it’s all #fakenews …

As human beings we live in two worlds.

There is the external physical world. The world where we can touch a tree, watch a wren dart from shrub to shrub, scratch our elbow when it itches.

Then, there is the world of our mind and imagination. The world where we can feel hurt by what that person said and imagine what they meant. We can dream about our tomorrow and recall distorted truths of our past. A world where we believe the stories and myths of our mind. Our own fake news generator, if you will.

This second world is a virtual reality that can appear and feel just as real as the external physical world. The shoulds and musts are powerful, motivating, compelling.  Indeed, when it comes to your emotions and your imagination, the virtual world of your mind can be more real than the real world.

Our mind seems to muddle these two worlds. What is true? What is real? What is imagined? What is story? What is fake?

It seems too that our society is slowly shifting to value this second virtual world more than the first real, physical world.

For now it seems, in our modern media enabled world, we not only create our own virtual stories and myths, not only listen to those of our family and friends – those we might meet within the real world – now, we are bombarded by the stories, myths and imaginations of billions of others from around the globe. Real people we will never meet, with all their distorted stories of self and associated experience.  And we believe them. Or respond to them. Or worry about them. Or take them on as ours.

Recently, I read that more than 15% of Twitter’s 319 million users were not human. So not only are we engaging with the thoughts of other people, people we don’t know; we are listening to robotic programmed outputs from 48 million unknown devices. All adding to the melting pot of real and unreal, true and imagined, solid and distorted.

Yet each interaction is enhancing our own virtual sense of the truth. Augmenting our own thoughts and emotions. Building a more complex, layered perception of self, our place in the world and all its global dangers and intents. Causing us to be more curious, more mentally stretched, yes. Enticing us to respond, to debate. Yet also to worry, to feel pressurised, scared even. It drives a need to know. A need to be part of. Inclusion not exclusion. Powerful emotional draws deep within our ancient animal brain.

I wonder if this contributes to the rise in mental health and well-being issues? I wonder what this holds for our future as a species?

The internet increasingly drives our lives. You’re using it now to read this. We read reviews of products from unknown people and trust them. We read tweets from unknown people and respond to them, emotionally, cognitively. We scan page after page of Facebook posts, skipping across our timeline like a never ending movie.

You are reading this blog. In one sense it’s not real.

I am of course.

But these thoughts are the creations from within my mind, my virtual world. True, you can choose to ignore them. You might see reason in them. You might concur. You might though, above all else, wonder what else you interact with in the world that isn’t real?

Challenge yourself to be curious; to question what you hold in your head and how that in turn impacts your thinking and how you feel. Is it real? Is it your imagination? Or is it a distortion of someone, or something, that doesn’t serve you well in maintaining your mental and emotional well-being? Maybe anything that does that, whether true or not, is the real fake news?

Maybe take time to stand with your hand on a tree.  Ground yourself.  The tree is real.

Go well people.

it’s not about…


image by: Hikaru Cho

When interviewed recently, the man releasing to the media private tapes of his conversations with a princess said, “It’s not about the money.”

Have you noticed we say that to cover our tracks when, in reality, that very statement means invariably it really is about exactly that.

“It’s not about me” means “It’s all about me.”

Just as “It’s not about being right.” means “You’re wrong.”

Of course if it’s really not about something, we don’t need to mention it. Why would we?

I don’t sit down to a meal and say, “It’s not about being hungry.” Nor do I get in my car, start the engine and pronounce, “It’s not about going somewhere.”

Reality is often best hidden in plain sight.

we generalise our truth and so make it our truth

Heavy downpour

It always rains at the weekend.


Of course once we think it, we notice when it does rain, rather than when it doesn’t -thereby reinforcing our thinking. The term ‘always’ might suggest it is never not raining at the weekend. A veritable deluge on Saturday and Sunday, without fail, for a full twenty four hours. Not true of course.

We do this all the time though in our language…
We say “nobody understands me…” – Really, ‘nobody’?
Or we say “everyone’s against me…” – Really, ‘everyone’?
Or we say “they’re all the same…” – Really, ‘all’? And just who are ‘they’?

This occurs not only in our language, but also in our interpretation of action.

For example, if someone you know walks by without saying ‘hello’, what’s your reaction? You might think that they ignored you because you might have upset them? Or maybe they don’t like you really? This might make you feel guilty, hurt or rejected. So you might be tempted not to speak first, the next time you meet; to be more cautious. This could increase the bad feeling or uncertainty between you both and generate more feelings of guilt or rejection. If this occurred several times with several people you know, you might eventually generalise that you are at fault, maybe even that you are an unlikeable person. If this happened with enough people, you might even start to socially withdraw. But how well did you interpret the situation in the first place?

