The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
Happy New Year!
Fight when you can
Take flight when you
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Table of Contents
Training Kit & Book; AOL Chat
Heads Up: Book
Promo, Radio Interviews, Hong Kong Civil Service Training and
Development Institute, Hartford Courant & CBS-New York Radio,
Harvard Management Communication Letter
Shrink Rap: The Art of
Risk-Taking or Creatively Designing 2003
Main Essay: Highly Sensitive
People and the Art of Confrontation (Sec. II)
History Repeats, True Confessions and Corporate Lingo
: Stress and Humor; 12/14/02
1. Training/Marketing Kit: Want to strengthen your ability to lead or
market a stress workshop or any kind of speaking/training program? Consider the Stress Doc
Training/Marketing Kit, which includes both "how to" manual and articles and the
opportunity for phone coaching. For more info: Training/Marketing Kit or email.
Stress Doc Book:
From Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and Cool Moon Cats:
Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc, Stress Doc Enterprises, 1995
A 90 page
compilation of my former syndicated radio essays, pioneering songs in the field of psychologically
humorous rap music - "Shrink Rap" Productions - a creative visualization poem and
other humorous lyrics/poems. "Stress Brake" radio essays are short (300 words),
fast-paced and witty, covering such topics as stress, burnout, anger and conflict resolution, time
management, creativity, men's and women's issues, romantic relationships, codependency, etc. (They
make excellent fillers for newsletters.)
Price: $20 (which covers priority postage and
Make check payable to: Mark Gorkin
Send check to:
Stress Doc Enterprises
1616 18th Street, NW #312
Washington, DC 20009-2542
3. Chat Group:
Stop by my
AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) and Group Chat DC
Support Chat, Tuesdays, 9:30-11pm EST DC Support Chat. It's a dynamic, lively, at times witty
and always warm, thoughtful and supportive problem-solving group. We raise questions and share our
ideas, hopes and experiences with each other.
B. Heads Up.
1. Book Promo & Media/Interview:
Promo: Romantic Antics by friend/colleague Kevin Decker
If you and your
significant other feel as though you're lost on the romance roadmap, Romantic Antics is your
compass. The easy-to-read tips show you how to be playful, teasing, and adventurous-without making
it seem forced or spending a fortune. Here are just a few of the creative ideas:
classified ad declaring your undying devotion
*Send your true love a romantic message in a bottle
an anniversary time capsule
*Create your own book of favorite songs-and serenade!
the true art of massage
Written by my friend Kevin Decker and his wife Joy, Romantic Antics
has plenty of hot tips to keep your relationship alive and exciting for many years. Order it from
Amazon.com on January 1st and make a New Year's resolution for More Romance in 2003!
Stress Doc Internet Radio Interview
Listen through your
computer to Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc", on Jacqueline Marcell's Internet radio
program, "Coping with Caregiving," discussing "Managing Stress with Humor."
Click here: wsRadio.com The World Wide Leader in
above, scroll down to Recent Archives;
Scroll down and click Coping with Caregiving 12/14/02;
to Segment Five for Stress Doc interview.
c) Stress Doc Interview
with Audio Magazine for Lawyers
I publish each month a one hour Audio Magazine for
lawyers (is anyone more stressed out than lawyers?). You can see several snippets of previous
interviews by going to the web site, www.lawbiz.com.
Ed Poll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC
Practical Guide to Profit
Author, "Collecting Your Fee: Getting Paid From Intake to
Invoice" (ABA 2003)
of "Reorganizational Survival/Team-Building Series" in Hong Kong Civil Service Training
and Development Institute
Dear Mr M. Gorkin
writing to seek your permission for us to post the content of the article "Reorganizational
Survival/Team-Building Series" in our website.
We, the Civil Service Training and
Development Institute, have developed a website, named Leaders' Corner, to facilitate the learning
of senior civil servants. This site is posted in our Cyber Learning Centre at www.info.gov.hk/cstdi/clc.
To facilitate your consideration, you are welcome to visit our Cyber Learning Centre.
keep the article in our website as part of the reference materials regarding executive health.
