Control/Orientation: Grawe cites Seymour Epstein (1990) as one who believes that the need for orientation and control is the fundamental human need. Epstein believes we create our own conception of reality, a model of reality, into which we try and make sense of our experiences. We aim to attain perceptions of our world that satisfy/align with our goals. We do the ‘aiming’ through motivational schemas, to satisfy the goals, which are our basic needs. In other words, our aim to attain perceptions that line up with our goals, means striving for control. We want to be able to regulate our environment so our basic needs are satisfied, this is true for our physical needs as it is for our psychological needs. There is a high sense of control when we have a large number of options open to us. The more restricted our options, the less sense of control we have.

The need for orientation, or to understand what is going on, is tightly interwoven with a sense of control. To have clarity about a situation is to have a sense of control and options become more apparent. When we don’t know what is going on in our environment, there can be high levels of stress and anxiety. This need for control, when we are infants, is closely linked with our need for attachment (because the infant is totally relying on an attachment figure for all his or her needs), and any violation of our attachment need is also a violation of our need for control. At a very basic level, a cry from an infant to get attention because she is hungry is both control and attachment behaviour. If the cry is ignored, there is a loss of control (to be fed) and attachment (to have the proximity of mother).

Orientation and Control in 60 seconds from The Neuropsychotherapist on Vimeo.

Epstein, S. (1990). Cognitive-experiential self-theory. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research. (pp. 165-192). New York: Guilford.