benevolent example. Nothing terrible happened to me while I was taking that class. However, I didn’t return to Kundalini; this is not my thing.

I don’t believe following anyone's scrips is how I can be more fulfilled and more liberated in my expression.

The truth is, things can go much south in spiritual systems, and many people with sensibilities due to their past trauma are vulnerable in a different way than people who never experienced the struggles of keeping essential boundaries, saying what they need, and quitting apologizing when someone else steps on their foot.

If you come from a “world of trauma,” always remember your vulnerabilities. Be a good custodian of yourself. Be an adult in the house who is reliable, loving, and protective. Be the adult that you always missed in your childhood. Take loving, compassionate, and unapologetic care of yourself as you’d care for your own child.


Tina Božič Psychotherapist View my bio

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