Fake news: The local channel is the most dangerous

…by Matt Robert…

We interrupt this broadcast for an important announcement from the fake news channel.  If you haven’t already heard, you are a worthless piece of shit who doesn’t have any business having a happy life, so you should just give up, say fuck it girlinmirrorand use. You should just give up and settle for less, because this isn’t gonna get any better. Besides, nobody will know…or care.

Sound familiar?

imagesOne of the Trumpocalypse’s unintended contributions to the rational world was the reminder that not everything we hear on the news is real. Neither is everything we hear in our heads — especially the automatic negative thoughts blaring from our own fake news channel.

In some fake news stories of foreign origin the English is not quite right. In many of them, regardless of origin, the reasoning is not too solid. Likewise, sometimes the reasoning on our own fake news channel is a bit off: “So what if you got a degree in literature? You don’t know shit.”

Remember the fake news story about Hillary Clinton running a child pornography ring out of a pizzeria in NY city? And the guy who got a gun and drove hundreds of miles to the pizzeria to “save the children”? We too often act on the ridiculous messages that our fake news channel is sending us.

images copy 2I’ve noticed that, when I was an in-patient or in a treatment program, the fake news network stopped broadcasting, or at least I couldn’t pick it up. I was always puzzled that whenever I was in treatment, I’d do great. Just being there sharpened my awareness. When I came out I’d go along great for a while and then tank. One likely reason: my fake news sources were back in action, broadcasting loud and clear.

So what to do? Well, you can’t change something if you don’t know what it is–and our fake news channel may always be there. Get to know yours — there may be more than one. My most popular channel is on the Self-Blame and Praise-Hater network.  “This just in: Everything bad that happens is your fault, and you don’t deserve any credit for a job well-done. And now a word from our sponsor: You suck.” I specifically and mindfully practice noticing when these subtle yet insidious rebroadcasts emerge unbidden.

images copy 6Fake news triggers urges, and vice versa. The satellite feed for the lead story originated long ago and far away — for some of us the stories started in early childhood.  The stories can be as incessant as muzak playing over and over in your head. We have to change the channel to stay ahead of it…to stay in front of the fuck-its. Because when do the fuck-its happen? When terrorists demand action, now — no time to stop and think — or else.

images copyFake news is now not only a meme but an apt tag for the harmful diatribes that go off in our heads and often drive our behavior. But if we can recognize them, we can label them, and if we can label them, we can stop listening. If we can slow down enough to classify the news as real or fake, then, if it’s fake, we can turn down the volume — all the way down.

What are some things people do to change the channel on their fake news? Please let us know.



27 thoughts on “Fake news: The local channel is the most dangerous

  1. Colin Brewer May 3, 2017 at 4:46 am #

    I like the ‘fake news’ analogy. At the risk of being boring and repetitious, one very important and useful thing people can do about it is simply not respond to the ‘fuck it, I might as well use’ thought. The longer you manage not to respond, the fewer reasons you will have for even more self-blame, the more likely it is that you will replace using with some more ultimately satisfying and self-praiseworthy activity, and thus the more likely is your self-image to improve.

    And – this is the boring and repetitious bit – the best pharmacological way we have to reinforce that personal ‘just say no’ message is supervised disulfiram for alcohol and supervised oral or depot/implanted naltrexone for opiates. The longer people manage to stay clean, the longer they will stay clean in the future. Practice makes perfect. DSF and NTX aid that practice. They are the therapist by your side and rooting for you during the 167 hours every week when you are not having your regular session. Eventually, the unhelpful bits of your brain will probably get the message and stop pestering you so much – or at all.

    • Colin Brewer May 3, 2017 at 4:47 am #

      PS I’m not an insomniac. It’s 10.46 a.m. here in sunny Spain.

    • Marc May 3, 2017 at 4:54 am #

      Hi Colin. Thanks for this. It’s a really important point. Scratching the itch helps the itch fester and grow, but if scratching does absolutely nothing (but possibly make you sick), then you’re going to desist…and the itch will naturally fade away.

      I have great respect for you guys (you and Percy Menzies on this blog) who advocate naltrexone and other “stoppers”… Indeed they are with you all the time, even when no one else is. In relation to this post, you stop using and the voices of self-denigration surely diminish in volume and frequency. Belief in one’s ability to endure and not give in is like a muscle that becomes stronger with use.

