Psychology of Eating and Effective Communication


Psychology of Eating and Effective Communication

Psychology of Eating and Effective Communication


Dr. Melanie Joy is a social psychologist, celebrated speaker and author, and founding president of the international NGO Beyond Carnism, and recipient of the Ahimsa Award for her work on global nonviolence.

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Hey. Hey everyone. Today’s guest, Dr. Melanie Joy is a human being that sparks so many emotions within me because of how profoundly personal her work feels. Her research, writing and speaking gives validity to what I’ve intuitively experienced starting at the age of seven when I connected the meat on my plate with the living being it once was. And I want to make sure you know that this episode is for you, whether you’re vegan or not, if you’re open to understanding the psychology around our food choices or if you’re curious about how to improve your relational literacy as she calls it. In other words, strengthening your ability to communicate effectively around tough topics. And this is a podcast that leads with the topic of holistic wellness, which at least in my definition, includes healthy relationships and meaningful connections, which are not possible without the ability to effectively communicate.


So I’m excited for you to learn about what may be a brand new term for you. Carism coined by Melanie herself in this episode, and for you to be a part of what turned out to be an incredibly fascinating and intimate conversation. A little more about Melanie. Dr. Melanie Joy is a social psychologist celebrated speaker and the author of seven books, including The Best Selling Why We Love Dogs, eat Pigs and Wear Cows, the Award-Winning Beyond Beliefs, A Guide to Improving Relationships and communications for vegans, vegetarians, and meat Eaters, and the forthcoming How to End Injustice everywhere. Melanie’s work has been featured in major media outlets around the world, and she has received a number of awards including the Ahimsa Award previously given to the Dai Lama and Nelson Mandela for her work on global nonviolence. Melanie has given talks and trainings in over 50 countries, and she is also the founding president of the International NGO Beyond Carism. You can learn more about her work@carism.org. All right, you guys, let’s do this. Hello, Melanie. It’s so great to have you on this show with me.

Speaker 1 (05:01):

Hi, Ella. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Speaker 2 (05:04):

I know you live in Berlin and I visited Berlin a few years ago and spent a couple months there. I just love it. How did you end up in Berlin?

Speaker 1 (05:13):

A lot of Americans who end up in Berlin either come here because of military service or a job, or they fall in love with the German, and I was the third. I fell in love with the German, and he also runs a international N G O that is focused on pro vegan animal advocacy work. And so I came over here to be with him, and then we ended up getting married. So here I stay.

Speaker 2 (05:37):

Amazing. Well, funny enough, and I did not expect to be sharing this, but I’ve tried recently some vegan apps for dating, and I have found that I’ve had to expand the search, Melanie from my area to the entire world.


There are just not that many choices out there. So I was like, you know what? I will travel for vegan love. So I can totally understand that. I am so excited to have you on. I’ve been looking forward to this since the day you booked with us, and one of the things that I think our audience who are both vegans and people that are vegan curious, I would say one thing that we all have in common is that we all want to be healthy. And this podcast really was founded on the principles of let’s give people information and tools that they can use to become the healthiest versions of their selves. And one of the pieces of that to me at least, is having healthy relationships and being able to have intimacy with other human beings, which for me, I think has been really challenging my whole life, in part because I’ve seen the world since I was seven from a very different lens than most people. I connected those dots with the food on my plate, with the animal that it was from a very early age. And I think now that more and more people are kind of going in that direction, that piece of how do I live in this world? How do I communicate with those that don’t see the world the same as me, can be a real barrier. And this is something that you’ve done a lot of research and a lot of work in, what’s your definition of holistic health and how do relationships fit into that?

Speaker 1 (07:21):

Why don’t I start with the second part of that question about how relationships fit into health in general? I think when you’re talking about holistic health, you’re talking about health that takes into account not just the physical health, but also psychological health and emotional health. I mean, there’s been a lot of research done on relationships and on being in general. And study after study has shown that people who have connected fulfilling relationships like healthy relationships, and we can define what that actually looks like if you want later, but connected healthy relationships. And this isn’t just an intimate relationship with an intimate partner. Relationships in general in their lives. They fare better in pretty much every aspect of life. They live longer. They’re at reduced risk of various physical diseases, various diseases. They’re reduced risk of psychological problems, depression and anxiety. They also tend to be more likely to have success in whatever they set out to do.


