Thinking Needs

... I prepared my favorite coffee, hot and fragrant, and then I started pouring it into the sugar pot...

A very serious study about the human error categorizes the errors in three types: slip, laps, mistake [1], and in great detail presents examples, patterns of intervention and interesting observations.

Like almost all studies on human behavior, also this one carefully describes behaviors (in this case human errors), when and where they are more or less likely to be produced, but does not provide an explanation, does not indicate a source, a possible source: with the obvious consequence of making doubtful solutions and remedies.

Although we do not intend to fill gaps of this magnitude, we are able, however, to open at least a glimpse of comprehension not only of the coffee poured into the sugar pot, but of a myriad of other human events, otherwise mysterious and inexplicable, helping our Narrator to orient and recognize the needs of its counterpart, in order to generate an effective narration.

Now we know that our systems are constantly at work, and we know that we live, in a way, a double life, in parallel, in the real environment and in the virtual environment; we have accepted that the good functioning of our systems is an obvious condition of success for our survival, and that our systems find confirmation of their good functioning mainly "working", with this generating the essential proofs of its proper functioning.

Even in the simple operation of preparing coffee all our systems are at work, while we prepare coffee in the real environment we live our parallel life in the virtual environment... and nothing guarantees that what we're dealing with in the virtual environment necessarily and exactly coincides with what we're dealing with in the real environment.

We can even say that it is probably impossible that what we live in the real environment coincides exactly with what happens in the virtual environment: to be able to govern the physical action in the real environment it seems necessary that, however small, our systems work in a virtual environment that presents a slight difference of time, in which we anticipate the future to guide the present.

Even if it were a scrap of only a few hundredths, tenths of a second, for the execution of the simplest tasks of which we are particularly skilled, however this gap of “technical” time is enough to denote a small difference between our two lives.

Difference that each of us knows, for direct and referable experience, can be much, much greater: as we walk we mind our own business,  while we drive the car (a relatively complex activity), we talk with our traveling companion, while we reorder the work table we put the pieces together of the conversation we had with a colleague... multiplied lives.

And so the mistake? On the one hand we can see it as proof of "malfunction" of one or more of our systems, or rather, a temporary flaw in the integration of the operation of some of our systems: the operations we were performing in our virtual environment, parallel and different from the guidance of the execution of the necessary and sufficient actions to prepare a good coffee, have negatively interfered with the accuracy of the operations in the real environment.

The result is a defective product compared to expectations: the coffee has not been adequately prepared to be "normally" tasted.

The "normally" quotation marks anticipate another possible understanding of the error, diametrically opposite: we are not dealing with a malfunction, with a systemic integration flaw, but with the result of a systemic composition that has privileged the course of an action completely in tune with the pursuit of satisfaction of a desire.

This perspective was cultivated mainly by Sigmund Freud, still today can be pleasant the reading of Psychopathology of Daily Life, published in 1916, a collection of descriptions and interpretations of slips and laps, very different interpretations from those proposed by James Reason.

The President opens the work of the Assembly saying: "We declare concluded the work of the Assembly concluded", realizing the error only after pronouncing the sentence... He himself later acknowledged that he was completely opposed to the Assembly itself and the work that should have been carried out.

If the lapsus linguae (slip, for James Reason) does not get the result of preventing something unpleasant from happening, however it satisfies, for example, the desire to protest and oppose (elements of the Ego System); pouring coffee into sugar could satisfy the desire to taste sweeter flavors, perhaps to counterbalance, proverbially, some recent bitterness... amare le donne, dolce il caffè[2].

Which of the two perspectives should we adopt? Our effective Narrator is forced to adopt the second, , in order to be effective, to wonder about the possible root that makes sense of what can seem a “simple” error... and then see how to deal with it, how to help the interlocutor to compose needs, desires and actions.

Our systems of thought, operational and symbolic, like all the systems we are made of, cannot stop working, not even when we sleep, even if there is sufficient evidence of a change in the modes of operating that we can account: although copious investigations in the field of neuroscience do not yet provide complete and convincing answers, it will take time and considerable improvements in the investigative tools.

But even with what we have, however little, we can accept the fragments of dream that we can remember as a sufficient clue to prove the unstoppable work of our systems: there’s a pretty big leap from here to be able to say, to "treat" and use the stories told by our dreams (of course it is narration, what else?), with all due respect for  the interesting and appreciable indications of the famous Freudian Traumdeutung.

We can accept that among the needs to be fulfilled there is to take care of something, keeping in good working conditions our Operational Thought System and our Symbolic Thought System, ready to recognize tensions and difficulties related to under-utilisation or over-utilisation of our systems: if idle hands are not necessarily the devil’s workshop, however, we need to adequately feed our systemic machine and keep it at work.


Let us conclude for now this first part of work of reconstruction of substance and sense of narration: what we have seen so far interwines any experience of narration, in any area of our life.

We started looking for something that could improve our professional life and dayly life, and it is time to deal more in detail with some specific aspects: the stress management seems promising, just to start.

[1] James Reason, Human Error, Cambridge University Press, Manchester 1990

[2] Untraslatable pun, the Italian word “Amare” can mean To Love or Bitter: love/bitter the women, sweet the coffee.


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