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.

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it’s not about…

notabout

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.

Generalisation.

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

the tale that may never have been…

A colleague of mine recently copied the team on a document.  They failed to copy me. I only discovered this when another colleague asked me for a view on the work.

This was the third time this had happened.  The team is only six people and we have been formed for about six months and so I have viewed this as interesting. Actually no, I have viewed it with suspicion. I have started to create stories, in my head, about a hidden intent, tales about a potential dislike or disregard for me. I have been telling myself that once is a mistake, twice is careless, three times is deliberate.

I have of course taken an adult approach to this and spoken to the individual directly. (You know I’m lying here, right?)

Yesterday I was in a team meeting and another colleague began a discussion on a topic they are leading. They referred to the pre-read they had shared.  I said I hadn’t received it and they apologised and sent me a link to the soft copy on our systems. I received the email and clicked the link. I didn’t have access rights to the material.

Now my story has legs. It has all the makings of a novel. With characters, twists of plot and an evil back story.  I have trapped myself in a fabrication of my own making. I am unconsciously looking for evidence that my tale is correct.

Imagined dragons. Stories of the mind. Myth and truth.

 

are we all cheats?

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The Olympics begin tonight.

The lead up has been tainted by the drugs debate. Competitors willing to take performance enhancing aids in an attempt to win at all cost.

I’m guessing many athletes and sporting competitors enter their sport because of a personal drive. An inner desire to perform at their best, to test themselves to the limit. Then it seems some switch to an external drive. An overwhelming desire to win medals, records, titles by whatever means. External objects, which act as testimony to their achievement, for which they are prepared to cheat to gain. Cheat others, but also cheat themselves.

Honesty and integrity sacrificed for a shiny object or piece of paper which draws admiration and congratulation from other people.

When do internal goals trump external ones and vice versa? How does external recognition become more valuable than internal truth? What causes that shift? Or is it there within certain individuals from the start?

Maybe this isn’t just about athletes and drugs? Maybe we are all vulnerable to lying to ourselves and to others so that we can be recognised, admired, valued, loved?

Maybe others have personal ambition trumping the perspective others may have of them – they don’t care what people think, they will just do their best for themselves. People who rob pension funds for example, so that they can buy yachts?

Maybe we’re all cheats?

one world … each

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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.

 

unable to fulfil our commitment

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A couple of months ago I booked a one night stay in a farmhouse. We were travelling to Norfolk and needed to stay over. We booked via an online website. A broker. A middle man.

A few weeks before we were due to travel, an email arrived, from the broker.

“Unfortunately, the owner has informed us they are unable to fulfil the booking.”

My first reaction was, ‘damn, that’s a shame’ – it looked nice and I was looking forward to staying there. Quickly that evaporated into a sense of betrayal and deceit. Why had the owner let me down, and worse, why wouldn’t they just say why? I wanted truth.

Unable to get more information, I was ready to move on with my life and put it behind me. The broker had other ideas though. Daily for two weeks I got emails asking me to book an alternative. A venue they could recommend. It was twenty miles away from where I wanted to be. So, I ignored the emails. They served only to remind me that I had been let down. To continue to feed my disappointment. To turn it into a grumble, a bitterness.

Eventually the broker emailed a confirmed cancellation.

Then, two weeks before I had been due to travel, they emailed me, inviting me to have a lovely stay at the very place that had been unable to fulfil my booking. Now they were annoying me.

Then today, three days before my aborted stay, I received a new email. It says, “It’s time to put the finishing touches on your trip. Whether you’re travelling halfway around the world or just down the road, you deserve a great stay. So we’ve put together tips on how to make the most of your time and money.”

When we get it wrong, we simply get it wrong. When we get it wrong and then keep reminding everyone we got it wrong, we really, really get it wrong.

How often do we as human beings, interacting with others around us, effectively ‘send an email’ through not noticing our mistake. Through blindly repeating it? Through inadvertently drawing attention again to the error? Through not seeing another human being with their rights and needs?

It’s not about always being right. Nor is it about never making a mistake. It’s about noticing when we get it wrong. About truth, about honesty. But more, it’s about respect. It’s about noticing an individual. Seeing a human being. Honouring another person and their feelings. Their clever marketing, their smart systems, their ‘customer service’ failed to see me. A commitment to see the person. That’s the commitment they were unable to fulfil.