So healthy relationships are really fundamental to wellness. And I say that with the understanding that a lot of listeners might be thinking, oh my God, now I don’t have relationships like that. Now I have one more thing in my life that I feel bad about and I’m worried about. And I want to just reassure listeners who might be thinking that that’s really okay. First of all, your primary relationship is with yourself, and you can always build that relationship into something that really does help you build up resilience and immunity in various ways. And we can talk about that. And sometimes simply knowing this for people who haven’t developed those relationships in their lives, sometimes just knowing the importance of that and knowing also that building what I call relational literacy, which is the understanding of an ability to practice healthy ways of relating. It’s not rocket science, it’s something anybody who’s interested in can actually learn how to do fairly easily. I mean, it takes some commitment, but fairly easily. I have a book called Getting Relationships, right? It’s a one stop guide, really practical guide to building relational literacy. So we unfortunately do live in a world where there’s a lot of disconnection and a lot of loneliness, and it’s challenging for people.

Speaker 2 (09:37):

Well, let’s put a pin in this relationship talk. I want to get back to this. For those of you who don’t know your story, kind of the why behind what you do, what you do, can you kind of take us back and share that story?

Speaker 1 (09:51):

Sure. So the work that I do is, it’s actually fairly broad. It includes looking at relationships, healthy relationships, and communication. I talk about our relationships with not only other humans, but also with non-humans, non-human animals, also as social groups, as part of social systems. We could talk about that a little bit later. And this stemmed out of my work looking at the psychology of eating animals, which stemmed out of my own personal story, which started a very long time ago. And so I grew up, many people used to, I’m living in Berlin, but I’m American, and I grew up many Americans, many people in the world with a dog who I loved, a family member. I also grew up most people eating animals, meat, eggs, and dairy. I was a person who certainly cared about animals. Most people I would never, ever want to contribute to their suffering, especially when that suffering is so intensive and so completely unnecessary.


But over the course of a lot of my life, I just never thought about this. I never thought about how strange it was that I could be petting my dog with one hand while I ate a pork chop with the other, a pork chop that had once been an animal who was at least as intelligent and in sentient as my dog, if not more so if not more intelligent than my dog. I didn’t connect the dots between the meat on my plate and the living being it once was. But all that changed in 1989 when I was 23 years old. I ate a hamburger. I was out at a restaurant actually, and I ate a hamburger, turned out to be contaminated with Canalo bacter, which is basically the red meat version of salmonella. And I got really, really sick. I’ve never been sick like that ever before or ever again in my life.


I wound up on intravenous antibiotics in the hospital. And coming out of that, I kind of became a vegetarian by accident. It wasn’t in my mind a conscious ethical decision at the time, or even a conscious health decision at the time. Do you know when you’re so sick, you’re disgusted by the last thing that you ate before you got sick? I was so disgusted by me, and so I had to learn how to be a vegetarian. And in the process of learning, I stumbled upon information about animal agriculture and what I learned shocked and horrified me. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the extent of the suffering of animals. I mean, just listeners, one little statistic in just one day, more farmed animals are slaughtered than the total number of people killed in all wars throughout human history. This is global numbers. It is this absolutely staggering, and I just couldn’t believe it and the harm to the environment.


And of course, I started learning about the harm to my own health. So I was shocked, and this was back in 1989 where there wasn’t nearly the amount of information and understanding that we have today. But what shocked me in some ways, even more than what I was learning, was that nobody I talked to about this information was willing to hear what I had to say. They would say things like, don’t tell me that you’ll ruin my meal. Or they’d call me a radical vegan. I became vegan after this radical vegan hippie propagandist. I mean, and I’m talking about my close friends and my family members who were all very justice oriented people, pro-human rights and compassionate people. They loved animals. But this wall went up as soon as I opened my mouth and I was like, oh my God. I suddenly felt like I’ve woken up in the midst of a collective insanity here.


I’m trying to raise awareness of what can only be called a global atrocity, and the people who are rational, compassionate people around me are just shutting me down as soon as I opened my mouth. So this wall went up of defensiveness. So that led me to try to crack the code and figure out what on earth was going on psychologically. And eventually fast forward, I ended up in a doctoral program studying psychology, and I studied the psychology of violence and nonviolence broadly, which I am now working on more. And I narrowed it down to focus on my doctoral dissertation on the psychology of eating animals. And that was what led me to do the work that I did on the psychology exposing the psychology of eating animals, which got popularized through my book, why we love Dogs, eat Pigs and Wear Cows. And since that book came out, things just kind of things, meaning my life, my work just kind of took on a life of its own. I mean, I say that as though no work went into it. It didn’t just happen. There was a lot of hard work over the past couple of decades, but things did really kind of take off after that.

Speaker 2 (14:30):

It’s amazing. And for all our listeners, I mean, this book is extraordinary.

Speaker 1 (14:35):

Thank you.