    • matt May 3, 2017 at 7:04 am #

      Thanks, Colin! And I think this touches on a bigger point on the individual ways that people become addicted and eventually recover. Some people do just fine using oral naltrexone to curb cravings, just as some do well with disulfiram. And naltrexone is helpful to many but not all people addicted to alcohol. And among those, some do better with the Vivitrol injection, because they don’t have to think about taking the pills. Some people find acamprosate (Campral) helpful because taking 2 big pills 3 times a day is a continual reminder why they don’t want to drink. Some people are helped by the reminders why they don’t want to drink or use, but for some it’s triggering and a reminder of what using gave them…etc., etc.. One thing is for sure: the more distance you can get from your last use the better chance you have of reassigning habit pathways and coming up with better methods of accomplishing this life change. That’s the work.

      Thanks again for the comment!

      • matt May 3, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

        Also, your initial thought about not responding to the “f-it’s” is key, but important even well before urges develop into the “f-its”. It’s important to distract yourself and not entertain urges positively or negatively and change the channel before we get anywhere near “f-it” territory.

  2. Mark May 3, 2017 at 5:40 am #

    Here’s a way that might work to turn down the Fake News channel for some of us: Obliquity.

    Stop Chasing the Drug! (https://acestoohigh.com/2017/05/02/addiction-doc-says-stop-chasing-the-drug-focus-on-aces-people-can-recover/)

    • matt May 3, 2017 at 7:22 am #

      Thanks, Mark. I have to say that this is probably what was the most helpful to me in figuring out what was going to be the most helpful for me. 🙂 How was I supposed to access what adverse childhood experiences shaped my experience the most– and even when I did, how was that supposed to help me? I had to experiment and explore different options, always paying attention for what was working and what was not. Coming at my addiction through the back door, from different angles, trying to remain open to anything and everything that was helpful and avoiding what was not. Thanks for the great link!

      • Mark May 4, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

        So, your path was a lot like Buddha’s. His own search for healing was apparently driven in part by the fact that his mother died a week after he was born. A Big Adverse Childhood Experience, for sure. Made bigger by the fact that he had no narrative to affix to the interoceptive disorganization that resulted. Much of his journey became a struggle to try and make sense of the suffering connected to this profound “Unthought Known.”

        • matt May 8, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

          Hmm. I think it was both for me. “Unthought known” and “thought unknown.” The ineffability of our cumulative experience, our “existence.” My ACE stemmed not from my mother’s death but from the seeds she planted in me in life. The message that “nothing I do will EVER be enough” seemed cruel to many, but it also prepared me for life and the human condition– of never having what you want. The sliver lining, as it were. There is always another perspective.

  3. Marie-Anne Haeck May 3, 2017 at 5:55 am #

    Hi Matt!
    So true, so true! What a beautiful metaphore. And the bad (or perhaps good?) news is that as human beings we all have this fake news local channel in our head and believe its message! I am a mindfulness trainer and the first and most important thing to learn is “take time to observe and listen to what your own fake news channel is telling you! Because as you say : “you cannot change something you don’t know! Second: while observing, try to do this with a smile, some loving kindness and compassion and always remember: do not believe everything your mind is telling you! We have a tricky brain that’s not always working properly, many times sending us the wrong message. Mindfulness is not a quick fix, but it is a powerful instrument to recognize the fake news and be able to turn down the volume! There is a special intervention combining mindfulness and relapse prevention, designed by Sarah Bowen en Alan Marlatt known as “Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention for addictive behaviors”. Worth trying!
    Marie-Anne Haeck in the Netherland

    • matt May 4, 2017 at 7:39 am #

      Thanks for this, Marie-Anne, and the reminder about MBRP. The clinician’s guide by Bowen/Chawla/Marlatt is a great resource. Mindfulness is really critical in developing a “witness mind” to notice and decipher all the toxic baloney bouncing around in our brains.

  4. Lew Gervais May 3, 2017 at 10:13 am #

    Good article on Fake News, Marc.