If you agree to our request, the name of your organisation will be properly shown in the website.
look forward to your early favorable reply.
Senior Management Development Unit
Civil Service Training and Development Institute
Point Government Offices
333 Java Road, North Point
Website : www.info.gov.hk/cstdi
Mark, Thank you very much for your generous offer. I think that your website is a valuable
resource pool for both our HR staff and senior management.
An interview with Kathy Meghan of the Hartford Courant led to a brief CBS-New York radio
interview on Dec. 18th on "Holiday Stress."
f) Quoted in "Don't
Let Stress Strain Communication," Harvard Management Communication Letter, Jan. 2003, by Anne
Field. To order reprint, call 800-668-6705; Reprint # 30301D
Shrink Rap Essay
Reflecting on ways to
"Seize the New Year," the Stress Doc shares some strategies for letting go. He also
provides a personal example of rebuilding the fire after being downsized and out along with keys to
The Art of Risk-Taking or Creatively Designing 2003
After an unprecedented 15 months, a
myriad of individuals and organizations continue to reflect, restructure and reemerge from the long
and far-reaching, post-9/11 shadows. A number of folks are starting to see the proverbial
tunnel light; some have been touched by enlightenment. While many are still grappling with
their place in a vulnerable economy and industry subjected to fits and starts, consolidations and
contractions. As we embark on a new year, the compelling question: How can we not just
survive but get a jump-start, if not blast off, in 2003?
For boldly navigating these
uncertain times, we may call on the compassion of family and friends. Hopefully, we experience
collegial, educational and business support from PCMA and individual members as well as other
professional networks. But there is an additional supportive pillar, actually more a
self-renewing or self-generating life raft, for surviving and thriving during these "T n'
T" - "Trauma and Transition" - times: a capacity for "Creative Risk-Taking
(CRT) or what I call "the art of designing disorder." CRT (hey, in DC you have to
throw in at least one acronym) involves the ability for "letting go" of outmoded
assumptions, positions and practices. It also means, despite the angst, exploring, developing
and realistically testing out new processes and pathways.
Let me first share some thoughts on
"the rising from the ashes potential" of letting go. Then I'll provide a personal,
Phoenix-like example of transforming "T n' T" energy and opportunity into path blazing
muscles and movement.
Consider this "Six 'F' Model for Transforming Loss and
1. One must embrace the sadness and/or feelings of anger for
having to loosen the hold on a familiar past.
2. One needs to grapple with the
anxiety (and its flip side, the excitement) of an unpredictable future.
3. One may
believe one's role, skills or experience are being devalued; there may be pangs of self-doubt or,
even, feelings of shame, that is, a loss of face.
4. One must eventually confront
the looming challenge: despite the personal and/or professional "sturm und drang,"
one must recover and redesign a new productive focus.
5. One often requires feedback
from one or more trusted and objective others for reaffirming a precrisis identity as well as for
encouraging, germinating and/or evaluating new plans.
6. One needs faith -- whether
from a transcendent power or from the higher power synergy of your self-created support team - that
following these critical six steps will: a) generate hope, b) rebuild your fire and c) enable
you to reach new goals and unforeseen heights.
From Reorganization to Rejuvenation
for the personal vignette: In the mid-90s, after almost two years as a team-building
consultant for a division of the Food and Drug Administration, I was squarely hit by a powerful and
painful truth -- "Reorg Happens!" During a division-wide organizational shakeup an
outside micro-manager, uncomfortable with my efforts at cultivating genuine, professional and
constructive dialogue between management and employees and within the management-supervisor corps
was made Division Head. Big surprise…the Stress Doc's services were no longer desired,
despite a spectrum of pleas to the contrary. To add insult to injury, this dismissal occurred
ten days before Christmas.
