Learning from Mistakes

“Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Apart from private practice, over a period of twelve years, I provided many thousands of hours of individual, group and family therapy at a treatment center for teens. Every now and then a kid said something that stuck in my memory. One such moment was when a fifteen year-old country girl from Michigan told me she didn’t like history class, and saw no reason to study it. All she wanted to do was to raise horses, so why would she bother with that boring stuff?

Clients come for help for all kinds of problems. Some problems arise through no fault of their own, while other problems are self-inflicted. One example is that generation after generation, people do not learn from the mistakes made by others; nor do they learn from their own mistakes!

Consider the couple who are having relationship issues. They think, let’s just have a child, and that will make things alright. — A woman is in a toxic relationship, but she thinks her love can “change” him. — People are dying from drug overdoses, but that won’t happen to me; I’m smarter than that. — You get the idea.

Since ancient times, educators, philosophers and story-tellers have been giving humanity valuable life lessons. Nearly all of us know the classic stories from childhood. You probably remember Aesop’s Fables; the tortoise and the hare, the ant and the grasshopper and others. All these stories end with, “the moral of the story is …” We have also heard about the troubles of the rich and famous arising from their own bad judgment. We have the Bible as well as teachings from other religions, given as a gift from the minds of brilliant, enlightened people. Considering the wealth of wisdom dating back thousands of years, why is it that so many people repeat the mistakes of the past? 

In a blog post on the topic of stupidity, you may have read that one of the features of stupidity is the inability or refusal to learn from mistakes, whether they are your mistakes or the mistakes of others. Is there something stubborn or rigid about us which makes us unwilling to absorb useful information from the past? Are we, as a species, merely stupid, stubborn or unwilling to learn? This complicated question requires more investigation; a bit too much for a short article.

If you’re going through a tough time, and you’re wondering whether there is something about you which is contributing to your problem, it may be a good idea to get some feedback from a trusted friend or family member. But if you’d prefer to talk to a professional, please feel free to reach out. The phone number is (219) 309-3928. It would be an honor to have the opportunity to help.

For additional thoughts click here. What Is Stupidity?

Thanks for reading!