Speaker 2 (14:36):

Why we love Dogs, eat Pigs and Wear Cows. I mean, I just get chills you saying the title of it because that’s how powerful it is. And I actually kind of stumbled upon you years back when I was going through that same phase of I want to understand why, and I have my master’s degree in social work, never went into the research department and came upon your work. And I was like, okay, there are people and there’s somebody out there really doing this work. Was there anything that really surprised you? And at what point did you coin the term? And can you talk a little bit about that, what Carism means?

Speaker 1 (15:15):

Yeah, thank you. So the takeaway from the research I did when I was doing my research, I was interviewing meat eaters, butchers, meat cutters, people who raised kilder and animals for food. And my takeaway from this was that first of all, everybody I talked to vegans and vegetarians I interviewed had said they used to think this way. But everybody I talked to in my interviews had the same experience either eating or killing or processing animals, which was that they felt empathy for animals. They cared about animals. Many of them had animals they loved in their homes, and they were very uncomfortable with the idea of harming animals, particularly unnecessarily harming animals, but nevertheless harming animals. And they would basically go through these mental gymnastics in order to be able to do it. And so what I realized is that these kind of contradictory attitudes and behaviors toward animals, they don’t exist in a vacuum.


They don’t come out of nowhere. It’s not that I just simply happen to interview a whole bunch of people who all randomly developed the same psychology. This psychology doesn’t exist in a vacuum. So that led me to identify that there is in fact a belief system that we’ve been born into. And we tend to assume that only bes a vegetarians follow a belief system when it comes to eating animals. But the only reason we might eat pigs but not dogs for example, is because we do follow a belief system when it comes to eating animals. When eating animals is not a choice, or I should say not a necessity, which is true for many people in the world today, meaning people who are economically advantaged enough to make their food choices freely. When it’s not a necessity, then it’s a choice, and choices always stem from beliefs.


But this belief was invisible to people because the belief system was invisible. So we call somebody a vegan, we call somebody vegetarian, we see veganism and vegetarianism, but what about everybody else? They’re just like the normal people. It’s just the way things are eating animals. So I named this belief system or ideology, I named it the invisible belief system that conditions us to eat certain animals. And then I studied the psychology of carism. Basically, I coded and analyzed and I identified the psychological. What I discovered were psychological defense mechanisms. There’s certain ways of thinking that we all engage in order to act against our core values when it comes to eating animals. So when it comes to those animals we’ve learned to classify as edible, we see them as food and we’re comfortable eating them all other animals, we have to go through these. We haven’t gone through these psychological gymnastics to eat, and so we have a more authentic experience of eating them.


Just a quick thought experiment for listeners who are wondering what I’m talking about. So imagine that you are not vegan and you’re biting into a juicy hamburger and your dining companion turns to you and tells you, Ella, that hamburger is not made from beef that’s made from golden retrievers. Now chances are right, what you just thought of as food, you now think of as a dead animal. What you just felt emotionally was delicious, you now feel is disgusting. And so therefore, rather than continue to eat that hamburger, you probably want to throw it in the trash and maybe even take to the streets and protest because carism conditions you to have a distorted perceptions of those animals you’ve learned to classify as edible. So when you look at their meat or eggs or dairy, you see food rather than a dead animal. You feel differently and you’re therefore act differently. And so this is really what I wrote about in why we love dogs.

Speaker 2 (18:54):

It’s fascinating to me now what you’re saying and how you’re explaining it to me. And I’m realize I’m speaking from this kind of bubble that I’ve been in since I was seven. I’ll call it a bubble just because it was such a young age when I started seeing this pattern and seeing the world this way. But what you’re saying seems to me very rational, very logical, and you’re explaining it in a very scientific way. How do people receive your message? I mean, you’ve given a Ted talk on it. It just all seems very logical to me and it, it’s not accusatory. It’s not a way of talking to people that I would think have them put up their defenses. It just seems very psychological and reasonable. How do people receive this message from you, the people non-vegan in general?

Speaker 1 (19:45):

It’s an interesting question that you ask. And in fact, the reason I wrote my book, why We Love Dogs Eat Pigs and Work Cows was because I wanted to write a book not just about why people shouldn’t eat animals. There were a lot of books out there already about that We know that the harm to animals, harm to environment armed to our bodies. I wanted to write a book about why we do eat animals in the first place because studies have shown that when people become aware of their cognitive biases, it’s these distorted perceptions, they’re better able to disconnect from them or detach from them and be less influenced by them. And I really wanted, and my research has shown this, and I mean we know this is true, most people genuinely want to feel that they’re living a moral life. We are hardwired to feel most of us, I mean unless we’re on the psychopathy spectrum, which is a tiny percentage of the population, most people are hardwired to feel empathy for others, and that includes other animals.


