The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™
SEP 03, Sec. I
when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Table of Contents
Networks: TBS Professional Center
Offerings: Training Kit & Book; AOL Chat
Work Q & A: Responding to a Terminally
Employee: An Organizational Intervention
Shrink Rap: The Accidental Paradoxical Vacation
Heads Up: Sprint's University of Excellence, Keynoter for Americas'
Group, Orlando, FL
Main Essay: Stages of Burnout: Strategies for Recovery and Prevention
Readers: Classic Bob Hope, Lone Ranger and Tonto, Rodney
and a Letterman "Top Ten"
The Stress Doc StoreFront will be opening shortly. Items include:
(1) The Doc's long awaited book (presently as an ebook), Practice Safe
Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, & Depression
(2) From Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and Cool Moon Cats:
The Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc (see below; $20 includes priority
(3) New 55-minute "R & R" -- Rap & Relaxation -- CD: three
rap songs, my popular ten minute relaxation-visualization guide (live audiences
love it), and me reading two popular articles: "Four Stages of Burnout" and
"Stress Doc's Top Ten Stress Tips." ($20 includes priority shipping)
(4) Training and Marketing Kit and/or Phone Consultation Combo
a free virtual community for mental health and allied health professionals. [I
am on the Advisory Board of TBS or "The Bright Side"
1. Link: TBS Professional Center (TBSPC)
Sign up for a free or expanded listing in our Find A Therapist Directory!
Newsletter: TBS Professional Center (TBSPC)
free virtual community for mental health and allied health professionals. TBSPC
creates an environment where mental-health and allied health professionals can
easily interact by exploiting the vastness of the Internet. Therapists from
around the world can share ideas, give & receive advice, and expand their
horizons. In addition, caregivers can find support from their peers, when they,
themselves, need a helping hand.
Sign up for your free or expanded listing on the TBSPC
therapist directory. The directory will appear soon on The Bright Side
the premiere online destination for anyone seeking solace, support and resources
for self-help when coping with mental or emotional difficulties.
Please contact Deborah Harper, Director of TBSPC at
firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or feedback.
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,
20-minute highlights video, and articles, as well as the opportunity for phone
coaching. For more info:
http://stressdoc.com/kitbook.htm 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:
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.
Doc Work Q & A
Responding to a Terminally
Employee: An Organizational Intervention
note: This question was originally presented by and answered for
colleague has throat cancer and all his colleagues know that the treatment has
not been going well. In fact, he has been given about a year to live. He is
very popular, friendly and competent (in fact, a key man) and wants to continue
working as long as possible. How should a case like this be handled?
Management has just realized that a lot of knowledge transfer needs to happen,
for one thing. This organization is pretty much like a caring family with most
of us here 10-30 years, including him. His work is his life.
A. In such an intimate work setting, this poignant situation deserves and
requires a thoughtful and comprehensive emotional support and problem-solving
strategy. Initially, I'll focus on the manager, and then I'll expand to a
systems approach to intervention. Consider these steps:
1. The manager approaches the individual with throat cancer. The manager
shares with the individual with cancer how his illness and determination to keep
working, as well as their long-standing relationship, is a source of admiration
or inspiration for himself personally as well as for Mr. C's colleagues. (I'll
call him Mr. C; while clearly this individual is more than his cancer, using the
letter C prevents us from denying the reality of his illness.) His condition is
also a source of anticipatory loss and sadness for company personnel as well.
The manager should explain that he would like support from the EAP and from HR
to assist in the following areas:
a. personal help for the manager on how to handle his emotions and how to manage
through this unusual and challenging time,
b. guidance for helping other employees process their emotions,
c. help effecting a knowledge transfer from Mr. C to relevant personnel and
d. if Mr. C would like any emotional support or approaching end of life planning
guidance, you (the manager) want the company to be in the best possible position
to provide the necessary help.
2. If Mr. C is willing, schedule a meeting with Mr. C, yourself, an EAP
counselor and an HR representative.
3. This meeting needs to acknowledge the wide range of emotions, issues and
people touched by Mr. C, and to reach consensus on a goal-and time-oriented
strategy for meeting key objectives outlined in #1.
4. Once consensus is achieved, I would plan to have a meeting with this
individual and with the above planning team and the company employees. The
purpose will be to:
a. in an official public forum, acknowledge Mr. C's condition; allow Mr. C to
share any personal remarks as well as his determination to keep working. (If
Mr. C can use a little humor, e.g., telling his colleagues "you're not getting
rid of me so quickly; I'm going to be around for awhile to keep bugging you,"
that would be wonderful.),
b. allow Mr. C and colleagues to begin a formal grief process that is
facilitated by a trained counselor. (The counselor might explain the grief
process, especially the array of emotions -- from sadness and anxiety to anger
and spirituality -- that may be experienced), and
c. have HR and Mr. C's manager assist in eliciting ideas from Mr. C and his
colleagues regarding the knowledge transfer process.
