From: Howard Jacobson <>
Subject: Covid and racial justice are turning me into an a-hole

How to tap into empathy when we're trapped in fight-or-flight

Confession: I have an angry streak inside me, one that I'm usually very good at hiding. It's come out in embarrassing ways over the years, and thankfully most of these were in the time before smartphones could capture them and show my worst side to the world.

And while I've done a lot of work on myself - on my psyche, on my body, on my nervous system - the anger hasn't gone away. It's an energy that I experience, and when I'm taking care of myself, learn from and heal through without acting it out.

Recently I find myself acting it out more and more, in the face of the current pandemic and various social and political crises. You see, while I can't justify the anger in screaming at my daughter's soccer coach for not playing her enough (that happened, circa 2009), I can and do justify self-righteous outrage and flippant dismissal of those whom I see on the "wrong side" of justice and common sense. 

And I'm noticing that anger, while it gets me kudos in the social media echo chamber that I live in, also makes me far less useful as an advocate for peace, sanity, and love. And far less powerful as an agent of change. I'm choosing to be "right" rather than to be effective.

So I reached out to a master of stress, physiology, and combat, for help and advice.

Glenn Murphy returned to Plant Yourself to talk about how we can self-regulate our emotions and actions during a time of great societal upheaval and division.

We talked about our own impulses to “fight” with others, and where there's a messy intertwining of good intentions and unresolved psychological issues.

We discussed the physiology of the stress response, particularly as it relates to the shame and guilt that accompanies some of our attempts to right wrongs and redress injustices.

We talked about why and how to take breaks from work, from social media, and from the need to be always “in the struggle.”

And identified a strategy for transcending our need to be “right” and instead seek to make the world a better place by embodying sanity, peace, and love.

Watch or listen here:


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