Most people really do care about their impact on other animals and do not want to act against their core values of compassion and justice, which is fairness. And yet most people eat animals. And it’s not because they’re bad people, it’s because their psyches have been hijacked basically. They have been deeply conditioned. We’ve all been deeply conditioned by this system since we were weaned, literally since we were weaned to just not think and feel when it comes to eating animals. And so the response has typically been really, really positive because what I’m saying is I really wanted to help people step outside of this system so that they can make food choices that reflect what they authentically think and feel rather than what they’ve been taught to think and feel. I think that’s really, really important to do for people because otherwise it’s very hard to sort of unblind from this system.


It’s like when you’re born into a system is a dominant system that means that it’s so widespread that its tenants, its teachings are literally invisible. They’re really woven through the structure of society. They shape norms and laws and beliefs, behaviors, and so on and so forth. And they become internalized. This istic mentality, as I call it, it becomes internalized. When we’re born into the system that’s so widespread, we end up looking at the world through the lens of that system, and most people have no idea how their psyches have been affected by carism and are grateful to hear about it. Now, that said, because carism runs counter to core human values, it needs to use these psychological defense mechanisms to get people to act against their values without realizing what they’re doing. And one of the things it does is it causes people to internalize these defenses and to feel extremely defensive, carism conditions us to resist, defend against and resist any information that would get us out of the istic box.


So people are also conditioned to meet a vegan, for instance, and be like, oh my God, the wall goes up. Here you go, you preaching, you moralistic, whatever, holier than now activist. And then that’s it. And the conversation shuts down. So people do have this automatic defensive reaction, but when you can speak to the defenses and make those a little bit more visible, or even if you don’t name the defenses, if you just understand them and can communicate about the issue in a way that doesn’t raise defenses, it’s much more likely to get an open response.

Speaker 2 (23:19):

Yes, that makes perfect sense. And that’s a great segue into kind of flipping the switch and saying, okay, well now somebody’s had this paradigm shift. They understand their defenses came down. Maybe they came into it for the health reasons, but then again, their defenses are down because now they’re not engaging in that behavior and they can then open their minds and hearts and say, Hey, well look at here. Now I’m not harming animals, and that feels pretty damn good. And then there’s a lot of times anger that comes along with that, Hey, why didn’t I know this sooner? Why wasn’t this information readily available? So what are the factors that go into maybe a lack of healthy communication between vegans and non vegans?

Speaker 1 (24:04):

Oh, I wish we had 10 hours to talk about

Speaker 2 (24:06):

That one. I know.

Speaker 1 (24:08):

So another really great question. So first of all, it is true that a lot of people become angry when they’re ready to learn about what’s happening. I mean, the information is out there, but a lot of people are just kind of not taking it in. But when you make that connection and you know open your eyes and you realize that we are living in the midst of what can only be called a global atrocity, it’s very normal to start feeling moral outrage. And of course, carism is not the only global atrocity unfolding in our world today. There are plenty of them, but this is the case for whatever atrocity you happen to wake up to. Anger is it’s a normal, legitimate response, emotional response to witnessing injustice. Our anger is a sign that our moral compass is working. And anger can be a very social, proactive emotion.


It gives us the energy and motivation to take positive action on our own and others’ behalf. The challenges though that a lot of us haven’t learned how to relate to our anger in a healthy way. We haven’t built, developed relational literacy as I talked about earlier. And when you haven’t developed relational literacy and you’re not aware of the fact that there are different kinds of anger and different ways of relating to anger, it’s very easy to relate to your anger in a healthy way, which means to recognize your anger for what it is, which is a data point. It’s an indication that you may be witnessing an injustice. And the reason I say maybe is because a lot of people get angry when there is no actual injustice. It’s just in their mind. So your partner comes home and starts yelling at you for not having dinner ready for them because they feel like it’s an injustice because you’re not serving them.


That’s not really what we’re talking about here. But anger is, it literally is a data point, and then you see it for what it is, it’s an emotion. But if you don’t recognize that, then your anger can very easily morph into something quite different, and it can become bigger. It can consume you, and you can start looking at the world through the lens of your anger blending with it, and it takes on the charge of contempt. And contempt is a feeling of being superior to others, basically morally superior to others. And that causes a lot of problems in relationships and beyond and in communication. So it’s challenging for people to communicate. In general, vegans are people, and people have not been given the opportunity to learn the principles of effective communication. So most people stumble through communication and it’s hit or miss, often hit, often miss.