In essence, problems aren’t caused by situations themselves but by how we interpret them in our thoughts. These interpretations have an impact on our feelings, resultant actions and then subsequent thoughts.

We generalise our truth and in doing so, make it our truth.

Image by © Anthony Redpath/Corbis

one world … each


He offered her the world.  She said she had her own.

Monique Duval

There is no reality. There is your reality, my reality, his reality, her reality. The simple fact is that what we see, what we hear, what we pay attention to, what we interpret, what we delete, what we distort, what we generalise, what makes sense for us… is all uniquely us, even when we seemingly experience exactly the same thing.

His world, her world, my world, your world.


seen and unseen, illusion and reality


Our shadow is always with us. Always connected.

Often we cannot see it. Occasionally so faded, so feint, it cannot be detected by our human eye. Sometimes fragmented, in parts; distorted by multiple light sources.

In the right light though our shadow is clearly us. It responds to our movement, to our very being. It is an extension of us. A monochrome, two dimensional form, that adopts the contours of our surroundings.

A shadow part of our complex humanity perhaps? Intrinsically us; yet sometimes hidden, sometimes not. Impacted by our environment. By conditions. Sometimes we can see this part of ourselves, sometimes others see it when we do not, sometimes it is invisible to all. Our shadow responds to our other parts, our thoughts, actions, behaviours. Our movements and motion. Always responding.

Light and shade.  Effect and cause. Seen and unseen. Illusion and reality.


reality blind?

We have seen this road sign many times – it is familiar as an image.

We don’t need to read the sign. We are conditioned to know red means stop. The words are somehow irrelevant.

We have seen this context too. Roadworks, queues, lights, single file traffic…

So, if this sign said, “WHEN GREEN LIGHT SHOWS WAIT HERE”, would we stop? Probably not.

I wonder how often in life do we ignore what we are being told, verbally or visually, because we have been programmed to create our understanding, our awareness, by what we have experienced before?

How often might we delete, distort or generalise the information, because our programming  tells us what we need to know?

In reality, how blind are we to reality?

trick or treat?

trick or treat memory
Tonight is All Hallows’ Evening, or Halloween.

To most it signifies dressing up, makeup, trick or treat. Probably pumpkins, with cut outs illuminated by candle, casting an eerie visage? Maybe a party, maybe a bonfire and fireworks?

I wonder how many revellers realise that many believe it is a night to remember the dead? Those martyrs, saints and believers who have passed on. Lighting candles is thought to attract their souls.

Of course, as with much that is ritualistic and ancient, there are other theories too. We simply cannot be sure.

We don’t need religious or historic events though to carry with us to the present day a misnomer or false interpretation of reality. Many of us do it with our own memories … and we were actually there when they happened!

Often a childhood memory lives with us. But often it is distorted, mis-remembered. It carries the understanding of the child. Parts of the actual occurrence are deleted, parts twisted to fit our childhood emotional need, parts simply forgotten in the story. Yet we run this edited inaccurate story throughout our adult lives. It holds us, trapped in a mythical past, caught in a story of fiction and we behave today as if it were true. We carry the remnants of the experience in the form of a broken relationship or a belief about ourselves that no longer serves. It was probably never true, but we made it so, and now we have run it as a video, or heard it as a story in our heads, so many times that we hold it to be a reality. It now controls us. Limits us. Makes us smaller.

Maybe we would be well served to honour it as dead? Just like the souls Halloween remembers? Maybe we would be well served to think of it as a myth, a fable, a misinterpreted story of long ago? Maybe we should move on and pay more attention to now?

Treat yourself, don’t trick yourself.

Look after your soul, not that of a long dead memory.

facing ourselves is the hardest direction to look

not looking at ourselves
It seems like we stand in the centre of the world.  In the centre of our world.

From this place we can observe all. See sights. See situations. See people. Be drawn towards. Turn away. Fit.

From our vantage point, with our map of the world as the world should be, we can assess everything, place a value on it, judge it. We can rank things, place them in hierarchies of choice, want, need. We can compare this external vista of things, people and their actions with our perception of right and wrong, good and bad.

And we do…

We critique the behaviour, choices, necessities of others. We glance at the unsightly homeless person from the corner of our eye, thereby maintaining a dignified separation. We wince at the teenager’s language and lack of respect in the street, like we skipped that life stage. We place the drunk man in a story, a story of our own creation, so that we can explain his ‘condition’. We assess the parents and their actions towards their screaming toddler, like frustration, tiredness, learning are all experiences we have never had or at least have always handled better. We gossip about the neighbour and the affair we think they’re having, so that we can stay in the ‘moral’ club through our action of placing them in the ‘immoral’ one. We whisper with colleagues about the boss who seems oblivious to the impact of their actions, because there is safety in collusion. We mutter about the Sunday driver who meanders when we’re in a hurry to be somewhere, like they have no intent or purpose.

