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Control and the “Good Life”

How does one remain calm when life is tough? There are two ways that people have to try to fix things, primary control and secondary control. Primary control is when you use goals and action to take control of a situation. Secondary control is when you attempt to make sense of a situation in the grander scheme of things.


A recent study by Erik G. Helzer and Eranda Jayawickreme shows that while primary control is “associated more consistently with daily affective experience,” secondary control can lead to “life satisfaction.” Dr. Helzer suggests that while many problems we face in life can be taken head-on (primary control), the ability to make sense of problems which are not fixable in a traditional sense is what leads us to a greater sense wellness across our lifetimes. Dr. Helzer says “You don’t have control over a lot of situations, at work or elsewhere in your life. But you do have control over your response to it, over the meaning you assign to the event. Sometimes you have to give up on the idea that ‘I just want to show that I’m right.’ It’s important to note that secondary control can be just as active and beneficial a method as primary control.”


Next time life feels out of control, keep in mind that sometimes secondary control, taking the time to make sense of things instead of fighting them, can lead to the greater happiness.


If you need counseling in Carmel, Noblesville, Indianapolis, Zionsville, or Westfield consider giving Touchstone Counseling a call. We look forward to hearing from you!

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