But then when the stakes are high and the issue is charged and it’s really loaded and the person you’re talking to, a non-vegan has been conditioned to be defensive against the message, things can get explosive very quickly. So it’s really, really important. I wrote a book because of this, because it’s been called Beyond Beliefs, and this is a guide for vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters or non-vegan to communicate and relate with each other effectively because it can be very, very tricky. But one tip and one thing people can do right now, listeners can do right now, is to realize that when we are communicating with each other, when we’re relating to each other, regardless of the issue that we’re talking about, regardless of what the difference is between us, that’s causing tension. Maybe we were talking earlier about introversion and extroversion, maybe introversion, extroversion struggle you’re having because one of you just wants to be social, and the other is like, oh my God, stop wasting that on me, whatever.


Or it’s veganism, whatever the issue is, just remember that underneath the issue itself or the topic is a relationship between people, and that’s where the focus needs to be. So to make this more concrete for listeners, and this can be a very helpful takeaway, all communication has two parts to it. Okay, there’s the content and that’s what we’re talking about. And then there’s the process, and that’s how we’re talking or how we’re communicating. We tend to over focus on the content, but the process matters more. So if you think about a conversation that you had six months ago, you might have completely forgotten the topic you were talking about. You forgot the content, but you probably even today still remember how you felt in that conversation. The process determines how you feel and when your process is healthy, you can talk about pretty much anything without arguing. And when your process is not healthy, you can be completely on the same page and you’ll end up at each other’s throats. And we can dive in if you want, and talk specifically about what the elements of a healthy process are. But this is, I think for listeners, the most important thing to keep in mind. The takeaway. Number one, building relational literacy helps you understand your emotional reactions so you don’t get hijacked by them. And number two, communicating and focusing on a healthy process can help you communicate about anything without getting into an argument.

Speaker 2 (29:02):

Got it. Okay. Yeah, this is fascinating. And I know I started this talking about the emotion of anger. I also want to bring it back just from a personal place of deep also sorrow and sadness and trauma,

Speaker 1 (29:17):


Speaker 2 (29:18):

Because that’s kind of personally something I feel like I’m still dealing with, and I want to just be transparent about that. And I think that’s one of my personal biggest barriers in my life is that I can be very vulnerable when it comes to just speaking what’s going on with me, but energetically, and I think very embedded in me because I’ve had this sadness since I was seven years old. It still feels very real and raw a lot of the times, and I think it really does keep me from connecting with people and having that intimacy. And I’d love to put that out there to you.

Speaker 1 (29:57):

Thank you. And you raise a really, really important topic, and I’ll start with trauma. A lot of people who are awake to the reality of atrocities, let’s talk about the atrocity of carism right now. What’s happening to the animals? It is very easy to become traumatized from witnessing this, whether it’s that you’ve witnessed graphic violence of animals being harm, or when you have this paradigm shift, when you make that connection. And when you step outside of carism and you start to see clearly, you walk out the door and your life is fundamentally changed, you are not seeing the same things that other people are that you used to see. When you see a meat truck driving down the street, that’s truck body parts, you’re seeing trucks carrying live animals off to slaughter, and you cannot do anything to stop it. You go to the grocery store and it’s just lined with dead bodies.


And so I don’t want to scare people. I mean, becoming vegan or moving toward veganism and being pro vegan, it’s incredibly empowering, incredibly important. And we really have to understand that the psychological and emotional toll this can take on us, and there are things we can do about it so that we can be empowered and live lives that are sustainable and joyful for sure, or at least I should say, fulfilling for sure. And there are high rates of what’s called secondary traumatic stress among vegans. And most people have probably heard of P T S D, post-traumatic stress disorder that affects, for example, combat veterans. Secondary traumatic stress. S T S sometimes called S T S D is exactly the same, except that it affects the witnesses to violence rather than the direct victims of violence. I mean, the good news is that there are a lot of ways that you can take care of yourself so that you can manage the trauma.


I mean, if you have it, you can work with it. And I can recommend some great resources for that doing this work. And you can work to prevent yourself from getting too traumatized in the future as well. Doing this work can help you to feel, build a more resilient life than you even had before, you know? Got traumatized. And one important step is to give yourself permission not to bear witness to the violence. Give yourself permission to build boundaries, create healthy boundaries, and not take in more violence. A lot of people who are working for animals and in other movements as well, feel like there’s this obligation to see the harm and the suffering. And I’ve heard this from so many vegans. Well, I mean, compared to what those animals are going through, it’s like, what? Two minutes for me? But you’re not helping them.