That person is good, this one less so. We’re OK, because they’re not. How can he do that? Why is she so…? Why don’t they…? I wouldn’t do that. Who wears that? Does she know what she looks like? Really … pink? Why doesn’t he wash his hair? Another holiday!? Why can’t she just say? He’s a waster. She doesn’t realise what she’s doing to him. Amazing, awful, not good enough, disgraceful, shameful, good heavens…

We all do it, every day.  It comes easy. Too easy.

Maybe because in our map of the world, our view of right and wrong, of good and bad, we can be exonerated? We are innocent. Never guilty. We are successful. Never a failure. We are ethically and morally just. Never wicked.

But maybe facing ourselves is merely the hardest direction to look?


the distortion of reality

distort, generalise, delete
Earlier this week, I wrote here about wasps and my propensity to engage them in an imaginary karate-like self defence of mime. Our creation of our reality through the process of deletion, distortion and generalisation.

In my example I am deleting, distorting and generalising the experience as well as the possible outcomes.  My language can reveal which process I am using.  For example I might say “I’m scared of wasps”, but what specifically am I scared about? What is deleted in that sentence? The buzz? The pain of the sting? The swelling and itching?… I’m behaving as if all buzzing equals a wasp threat; but that is a generalisation, revealed by the ‘all’.  Equally I’m generalising that all wasps are out to get me; generalising a wasp’s presence will always lead to a sting.  I’m distorting the risk; creating a perceived significant risk of a sting, despite lack of evidence as I haven’t been stung for decades.

Yet it’s my version of reality in that moment, so I thrash, I dance in an embarrassing battle with my aggressor, miming attack, defence, bravery, fear, victory, defeat.

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) refers to this human truth through its presupposition ‘the map is not the territory’. Essentially what we believe to be true, our interpretations of events past, present and future. These are only OUR truth. Not THE truth. Everyone creates their own truth, their own map. We do this in these three interconnected ways, and in one sense this process of individualised deletion, generalisation and distortion creates our own unique interpretation, our version of truth. Just as with the colleague passing us without saying hello. All of which might suggest there isn’t one version, one truth, one territory; no reality in fact, just our reality.

Our deepest memories are coloured by this process. Twisted. Enhanced and also reduced. Yet those memories shape our behaviours, our way of being, our beliefs about what matters, what is true, today and going forward. We recall experiences and hold great store by them, but the very memory is only a partial truth, an incomplete reality.

A strange way to base current and future behaviour, don’t you think?  Human, but not always helpful perhaps?

pretending there is a reality

mime reality map territory NLP
I’m not a fan of wasps. A wasp buzzing near me will cause me to flap like a crazed Indiana Jones extra, chopping my way through an invisible mist of cobwebs in a deep, dark cavern. If that doesn’t work, I will duck, sway, even run away.

I don’t specifically recall being stung as a child and I have no evidence that wasps are seeking me out, just to sting me. Sometimes this frantic dance happens before I even know it’s a wasp. Just a buzzing insect can invoke this manic mime artist routine.

In a sense I am creating a false wasp / imagined wasp implication ‘reality’.

We all do this – not with wasps I suspect – but, act as if a ‘reality’ is true. Have you ever seen something shiny on the ground and paused to check, believing it to be of value? Have you ever mislaid something and convinced yourself someone else has moved it, because you ‘know’ you haven’t?

These are somewhat frivolous, innocuous examples. Something to giggle about. But we do the same thing in all our day to day experiences and interactions. Given as human beings we experience things constantly, this is something to pay attention to. Neither frivolous nor innocuous.

Often experiences are shared. We will be in the same situation as a friend, partner, colleague or stranger. It would be easy to assume therefore that we all have the same experience of the same situation. There must be facts? Truths? Reality? Things said, things meant? Actions and words we can all agree on? They happened, right?

Think again.

Let’s say someone you know walks past you at work without saying hello – what’s your reaction, your interpretation? You might think they are ignoring you, that you have upset them? You might think they have more important things to attend to, because after all you’re not important enough? You might think you’ve got it wrong, they don’t like you after all, even though you thought you had a relationship? You might just think you don’t have an interesting contribution to make, nothing to say that your colleague wants to hear?

Of course you can’t know their truth, so you create yours, by deleting, distorting and generalising your experience. Noticing some things, ignoring others; interpreting and distorting the experience to make it ‘fit’ with your map of the world. Then relating this experience to others and unconsciously grouping it with other ‘similar’ ones to create generalised groupings of meaning – eg people never notice me.

This creation of our own reality is the product of our brains pattern matching and making meaning quickly But we are miming.

Miming reality.