The term “fake news” has become popular jargon these days. It refers to the claim that the media is engaging in advocacy journalism, slanting the news with falsehoods or half-truths to support a particular political viewpoint. Put bluntly, it’s the claim that the media is lying or at least stretching the truth.
But what about the fake news we tell our self, the untruths that make false evidence appear real (f.e.a.r.)? Some of those personal falsehoods run so deeply we barely notice they’re there. They become elevator music that runs unnoticed in the background of our psyche.
Fake news like: I’m a bad person. I’m incompetent. I’m ugly, fat, a disappoint to myself and others.
Fake news like: the world is a bad place, people are out to get me so I have to protect myself, or evil is winning over love.
Whether or not we realize it, these false beliefs become ingrained in us. They begin to shape our view of our self and the world and end up like whirling dervishes in our head, leading us to negativity. Frustration. Grumbling. They can even lead to depression.
Perhaps one of the ways to track down our fake news and begin to rid our self of these whirling mental dervishes involves a two-step process.
Become Aware. First, we have to become aware of the false stories we’re telling our self, the negative tapes that roll around our minds like a pinball.
Then, after we name them as specifically as we can—maybe even write them down on a sheet of paper to expose them—we can then challenge these ingrained beliefs by asking, are they really true? Am I really a bad person? Am I incompetent? Not. I’ve managed to make it this far in life and done a fairly decent job. Am I ugly? No. Look at that smile of mine in the mirror—it’s pretty handsome. I’m darn good looking for a middle-ager if I might say so myself. Not perfect. But perfectly human.
Replace the Falsehood with a Truth. Second, once we’ve identified the fake news, we can replace the negative tapes with a positive word or phrase. Something like: I’m humble and kind, or I’m a conduit for God’s love, or I’m safe, might serve as a mantra to substitute the negative tapes in our head with a truthful, more positive litany of thought.
The negativity that flows from those false ideas we allow to dance in our heads unchecked, affects our ability to think, creating dangerous and painful beliefs. By looking at those beliefs, and honestly seeing whether our experience upholds them, we can let go of many of them. When we come to a fuller understanding of ourselves and our lives, we can find an antidote to our mental suffering.
The truth will set us free we’re told. It may take some inner work and awareness to get there, but we’ll probably be much happier by tracking down our fake news and replacing it with the truth.
Freed from our fake news, we can then live the life we and our Creator had imagined: hopeful and peaceful, compassionate and true.
—brian j plachta
I never got that kiss with Teresa. But as I reflect on that long-ago night, I realize Sister Carmella shared two pieces of wisdom I’ll never forget: to leave room for Jesus and the healing power of a smile.