You’re feeding your trauma. And it can be helpful to think of your trauma as almost like a living entity that has taken up residents in your psyche, and that has a survival instinct. It wants to keep itself alive. And the way it keeps itself alive is by convincing you to keep feeding it. There be this almost compulsion, this attraction that some people have. Like you don’t want to see the graphic imagery, but then it’s hard to turn away, and it’s hard not to do it. That is not helping anybody. It’s feeding your trauma. And the animals need a movement of healthy self connected people, and it’s really, really important to take care of yourself in order to be able to help them. And also just for your own wellbeing. And on top of this, if there are a lot of people, I believe in our movement, this is anecdotal, but I’ve been doing this for a long time that are what are called highly sensitive people. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with which H S P is?

Speaker 2 (33:16):


Speaker 1 (33:17):

Yes. Okay. Are you in H S P?

Speaker 2 (33:19):

I believe so, yes.

Speaker 1 (33:21):

Okay. I mean, you can go to, I think it’s highly sensitive person.com.

Speaker 2 (33:24):

There’s a great documentary on a Gaia TV with Alanis Morse on there.

Speaker 1 (33:29):

Oh yeah, I know that. I haven’t seen it yet. It’s a great, so highly sensitive people are people who are more just the, basically it’s about 20 to percent of the population. 20% of the human population they believe qualifies as highly sensitive. This is a divergent form of neurodiversity. Basically what it means is that your sensory processing system is more sensitive than other people is, and that includes processing emotional stimuli, including violence. You’re highly sensitive to violence. And if you’re an H S P and people listening, right? If you’re a sensitive person, you’re on the spectrum of sensitivity. I mean, you can check out, you can do a self-test on, I think it’s highly sensitive person.com. What matters most is if you consider yourself a sensitive person. And what that means, if you are, is that you have to create a life and environment for yourself that’s not the same as other people.


You get overstimulated more easily. You get flooded much more easily by emotional input. You’re much more likely to absorb other people’s emotions. And you are much, much harder hit by witnessing violence and simply being aware of violence. Give yourself permission to be who you are and put up healthy boundaries and construct a life that provides you with the quiet and the peace that you need, or you’re going to burn out because that’s what you need. And most of the problem that I have seen with people who have suffered from trauma, a lot of them are highly sensitive people, not all of them, but most of the problem I’ve seen has been in two areas. One is that they’re just not informed about what trauma is, and they don’t realize they don’t have the information about what to do to take care of themselves. So they keep on consuming traumatic material and feeling guilty if they don’t. And two is that they don’t give themselves permission to take care of their needs. And that is the number one thing you can do if you can really, really get that, taking care of your needs. Psychological, emotional, relational, of course, physical is the number one thing you can do if you want to contribute to creating a better world, especially if you’re a sensitive person, really get that. That will go a long way towards helping to manage and mitigate the trauma.

Speaker 2 (35:43):

Wow. Yeah. I sometimes wonder if I would qualify as highly sensitive or if, I mean, what’s going on with animals and humans as well is suffering is just extreme. It’s

Speaker 1 (35:54):


Speaker 2 (35:55):

For anybody.

Speaker 1 (35:57):

That’s right. And that’s what I’m saying. You don’t even have to be a highly sensitive person to be traumatized. But a lot of people have this double whammy where you’ve got trauma and you’re highly sensitive. But in both cases, it’s the same approach. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself. Stop thinking that you should be somehow different than you are. If you’re feeling overstimulated. Try to find if you can create space in your life. There are lots of things, and we have a lot of resources on our websites, which I’ll share later for people that we’re putting up a new website as well with a lot of practices and tools and tips to help people who want to engage in better self care and really learn how to engage in better and create stronger relationships in their lives. And again, having healthy relationships helps offset trauma. And P T S D two people you can talk to, people you can be yourself with.

Speaker 2 (36:49):

What words do you have in terms of being with the pain of knowing all the suffering that’s happening and knowing that the more joyful we can be, the more happy we can be, the more inspiring we’re going to be, and the more we can invite people into our world of compassion, how do we get there as individuals to then better relate to other people?

Speaker 1 (37:14):

Yeah, I mean, joyful might be a stretch


Just because, I mean, being in a permanent state of joy is a hard thing to do when you’re aware of what’s going on in the world, but you could certainly build it into your life and find a way to be at peace and fulfilled, right, and have pockets of joy as well. And so it’s a great question. So there are a few things that I would recommend. One is to build relational literacy, actually, because a lot of the suffering in the world and in our own personal lives comes from the fact that we haven’t learned the tools to relate to others and to relate to ourselves in a way that creates a sense of security and connection. And if you could imagine that your relationship with yourself was really healthy, you don’t have that voice in your head going over and over and over again criticizing you and beating you up and shaming you, for example.