    My “fake news” was fed to me through my parents, siblings, friends, teachers, etc. My problem intensified because I believed the fake news thereby making it true in my life. For example I was told I was stupid and would never amount to anything. I never challenged that fake news report, I believed it in my heart and therefore I didn’t bother to try to succeed in school. The fake news report became true because I chose to believe it. My experience for the whole time I was in school reaffirmed that. I was 20 years old when I finally, but barely graduated from high school. I didn’t challenge that lie until I started college in my mid twenties. When I stopped believing the lie that I am stupid my grades changed almost overnight. I was a “D-” student until I started college and throughout my college I became an “A” student graduating with a BA degree in education.
    Today when I work with addicts there are usually four steps I take them through:
    1. tune in the fake news station so they can “hear” the report
    2. help them determine where that news report “originated” in their life experience.
    3. help them to “challenge and reject the report” if it turns out to be a lie
    4. Then to “Replace” the fake news report with “Truth”

    what we choose to believe has awesome power to change our behavior and eventually our emotions. When I stopped believing I am a screwed up addict and always will be…that is when I was able to stop shooting heroin. My life didn’t change until my belief in myself changed.

  5. Nancy Minden May 3, 2017 at 10:49 am #

    Thank you SO much for this contribution on Fake news inside my “tricky”, sometimes broken brain.
    I notice that most ‘news’ in my brain comes in the form of assertions or opinions – statements of fact, articles of truth. I’m pretty sure of myself inside there, even if it means that I’m sure of myself not being sure of myself. I am working on building a skill of asking questions rather than positing opinions. Sadly, the well worn tracks of resentments and judgments are tough habits to change. But when I’m able to ask an open ended question with a large dose of ‘beginner’s mind’ and willingness – I have been astounded at the novelty of finding a brand new path. This also opens up my world beyond it’s long standing self absorption. I’m really quite excited about it.

    • matt May 3, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

      Hi Nancy…thanks for this, and you are so right! What we are doing in recovery from anything is changing our thinking, and our automatic negative thought patterns. Successful recovery starts with paying attention to what we’re telling ourselves, questioning, challenging, disputing, reframing and changing our thinking, eventually becoming more compassionate with ourselves and consequently everyone else around us.

  6. Kasey May 3, 2017 at 11:43 am #

    Thanks so much for this blog, Marc…my therapist (in the Bay Area, California) recommended it after you posted “What gets you sober: God or your neurons?” in January. I struggle big time with the concept of God, 12 step groups, the whole AA culture, etc. Reading that particular blog made a world of difference for me. I had been so frustrated with the treatment and recommendations I received in my Bay Area (aka more liberal) hospital (aka science-based?!) chemical dependency treatment program. Yes, they recommended MAT (Vivitrol and antidepressants in particular) and psychotherapy, but 12 step groups were the thing they pushed most, and I spent most of the time in treatment attending various 12 step groups and being told I needed to find a higher power or I would relapse. I am sorry, I know these groups have saved many lives and continue to work well for many, but they should not be the basis of hospital-based treatment centers. As a nurse, I would get in big trouble if I told one of patients in treatment for sepsis, hypertension, etc in the hands of a higher power. Why should it be any different for a patient in treatment for substance use disorder?! I much prefer a scientific – yet holistic – approach to treating and overcoming my addiction.

    I felt compelled to respond here for the first time, not due to the fake news analogy (although I like it, and agree!) but due to the comments by Colin and Matt on Naltrexone and Vivitrol. After being in treatment 2x last year (after years of opioid abuse, which followed years of alcohol abuse), and continuing to relapse again and again even while (supposedly) on oral Naltrexone, I finally consented to Vivitrol; if I am being honest, only consenting because I did not want to lose my children and my husband essentially gave me an ultimatum: try Vivitrol (which my addiction doctor and my therapist had been recommending) or I leave. It may sound harsh to some…as I know many say that in order to recover, the addict is supposed to 100% want recovery on their own..but oh my god! I am so grateful to my husband, doctor, and therapist. What a truly lifesaving drug. I thought Vivitrol was just going to block opiates (but still leave me desperately craving what felt like half of my body, with no way to “scratch the itch” since you can’t cheat long-acting Vivitrol in the way I was cheating oral Naltrexone – skipping doses to get high, only taking it if someone watched me take it, etc). If I had known it would actually significantly reduce my cravings as well, I would have taken it from day 1. What a life-changing medication. I have now had 10 Vivitrol injections and plan to continue getting them every month for as long as my insurance will cover them. I recommend Vivitrol for any chronically relapsing opiate addict. I have never been more grateful for any medication in my life (and I am an addict and a nurse – believe me, I know medications).

