Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Invictus- "Unconquered"

While I was at home last week, one of the movies I watched was Invictus which is based on true events following Nelson Mandela's election as the South African president. Mandeal utilized the South African rugby team's success in the World Cup as a way to address lingering hostility between white and black South African's following the apartheid era. Aside from the fact it is a good movie, I became intrigued by the title of the movie which refers to a poem that Nelson Mandela used as comfort and inspiration during his years imprisoned at Robben Island. I have included the poem below and bolded the phrases that I find particularly salient.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

This poem appears to be referring to locus of control, which refers to an individual's perception about the underlying main causes of events in his/her life. The poem reflects the life paradigm of an individual who exhibits internal locus of control. People with an internal locus of control tend to believe that they are in control of their life or "master of [their] fate." These people believe their life is the result of their own decisions and efforts and tend to seek life satisfaction and happiness from within. Individuals who operate from an external locus of control believe in fate and luck and seek life satisfaction and happiness in external circumstances and situations. These people tend to say or think "I'll be happy once I am making more money" or I'll be happy once I move" or "I'll be happy once I find a boyfriend/girlfriend."

As the above poem and Mandela's experience clearly illustrate, individuals cannot always control their life circumstances or situations; however, we can control the way we choose to perceive and respond to the situations we find ourselves in, which is eloquently articulated in the closing two lines of this poem. I believe this reflects a balanced locus of control, which is likely the healthiest approach. For those of you who are unsure what approach you employ, Discovery Health has a short 10 question Locus of Control and Attribution Style Test. I urge you to take the test, reflect on the results, and determine how your approach influences your life.