It’s hard to turn that off. But if you could minimize that by 20%, it would go a long way. If you could imagine that the people around you really reflected your values and you were in a position where you could have only those relationships, close relationships that nurtured you and that you felt good in. For a lot of people, that could go a very, very long way. That is one thing, and I want to share a way to start building that for listeners. Cause I said earlier I would talk about a tip for how to have a healthy communicative process. And building relational literacy is literally life transforming. It’s like the difference between being literate in some ways, able to read and write. It changes everything. And then the other piece is building a practice where you can learn how to find peace within yourself.


And I know that sounds very abstract. There’s really great resources out there. Now, I have a meditation practice that’s really central to my wellbeing, and Sam Harris has an app waking up. I don’t, are you familiar with that? Waking up? Yeah, it’s great. Yeah, I mean, it’s incredible. And his conversations, it’s been life-changing for me too, and I really, really recommend that. And Sam Harris talks about, and from a secular perspective, how to build consciousness and how to work on your own, what some people refer to as awakening, kind of waking up so that you’re not hijacked by the thoughts that are racing through your mind. So just really quickly, for people who want to start building relational literacy and learning how to have a healthy process, I want to talk about what I call the formula for healthy relating like every interaction, and that includes a communication, every relationship, right, that’s healthy reflects this formula.


And the formula is to practice integrity and honor dignity. When you are communicating with somebody, interacting with somebody or yourself, practice integrity. And that means integrity is the integration of your core moral values of compassion and justice and your behaviors simplifying that. It’s literally practicing respect. It’s treating the other person or yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in their position. So practice integrity and you honor their dignity. And dignity is one sense of inherent worth, fundamental worth. When you honor someone’s dignity, including your own, you don’t see them, you don’t think of them or treat them as any less worthy of being treated with respect or of occupying place on this planet than anybody else. When you practice integrity and honor dignity, that leads to a sense of greater connection and security. This changes everything. You can come back to this formula at any moment.


This is the foundation for a healthy process in communication and any form of relating. And it exists on a spectrum, of course. It’s not like an interaction is either healthy or unhealthy. It’s somewhere in the middle. So the more you can do this, the better. So the opposite is also true. When you violate integrity and harm, dignity, this causes a sense of disconnection and insecurity. At any moment, you can come back to the formula in your life and when you’re having a conversation with somebody and you’re starting to feel less than, that’s an indication that your dignity is not being honored, that they’re not practicing integrity towards you. Notice that pause and ask yourself, do I feel that this person is relating to me in a way that is respectful? Would I treat somebody who I love? They’re treating me right now, and vice versa. You can ask yourself if you’re doing this, when you’re treating yourself in a certain way or others in a certain way.

Speaker 2 (41:33):

Yes. Brilliant. I think also, I’m curious what you think. One of the mantras I tell myself when I’m working on having compassion for the person I’m speaking with is everyone, or this person is doing the best they can with the tools that they have.

Speaker 1 (41:46):


Speaker 2 (41:47):

That helps me. And also one kind of practical tool. I’m curious, what you’ll think is sometimes I’ll start especially in one-on-one conversation with the story I’m telling myself is, and then I go on to share about my perspective, meaning that everything I’m saying is my story. These are all stories, and it’s a way to kind of communicate without encouraging somebody to be defensive. Do you like that one?

Speaker 1 (42:15):

Yeah. I think it’s incredibly important, and that is a very important part of building relational literacy and also conscious development. These two things can go really hand in hand. The more relationally literate you become, the more you learn to separate your thoughts from reality. For example, you come home at the end of the day and your partner has left a mess in the sink, for instance. And your story can be, oh my God, this person just doesn’t care enough to clean up, pick up after themselves. They’re selfish. And then your emotional reaction is going to be to get angry. You know, experience this as an injustice, something that’s unfair, and then your behavior is probably going to be to retaliate or yell at them later or whatever. But if you can pause and say, wait, this is my story. Maybe my partner was rushing to get out in the morning, they overslept because they had a really rough night because they got really bad news yesterday.


It’s going to be a whole different experience, and we’re always telling ourselves stories. And so absolutely, it’s very, very important to do what you’re doing. And just remember that every single one of us is nothing more nor less than the hard wiring that we’ve come into this life with, that us in every single experience we’ve had throughout our lives. And so expecting somebody to be different from who and how they are is expecting a tree that’s been rained on not to be wet. It’s just not realistic. And it doesn’t mean we don’t hold people accountable, but we can do that. We can point out problematic behaviors without harming their dignity. And the more you can do this, the more your relationships are going to transform and the more you will transform. I mean, it’s literally a game changer to learn how to relate in a way that is healthy and reflects a healthy process.