Moping around the house, too often mindlessly staring at my
computer screen, I belatedly admitted not exploring my AOL package apart from occasionally
responding to a personal ad. So I finally crawled onto a Writers' Bulletin Board, once again
contemplating generating a love-hate relationship with this most vexing yet, ultimately, fulfilling
activity. Perhaps my hesitance also reflected a distinct aversion for another rejection.
my surprise, there was an electronic newsletter seeking humor writers. And even more
surprising, an encouraging e-mail from the editor on my submission popped up the next day. Now
humorous stories with a psychological bent based on consulting and therapy work definitely deviated
from this newsletter's standard computer jokes fare. Well, the publisher nervously gave me the
green light, albeit with some stringent restrictions - 100 words. (100 words! A blow to
my ego, of course.)
Not surprisingly, some of the readers, especially younger ones, saw my
writings as an alien life form. They wanted to banish me to some black hole in
cyberspace. Fortunately there were also mature readers who provided enthusiastic
feedback. And an expanded Stress Doc column became a regular feature.
Give me a column
inch and some renewed confidence…and I'll take a screen. Now I approached an AOL community
program called "Online Psych." A psychological column infused with humor…a
definite winner. And a Stress Doc page, along with the title of "Online Psychohumorist"
™ was born. (You decide where the emphasis on "psychohumorist" belongs.)
I'll forego the cybersteps; but a five year evolution has resulted in a multi-award-winning website,
recently cited on National Public Radio.
With the demise of the original humor pub, I started
putting out my own e-newsletter. This has led to: a) informal cyber syndication, b)
online and offline publications asking to reprint articles from around the world, e.g., in the past
month, from the Institute of Secretaries of Zaire, Africa to The Hong Kong Human Resources
Management Institute and c) an increase of web-generated speaker bookings.
A Key Close
taking some risk, pushing my comfort zone and cyber envelope yielded real and expanded
horizons. In conclusion, here are "Four Keys of Creative Risk-Taking," strategic
steps in the New Year for "Confronting Your Intimate FOE: Fear of Exposure":
Aware-ily Jump in Over Your Head. When it comes to productive risk-taking, don't
"Just do it!" Notice the neologism: "Aware-ily" - a mix of aware and
warily. Still, sometimes the only way to truly test the temperature and water current is to
finally jump in. (Of course, as we'd say in the bayou, first check for alligators.) The
value of immersion is you quickly learn your strengths along with gaps in resources, skills and
experience. And while often humbling, taking the plunge surely sharpens focus and motivates
maximum survival effort.
2. Strive to Survive the High Dive. While there
are no guarantees, here are four survival measures:
a. Strive high and embrace failure.
Forego perfectionist voices and fantasies; work to see so-called failure as the temporary gap
between an ideal state and your present reality.
b. Develop a realistic time frame.
Consider these two aphorisms: "Establishing a beachhead doesn't mean you've conquered the
island" and "Many battles are fought and lost before a major undertaking is won."
Be tenaciously honest. If the pressure is getting to you, come up for air and for an
ear. The most productive individuals are continuously monitoring operational effectiveness and
d. Establish a support system. Risk-takers definitely need some
TLC: "Tender Loving Criticism" and Tough Loving Care" for managing the stress
of living on the edge and for bathing psychic, if not physical, wounds.
3. Thrive On
Thrustration. Become more problem-minded, not just solution-oriented; don't rush to
judgment. Be a smoldering psychic volcano. For a while, tolerate the conflict between
thrusting ahead with direct action and uncertain frustration, that fertile yet volatile state of
"thrustration." You are feeding the creative fires and priming the imaginative,
emotive and visual right hemisphere of your brain. Take an incubation vacation, and then be
prepared for an upsurge of repressed memories, novel imagery and associations and, possibly, an
4. Design for Error and Opportunity.
Innovative risk-takers are more attuned to a range of possibilities than to "one right
way" or a fixed goal. They initiate action without absolute predesign
predictability. They know a narrow safe course creates the illusion of control (often
short-lived). Uncertainty and ambiguity actually allows more freedom to connect and combine
seemingly unrelated ideas and processes; to transfer the conventional into your own original, big
picture design. While this exploratory approach induces error, in open systems startup
misplays are vital signs for self-correcting and self-challenging feedback.
