Since mistakes are bad, when one occurs, we investigateto determine who is at fault.
Who made the mistake? Once that is determined, we blamethose responsible.
Following blame, we are ready to punish. More pain and suffering has been inflicted
on humankind for making mistakes than for any other cause. This should not surprise
fair. So when we are the one who made the mistake, we self-punish. Self-punishment
is called “guilt”. Humans are the only class of living systems that feels guilty. The
only class of living systems that teaches their pets to feel guilty.
When humans rely only on their spacial intelligence, they see cause as being identical
to effect. They are in essence time-blind, and so they confuse cause with effect.
identical, they are making an identificationthat is false to facts. Korzybski called
this the Error of Identity.6
humans make this error. We assume without analysis that cause and effect are the
same — that they are equal — that they are identical. If the effect of a mistake is
bad then the cause of that mistake must also be bad.
understand. And so,we act without hesitation, without doubt on our belief. We act in
certainty. And, certainty as explained earlier by Korzybski, Heisenberg,
Eddingtonand Bronowskiis not possible, because knowing is uncertain.
We humans always act without all the information. We humans are always
assuming. If we are unawarethat we are assuming, then we are ignorantof our
ignorance. Certainty means that we don’t know that we don’t know. We cannot seek
knowing when we believe our ignorance is knowing. Ignorance of ignorance is
leveraged ignorance — ignorance masquerading as knowledge. Ignorance of ignorance
toward human error is the most damaging of human ignorances. We humans make
mistakes because, we make all our decisions without ALLthe information. This is a
major point that all humans must understand. The only cause of mistakes is
our ignorance, we can learn from our mistakes and protect ourselves in the future.
When an individual knows he doesn’t know, he is wise. Wisdom is the oppositeof
certainty. The knowledgeof our ignoranceis wisdom.
This truth,whether we call it the Principle of Non-Allness, the Principle of
Uncertainty, the Principle of Indeterminacy, or the Principle of Tolerance,
leads us to the conclusion that to error is human, and there is no need too ask
forgiveness. All mistakes are innocent.
countless centuries. Religion and the objective scientists were wrong. The physics of
relativityand quantum mechanicsdescribe a Universe in which things are not
and cannot be perfect. A Universe in which, we humans are constrained to make all
our choices without ALLthe information. Mistakes are simply holes or gaps in our
knowing — lapses in our understanding.
mistake. Isn’t that the result of stupidity. If I knew better, but still made an error,
then surely that is my fault and not the result of ignorance.
I recall a young women I once treated. She had opened her hotel room door to a man
claiming to be a maintenance worker, who then attacked and raped her. The attacker
has stolen a hotel uniform from a laundry hamper and so seemed legitimate. However,
something about his appearance disturbed her, but on second thought, she assumed
she was just being silly and so unlocked her door. When I saw her several months
later she was still struggling with guilt.
something was wrong. I was so stupid. I knew better, but I opened the door anyway.”
just so stupid.”
one simple question. She looked deep into my eyes desperate to know what I meant.
you have opened it?”
a mistake. Even when we humans repeat our mistakes, it is because we assume the
mistake will not happen this time. We are ignorant of what will happenthis time. As
I have stated, the only cause of human error — the only cause of human mistakes is
humilitywhen we stand before the totality of Nature.
to the Principle of Non-Allness is what I call the Principle of Innocence.
All actions occur in ignorance. All human actions and all human choices are
made without all the information. We are always acting and choosing
without ALL the information. What we don’t know we must ignore and what we
ignore may hurt us. Therefore all errors and and all mistakes are made in innocence.
I don’t mean that mistakes are good things or that getting hurt is a good thing. I mean
that since the cause of mistakes is ignorance and the proper response to ignorance is
education, then we can learn from our mistakes.
present world and work to correct them. This is good news. It will make it infinitely
easier to build a better world.
our mistakes in a synergic manner. The human who understands that mistakes are a
natural part of life does not investigate the mistakes like a detective, he analyzesthe
mistake as a scientist. He does not blame when a mistake occurs, he seeks to learn
from the mistake and to learn he must accept responsibilityand seek responsibility
in others for their mistakes. Once he knows who is responsible for the mistake he
alternative to adversary punishment and guilt. However there is something in guilt
worth keeping. It is certainly not the badness, it is certainly not the blame, and of
course it is not the punishment.
always regret. In the adversary world where there is blame and punishment of course
I might regret being blamed and punished. I also might regret being considered bad by
those who are blaming and punishing me. But there is almost always another
component of regret. When I make a mistake that hurts someone else, I regret that as
well. This is the regret worth keeping.
mistake. We regret injuring others. We can solve this dilemma by moving regret over
into the synergic processing of mistakes, where it is called restitution. Restitution
means to restore, to repairthe damage caused by the ignorance of our behavior.
ignorance injured other. As a synergist, he will freely try to repair things. He will
freely offer restitution.
adversarily we get pain and no learning. If we process our mistakes synergically, we
get learning and no pain.
tolerate the pain of blame, punishment, and guilt. We will deny that we make a
mistake. We will project the blame for the mistake onto others. “I didn’t do it.” — “It
wasn’t my fault.” — “And, if it isn’t my fault, why should I have to learn anything.”
real force behind what I call the “anti-learning barrier”. If I am to learn from my
mistake I am trapped into accepting responsibility for my error. If I am adversarily
processing the mistake, I cannot accept responsibility without feeling guilty. To avoid
guilt I must deny responsibility. And if I wasn’t responsible then I have nothing to
This barrier became evident to me by another one of my patients. I once had the
occasion to treat a young woman in the early stages of her fifth pregnancy. She
informed me she had had four abortions previously and was pregnant and planning to
abort this pregnancy as well. I thought to myself, why can’t she learn to use birth
use birth control, she would have to admit that it is her responsibility to prevent
unwanted pregnancies. That admission would lead her to the further conclusion that
she was then also responsible for her previous unwanted pregnancies and their
pregnancies and abortions were far too painful for her. She opted to deny any
responsibility. “My boy friend got me drunk, and made me pregnant. It wasn’t my
fault, so I don’t need to take birth control. Besides using birth control is a sin, I would
never do that.”
program it to believe mistakes are bad, it will function to prove it does not make
mistakes. The human brain rebels at the idea that mistakes are bad. It will defend
itself in any way possible, it will defend itself by lying. When I am accused of badness,
I must lie to protectmyself — to protect myself from blame and punishment — to
protect myself from guilt.
leads to distrust— “I assume you are my enemy”. Thus, the processing of
mistakes as bad always leads to conflictand adversary behavior.
ignorant— choices made without all the information, then I must tell the truth to
protectmyself — to protect myself from repeating the mistake — to protect myself and
others from further injury — to protect myself from paying unnecessary restitution.
mistakes as ignorance leads toco-Operationand synergic behavior.
before the totality of Nature. The principle of Non-Allness is a fundamental law of nature.