Speaker 2 (43:53):

Oh, Melanie, thank you so much for everything you’re doing. I want to just invite you, and really actually I’d love to have more conversation and kind of start a conversation that includes more of the spiritual side. You’ve really worked so much on the psychology of eating, the spirituality of eating. When I start to do the research, I know you’ve started some work in that arena, and I would love to have another conversation and further this conversation in that space if you’re up for it.

Speaker 1 (44:24):

I would love to. Like I said, I’m a big fan of Sam Harris’s work and other people who are doing work around secular consciousness building development. And I think it would be fantastic to have another conversation. And you’re wonderful, and thank you for everything you’re doing. Your energy is just so inspiring and you’re so easy to talk to. And I love that you’re putting this message out into the world and helping people really create healthier lives for themselves and also for the planet.

Speaker 2 (44:52):

Yeah, I really do feel like the people that are listening to this are really on this path of prioritizing their own healing, their own health and their growth. And that creates change makers. That creates people becoming the inspiration that they’re out there seeking. And that’s powerful. So it’s exciting. I love doing this work. I am so grateful to you and your time. Where can people go? And of course, we’ll put this all in the show notes to find your work and get the help they need. Yeah,

Speaker 1 (45:22):

They can come visit carism.org and you can link to another website for that, or you can go directly to vegan advocacy.org if you want to access. We have courses and webinars and books and lots of short videos, materials for people who want to talk about eating animals or not eating animals, I should say, and build relational literacy as well. So come visit us. We really see ourselves, my organization is beyond Carism, and we are very much a service organization. We are an organization that is in service to the people who are helping to create a better world. And it’s an honor to be able to do that. So come avail yourself of our resources. Please,

Speaker 2 (46:04):

An honor to have you here. Melanie, thank you again for everything.

Speaker 1 (46:08):

Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

Speaker 2 (46:13):

Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Verizon Thrive with me, Ella Majors. I truly hope you found it inspiring, and if you did, please help me spread the word by leaving a rating and review on your favorite podcast player. And by sharing the show with your friends, as you probably know by now, my life’s purposes, to use my voice to make this world a more conscious and compassionate place, and your reviews and shares make a huge impact. And last, I’m getting a ton of insanely positive feedback about my short and sweet monthly newsletter called The Way Short four. The way out is through I give my top five latest badass discoveries, insights, and explorations like vegan products and recipes. I’m obsessed with books and shows I’m loving and workouts that have me fired up. Head on over to my website, ella majors.com to sign up and check out all the other awesome resources I have for you and projects I’m involved with, including Hogs and Kisses, farm Sanctuary, where our mission is to create the best life for farm animals while inspiring compassion for all living beings. Thanks a lot, and I’ll see you on the next one.


For whatever atrocity you happen to wake up to, anger is a normal, legitimate, emotional response to witnessing injustice. Our anger is a sign that our moral compass is working. And anger can be a very social, proactive emotion. It gives us the energy and motivation to take positive action on our own and others’ behalf.        -Dr. Melanie Joy

Today’s guest, Dr. Melanie Joy, is a human being that sparks so many emotions within me, because of how profoundly personal her work feels.

Her research, writing, and speaking gives validity to what I’ve intuitively experienced, starting at the age of seven when I connected the meat on my plate with the living being it once was.

This episode is for you, whether you’re vegan or not, as long as you’re open to understanding the psychology around our food choices, or if you’re curious about how to improve your relational literacy as she calls it… In other words, strengthening your ability to communicate effectively, even around tough topics. 

I’m also excited for you to learn about what may be a brand new term for you, Carnism, coined by Melanie herself, and for you to be a part of what turned out to be an incredibly fascinating and intimate conversation.

Melanie’s Bio:

Dr. Melanie Joy is a social psychologist, celebrated speaker, and the author of seven books, including the bestselling “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows”, the award-winning “Beyond Beliefs: A Guide to Improving Relationships and Communication for Vegans, Vegetarians, and Meat Eaters”, and the forthcoming “How to End Injustice Everywhere”. Melanie’s work has been featured in major media outlets around the world, and she has received a number of awards, including the Ahimsa Award – previously given to the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela – for her work on global nonviolence. Melanie has given talks and trainings in over 50 countries, and she is also the founding president of the international NGO Beyond Carnism. You can learn more about her work at carnism.org.



Instagram: @beyondcarnism
Website: https://carnism.org/

Book: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows


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