Mindful of these
keys, some final notes for New Year inspiration:
Remember, errors of judgment or design
rarely confirms one's incompetence: they more likely reveal inexperience or immaturity,
perhaps even boldness. Our so-called failures can be channeled as guiding streams (sometimes
raging rivers) of opportunity and experience that ultimately enrich -- widen and deepen -- the
risk-taking passage. If we can just immerse ourselves in these unpredictable, yet often
To "Practicing Safe Stress" and designing good adventures
How History Repeats Itself
Mrs. Rosenberg, a fine Jewish matron
from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, found herself stranded late one night at a fashionable
southern resort...one that did not, ordinarily, admit Jews. When she inquired at the front
desk about a room, the desk clerk looked at his book and said: "Sorry, no rooms. This
hotel is full."
Suspicious about his mind set, Mrs.Rosenberg said: "I beg
your pardon...your sign says you have vacancies."
The desk clerk stammered and said,
curtly: "I shouldn't say this, but you know, we really don't admit Jews in this hotel.
Why don't you try the other side of town."
Mrs. Rosenberg stiffened noticeably and
said: "I'll have you know...recently, I converted to your religion."
something, the desk clerk said: "Oh, yeah? Well, let me give you a little test!"
was Jesus born?"
"That's easy" Mrs. Rosenberg replied: "He was born
to a virgin named Mary...in a little town, called Bethlehem."
replied, the clerk..."Tell me, more."
Checking her memory, Mrs. Rosenberg
said: "He was born in a manger!"
"That's right," said the hotel
clerk. "And why was he born in a manger?" asked the clerk.
Holding her head
defiantly high, Mrs. Rosenberg reared back and said loudly, for all to hear: "Because
a putz like you wouldn't give a Jewish lady a room in the hotel!"
women are sitting around playing bridge. The first woman says, "You know, girls, I have known
you all a long time and there is something I must get off my chest. I am a kleptomaniac. But, don't
worry, I have never stolen from you and I never will. We have been friends for too long."
second woman says, "Well, since we are having true confessions here, I must get something off
my chest, too. I am a nymphomaniac. But don't worry, I have not hit on your husbands. They don't
interest me and never will; we have been friends for too long."
the third woman, "I, too, must confess something. I am a lesbian. But do not worry, I will not
hit on you. None of you are my type, and besides, we have been friends too long for me to ruin our
all look expectantly at the fourth woman, who stands up and says, "I, too, have a confession to
make. I am an uncontrollable gossip, and if you will excuse me now, I have some phone calls to
ADMINISPHERE: The rarefied organizational layers
beginning just above the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the adminisphere are often
profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve.
The process by which some people seem to absorb success and advancement by kissing up to the boss
rather than working hard.
BLAMESTORMING: Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline
was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.
CUBE FARM: An office filled with
OHNOSECOND: That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize that you've just
made a BIG, uncorrectable, mistake.
PERCUSSIVE MAINTENANCE: The fine art of whacking the heck
out of an electronic device to get it to work again.
PRAIRIE DOGGING: When someone yells or
drops something loudly in a cube farm, and people's heads pop up over the walls to see what's going
SALMON DAY: The experience of spending an entire day swimming up stream only to get
screwed and die in the end.
SEAGULL MANAGER: A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise,
craps on everything, and then leaves.
SITCOMs: (Single Income, Two [or Three] Children,
Oppressive Mortgage) What yuppies turn into when they have children and one of them stops working to
stay home with the kids.
VULCAN NERVE PINCH: The taxing hand position required to reach all
the appropriate keys for certain commands. For instance, the arm reboot for a Mac II computer
involves simultaneously pressing the Control Key, the Command Key, the Return Key, and the Power On
XEROX SUBSIDY: Euphemism for swiping free photocopies from one's workplace.
Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, an international speaker, syndicated writer and a
"Motivational Humorist" for corporate clients/conferences with the DC Improv Comedy Club.
He is also America Online's "Online Psychohumorist" ™ (Keyword: Stress Doc) The
Doc runs his weekly "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" on AOL/Digital City DC Stress Chat . See his
multi-award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com Stress
Doc homepage (recently cited as workplace resource in a National Public Radio feature on
"Bad Bosses"). Email for his monthly newsletter recently showcased on List-a-Day.com.
For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org or