Book Review: Mistakes were Made (But Not By Me)
Why is it so hard for us to admit our mistakes? This question forms the basis of Mistakes were Made (but not by me).
Tavris and Aronson explain that the reason we don’t admit our mistakes is due to two ideas: self-justification and cognitive dissonance. We justify our decisions or mistakes because we feel tension between our actions and our beliefs and this is the basis of dissonance.
The first half of the book offers many examples of different people and professions that tend to be the guiltiest in terms of justifying their poor decisions. For example; politicians, authors, therapists, members of cults, alien abduction victims, police officers, lawyers and psychologists.
I was most disturbed by the examples of psychologists who brought false memories out of their patients (usually in the form of repressed sexual abuse) and when confronted with the evidence that the individual never went through such a trauma, were still were unable to admit their mistake.
The justice system is also terrifyingly susceptible to self-justification. Even when presented with DNA evidence that a suspect is innocent the police and the district attorney’s office sometimes still hesitate to let the person go free because they have invested so much energy into trying to prove their guilt that they have to justify the time they invested into the case and so they often convince themselves that the individual must be guilty of some crime—even if it isn’t the crime they were charged with. Tavris and Aronson call this the “justification-of-effort”--I did all this work, so I must continue, to admit now that I was wrong is unthinkable.
The second half of the book delves deeper into the social psychology of behavior and how this relates to people on a day-to-day basis in terms of their relationships.
The book is a fascinating and sometimes scary look into our own personal behavior. It is easy to justify small decisions that when taken over time can make radical changes to our life and our own personal values. We will eventually “come to believe our own stories,” however incorrect they may be.
How terrifying to see that our own terrible experiences almost never help us shape our behavior when we are about to commit an offense towards someone else. This is how violence/revenge can just continue to escalate over time.
Although I am not currently in a relationship, I always like to know more about having and sustaining healthy relationships. The best advice in this book to sustain a relationship all about a ratio—five-to-one.
That is will be my go-to advice whenever my students come crying to me about their struggles with their boyfriends/girlfriends.
I will end with one two of my favorite quotes in the book:
I strongly encourage everyone to read this book, if only to become more aware of your own thinking and to try and correct your behaviors.
Part of my journey with this blog is to come to see myself more clearly and that through self-reflection that I will be able to admit my mistakes and become a better woman. So this is an open invitation for people to point out my faults so that I may correct them.