    Thanks again for this blog. I get excited whenever I get an email announcing a new post, and I love reading all the comments too. It is comforting and healing to read comments from like-minded people: recovery talk without the 12 step jargon.

    • matt May 3, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

      Hi Kasey

      Fist bump! That was my pattern exactly! I was a self-sabotager, thought I was smarter than everybody else, and would game the system. If the Vivitrol shot had been around when I was trying to quit, my recovery would have been a lot sooner and a lot smoother. This is the thing we have to discover in recovery— what method is gonna work, because the only thing that’s for sure is that there is no one size fits all. Most of us cannot be trusted to manage our own recovery in the beginning because maintaining that level of internal motivation is just not sustainable. Keep up the good work!

    • Marc May 6, 2017 at 6:13 am #

      Kasey, thanks so much for sharing your experience and for letting us all know that this blog is a valuable support for you. What you say about Vivitrol is tremendously persuasive. I will share your words with others — including my brother, a GP in the Bay Area (close to home, right?)…..I’ve heard enough positive reactions to naltrexone to convince me…. and of course Colin and Percy won’t be surprised…they’ve said as much all along.

      So let’s keep on keeping on….without the need for a personalized, preordained, and rather punitive higher power but with tons of support and compassion from all us lower powers down here.

  7. Carlton May 3, 2017 at 2:31 pm #

    Matt, what a great way to apply “fake news” to recovery!

    One note, and it underscores one of Marc’s key points about an individuals recovery.

    Although initially, the “local news” may seem miss-leading, Ultimately, it will only be the “local news” that a person ends up trusting..and only they will know what that is.

  8. Karen T May 3, 2017 at 4:58 pm #

    I’m reading Sue Gerhardt’s “The Selfish Society: How we all forgot to love one another and made money instead”. Gerhart also wrote “Why Love Matters: How affection shapes a baby’s brain”. I was just reading yesterday, that if a child is raised with compassion and emotional responsiveness instead of criticism and punishment, s/he learns (by about the age of three or four), to recognize other’s mental states. If people recognize her mental states, she learns to recognize others’. One benefit of this, is that s/he becomes much less likely to take on self-images from what others say to/about her. I believe I have taught myself as an adult, not to take on negative self-images from others’ opinions – to discern and discount the “fake news” in my head – but it’s been a hard road. The blogs on this site are a help in this process, I look forward to getting the notifications in my inbox. Wish there was a “like” button for every one of the comments on this blog, too! 🙂

  9. Joanna Free May 4, 2017 at 1:05 am #

    Thanks for this, Marc.

    Since you asked: I’m fortunate to be part of communities of individuals actively researching and examining our fake news. F’rinstance – I meditate. I tap. I’ve had some brilliant EMDR awhile back. I teach and practice nonviolence in intrapersonal and interpersonal communication. I’m also part of one of those 12 Step fellowships in which I draw strength and wisdom from others who have walked paths similar to my own, and offer up my own. We take what we can use and leave the rest.

    In most of these places, we talk, listen and learn. We love on each other.

    My friend, Mark Brady also reminds me (often:) – Don’t believe what you think, especially when it hurts!

    The list is long, I realize, and this is just a sampling.
    Community is at the heart of it all.

    In each of these places, I – and we – learn to laugh at the madness of thinking there is something wrong with any of us.

    Thanks for asking wonderful questions!

    • Joanna Free May 4, 2017 at 1:10 am #

      … and I spend as much time as possible outdoors, where the volume of the fake news seems to get turned way down and/or drowned out by the saner sounds of nature!

    • Marc May 4, 2017 at 4:25 am #

      Thanks for a wonderful reply. Engagement with other people is so very important. It’s inevitable that addiction and loneliness go hand in hand.

    • matt May 7, 2017 at 7:39 am #

      So right, Joanna. Community…and belief. Believing in each other so we can learn to believe in ourselves again. Being honest and trusting in each other so we can be honest with and trust ourselves once again. It’s part of the human organism; it’s part of the humanity organism.

