Sunday, December 02, 2007


This just came to my recently, in a sort of flash, though I can back it up with many stories from my counselling clients. This lists the 4 reasons I have identified why people make mistakes, and these show none of them are actually their fault. To put it simply, noone makes a mistake on purpose. To keep things short, I have not given many examples, I'm sure each of you can think of your own- we've all made enough of our own and been the victim of many others, but if you want some just ask and I'll add some. 
NB-I have just found the same information in a book called Pure Bliss by Gill Edwards. I appear to have tapped into the universal pool of information here! 
This article has now been published in the spring 2002 issue of 'Fidelity' magazine, the journal of the National Council of Psychotherapy
Here are the reasons I have identified
This is by far the largest reason. If someone only knows part of the information they need to make a decision, it is impossible for them to do the right thing. Decisions often need to be made quickly, and there isn't always enough time to find out things you need to know. Being wise after the event simply means one has found out the information needed at the time to make that decision, and if you had had it, of course, the mistake would not have been made. IF you discover the information, and then make the mistake again, then the reason becomes lack of intelligence (see below). We all make mistakes, but noone makes them again, once they know the facts, unless they are stupid.
The major reason my clients, and others I read and hear about, appear to lose their usual intelligence when dealing with members of their close family is the effect of emotions. Therefore, what is seen as a perfectly clear and reasonable decision when dealing with a stranger, suddenly becomes a total confusion when making the same decision about your daughter. It appears whatever information is present, it can easily be distorted and forgotten when one is highly emotionally connected to someone, and this is just a common facet of human nature.
Lack of skill applies to all of us when we try to do anything that is beyond our ability. In fact, this is a part of lack of information, as if we knew the task was beyond us, we wouldn't have tried to do it. Lack of intelligence mainly applies to someone who, having found the relevant information to prevent a mistake being repeated, still do it again. Therefore they discover the information they need, but aren't clever enough to use it. Usually you won't repeat an action in error once you discover how to do it the right way, but if you then commit the same error again, it's simply lack of intelligence. If you know all the facts, are in control of your emotions and still do it, it's not a mistake, it's a choice- you decide the problems are a price worth paying for the pleasure. Look at how many smokers there are.
This is related to lack of information, where something necessary was not done. Of course, by not doing something that should have been done, it's still a mistake- once you realise you should have done it (providing the emotions and stupidity don't come in) you wouldn't not do it again. Therefore, the lack of information just means you didn't realise what you needed to to make you act at the time. This includes priorities, where you know you have to do a few things, and the one you thought was less important, and never actually did, was more important than the others. This is really an aspect of mistakes in general, but such a clear area it needed addressing as a separate area.
If you have got this far I will add an example. You are in the street and someone is lying on the ground. What do you do? Help them, or
1) Nothing- you don't have time (Omission, through mistaken priority)
2) Nothing, it's not serious enough to need help on initial examination (lack of information)
3) Nothing, someone else will help (lack of information)
4) Nothing- I can't cope (emotion)
In fact, any small contribution would have helped, noone else was around to help in time, and the person needed help immediately.
If you knew this before I asked you what to do I think there would be very few answers of nothing as you had all the information you needed to do what had to be done. And if you still didn't, then it's either stupidity, or a choice i.e. 'I'm a mean sod and I'm still not going to help' 
nb- one mistake can also be made for a combination of these reasons- eg an addict knows they are damaging themselves, but often don't realise how badly (lack of information), are driven by addictive feelings (emotions) and if they find out all the information, still carry on, then lack of intelligence also applies.

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