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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

JAN 03

Happy New Year!

Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!

Table of Contents

Offerings:       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

A.  Offerings:

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.

2.  Stress Doc Book:

From Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and Cool Moon Cats:
The 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 handling)

Make check payable to:  Mark Gorkin

Send check to:

Mark Gorkin
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:

a) Book 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:

*Run a classified ad declaring your undying devotion
*Send your true love a romantic message in a bottle
*Make an anniversary time capsule
*Create your own book of favorite songs-and serenade!
*Cultivate 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!

b) Stress Doc Internet Radio Interview
: Stress and Humor; 12/14/02

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 Internet Talk
After clicking above, scroll down to Recent Archives;
Scroll down and click Coping with Caregiving 12/14/02;
Go 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
Your Practical Guide to Profit
Author, "Collecting Your Fee: Getting Paid From Intake to Invoice" (ABA 2003)
(800) 837-5880

d) Reprint of "Reorganizational Survival/Team-Building Series" in Hong Kong Civil Service Training and Development Institute

From: wshiu@cstdi.gov.hk

Dear Mr M. Gorkin

I am 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.

We will 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.

I look forward to your early favorable reply.

Winnie Shiu
Training Officer, Senior Management Development Unit
Civil Service Training and Development Institute
5/F North Point Government Offices
333 Java Road, North Point
Hong Kong
Website : www.info.gov.hk/cstdi
Dear 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.

e) 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 creative risk-taking.

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 Channeling Change":
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

Now 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.

To 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

So 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":

1.  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."
c. 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 efficiency.
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 "Aha!" explosion.

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 regenerative waters.

To "Practicing Safe Stress" and designing good adventures in 2003!


Readers' Submissions

Subj:    How History Repeats Itself
From: MDodick

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."

Sensing something, the desk clerk said: "Oh, yeah? Well, let me give you a little test!"
"How was Jesus born?"

"That's easy" Mrs. Rosenberg replied:  "He was born to a virgin named Mary...in a little town, called Bethlehem."

"Not 'Bad'!" 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!"

Subj: True Confessions 
From: RocknRollSal79

True Confessions

Four 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."

The 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."

"Well," says 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

They 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 make."

Subj:    Corporate Lingo
From: MDodick

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.

ASSMOSIS: 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 cubicles.

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 on.

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 Key.

XEROX SUBSIDY: Euphemism for swiping free photocopies from one's workplace.

Mark 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 stressdoc@aol.com or call 202-232-8662.