As the Potter trial begins, how to process our reactions to disturbing subject matter

signs on the lawn depict Daunte Wright and an air freshener
Signage honoring Daunte Wright and condemning former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter lines the grass outside the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis as jury selection in the trial of Potter begins on Nov. 30, 2021.
Tim Evans

The trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter has begun. Jury selection is underway at the Hennepin County courthouse.

Potter has pleaded not guilty to two counts of manslaughter. She fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, in April.

MPR News and other news organizations are livestreaming the Potter trial. Earlier this year, the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd was the first time cameras were allowed inside a Minnesota courtroom. More than 18 million people tuned into watch that verdict.

Transparency plays an important role in our judicial system — but how does this unfiltered access affect us individually? And how can we prepare ourselves, in both our bodies and our minds, to digest what we are witnessing?

Susan Beaulieu joined host Cathy Wurzer to share tips on how to stay in touch with our responses to disturbing subject matter. Beaulieu is a mind-body healing facilitator and extension educator at the University of Minnesota.

Beaulieu explained that when we encounter a threat, the thinking part of the brain goes offline, and we can involuntarily snap into survival mode, with all of the attendant physical signs of stress. And in situations where we can’t fight or flee, we can dissociate instead. In both cases, the immune system is depressed.

You can’t change your body without tuning in to it, Beaulieu said, so she encouraged listeners feeling disturbed or overwhelmed by coverage of traumatic events like Daunte Wright’s killing to practice techniques like body scans.

Beaulieu also recommended exercises like soft-belly breathing and expressive shaking-and-dancing meditation to manage the body’s involuntary responses. And she said that getting outside is one of the simplest and most effective ways to find calm.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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