  10. Peter Sheath May 4, 2017 at 3:14 am #

    Hiya Matt
    Long time no see, I miss some of the real talks we had, about things like this, and meditations we shared whilst we were at Marc’s place. I love your “fake news” metaphor, brilliant and rest assured it will be an integral part of my therapeutic repertoire from now on. Yesterday I met a guy who is plagued by all the fake news stories you talk about here. “You’re not worth it” “that’s just what you deserve” etc. etc. He’s a very intelligent guy but is taking some incredible risks mainly when he switches on his “fuck it” button after listening to his fake news channel for too long. I explained to him how this had become a neural negative feedback loop, probably developed in his childhood, and normalised and integrated into his lexicon of coping mechanisms. Up to fairly recently, it’s kind of worked for him but the consequences are beginning to outweigh the benefits. I also offered him an alternative involving things like a daily gratitude list, reflective journal, mindful meditations and regular contact with his support network to replace his fake news feedback loops with real news. Early days yet but he did get a real grasp of the concept. I’ll probably send him a real news text later.

    • matt May 6, 2017 at 5:33 am #

      Hey Peter!

      I miss those times too! It can be such a powerful thing to be in a different place and time…disengaged from the frantic pace of the life that we build for ourselves and just talk frankly, openly and spontaneously. Another blessing forums like this afford us.

      I love all the tools and techniques you describe that work for the people you work with. Reflective journaling can be so powerful to notice our negative thought processes in order to change them, yet people often are reluctant to do it. How can we reflect on what our crazy minds are doing from moment to moment if we don’t record it? How can we appreciate what we have when the human condition is to continually strive for what we want?

      Thanks for all the incredible work you do!

  11. Lisa Martinovic May 4, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

    Hi Marc!
    I’ve been using change-the-channel to deal with toxic thought patterns for at least 20 years. My issues are not about self-worth, however, but rather about freeing myself from fearful projections concerning my health.

    Ironically, shortly after I got clean and sober 35 years ago, my health completely fell apart. Ever since then I’ve battled a variety of autoimmune conditions, G.I. and thyroid disorders, extreme fatigue, and physical deformity. I spent far too many years being angry, bitter, and resentful about what was happening to my body; my mind created a constant flow of fearful stories about how much worse everything might become. I’ve known, for a very long time, that indulging fear-thoughts only makes matters worse, but I was unable until very recently to tune out that “fake news.” I wrote an essay, as yet unpublished, about how I was finally able to succeed in changing the channel. My starting point is…

    “acknowledging that you can’t stop your thoughts. It is the nature of the brain to generate them. A terrifying thought is especially tenacious; trying to make it just go away is like doing battle with a phantom. A far more effective strategy is to replace it with another thought: we’ve got to give the brain something else to chew on. If we don’t keep our gray matter engaged it gets busy weaving our jumbled thoughts and fears into stories.”

    The process I’ve developed can be useful for anyone wrestling with unwanted thoughts—anything from “I wanna use!” to “I’m a hopeless loser.” I’d be happy to share the piece with you, if you’d like to read it.

    Whatever kind of thinking gets us churned up, paralyzed, or compelled to do what we ought not do, giving it more airtime is like turning embers into a conflagration. Making the choice — again and again and again over over a period of years — to think other thoughts, better thoughts, is the best thing we can do for our physical and emotional health.

    The ancient wisdom traditions, New Age woo-woo, and neuroscience all agree that, in many ways, we do create our own reality. In his brilliant book The Shallows, Nicholas Carr says “We become, neurologically, what we think. The more a sufferer concentrates on his symptoms, the deeper those symptoms are etched into his neural circuitry.”

    My other favorite quote in this regard is from Marcus Aurelius: Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.

    • matt May 6, 2017 at 6:15 am #

      Thanks for this LIsa…and also for the oft forgotten message that even though we go into recovery, life still goes on and shit happens. It’s how we respond that makes the difference. What do they say in 12-Step? “Feel, deal and heal.”

      It’s so true that as humans we have these crazy minds constantly developing and attaching to narratives to find meaning in our experience. One of the biggest benefits of moving into recovery for me was realizing that I didn’t have to believe, engage or act on them, in the same way I don’t have to engage, believe or act on what others tell me. That old parental, developmental advice of thinking for ourselves. “If Johnny told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?” I have to look at those internal automatic thought patterns and not only question if they re real, but are they helpful. If the answer is “no”, I don’t want the automatic negative thought patterns to become automatic negative behavior patterns. But once they get established and entrenched, we often have to work in the other direction– to change the behavior in order to change the thought patterns…to change the response so as to reframe the stimulus…

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