5. Before the meeting ends, the EAP counselor (or external counselor) should
summarize the grief process issues and offer his or her services to anyone who
might want additional assistance.
6. A follow-up debriefing with the manager and Mr. C and the EAP counselor is
recommended. This debriefing might also entail individual sessions. Also, Mr.
C should be offered the opportunity to bring in (any) key family members for
family and/or individual grief counseling sessions.
7. As a follow-up to the large group meeting (#4.), a knowledge transfer group
should be created to set up objectives, action plans and guidelines.
8. Finally, there will likely be a need, in some fashion, to replicate the
above step-by-step procedures on a formal and on an as needed basis depending on
the deteriorating health of Mr. C. If it can be anticipated, a few months
before Mr. C will likely stop working, I would give all parties extra support
and enable all to continue with the individual and group grief process. Once
again, the guidance of a professional counselor is vital.
9. Upon Mr. C's death, in addition to funeral attendance and sending a company
note/remembrance to the family, perhaps a company scholarship fund can be
established in Mr. C's honor.
Hopefully, this outline will help all involved feel a bit more fortified to
confront personal vulnerability, to reach out emotionally and to strengthen
interpersonal and communal bonds, to allow the company to preserve Mr. C's
legacy, to support Mr. C's termination process and to help all parties…Practice
escape to Appalachia provides an unexpected encounter with a melodic ballad.
And the synergy of music and mountains opens up the Stress Doc, not just to the
natural beauty without, but also to a poignant and passionate nature within.
Poignantly Paradoxical Vacation
Mind-Body Escape Becomes Spiritual Return
Does anyone know a singer who does a stirring rendition of the poignant ballad,
"Danny Boy?" The reason I'm asking is that on a recent trip to Asheville and
the mountains of North Carolina I purchased an instrumental CD of favorite
Appalachian tunes. (The featured instruments included hammered dulcimer,
mandolin and autoharp.) Other standards on the disc included "Shenandoah," "Oh
Susanna" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" But the one song that grabbed me
emotionally and just wouldn't let go was the old Irish standard. (This stretch
of Appalachia is the home of many former hardscrabble Irish and Scottish
settlers.) Tears would reflexively well up…but why? My reaction seemed to go
beyond mere sentimentality. Was it for something lost, or maybe something hoped
for but still not realized? And why should there be such wistfulness when
meandering along the mountain roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway?
Winding along mountain roads usually evokes a sense of escape -- both excitement
and serenity. Coursing through a seemingly endless forest tunnel of leaning
trees and green leaves, I'm both focused and mindless as the car hugs the
curves. While a bit edgy blindly navigating some of those sharp mountain turns,
only the picturesque overlooks break my relaxed-focused attention state. (My
obsessive nature makes it hard to bypass even one turnoff.) The off-road
mountain views: silently rolling waves of misty if not mystical majesty, the
design of an otherworldly palette of pastel smoky blues, grays and purples.
These verdant slopes gently rising and unfolding from the valley, unfolding and
unfolding to some ethereal horizon beyond my imagination.
Finally, coming back to earth, I reach one destination: Little Switzerland, an
Alp-like resort having the requisite picture postcard views along with
European-style guesthouses, curio shops and, of course, that proverbial café
with fabulous pastries.
Next stop, just a few miles further along the parkway is The Orchid, with a
turnoff that's easily missed. It's an all-wooden warehouse-like market tucked
into a hill above the valley, across from those fruited plains. And I mean
fruited. Fifty cents brought me the most sweet, luscious, just-picked
baseball-sized peach. And on the weekends The Orchid features local musicians.
Today, it's a marital couple of old-timers playing simple but heartfelt country
tunes. The performance is more for their neighbors than for off the beaten
track tourists. (I discovered this fact while briefly and mistakenly sitting in
the front row. An elderly woman informed me politely yet quite clearly that a
pillow on the seat meant the chair was reserved. The first couple of rows were a
colorful quilted patchwork.)
And despite these mostly delightful diversions and the excursion, when I got
back into town, my previous preoccupation resurfaced. My nonverbal, intuitive
ruminations wanted more. Meandering about the streets of Asheville, one of my
favorite mountain retreats, still authentically arty, I stopped into the
well-known independent bookstore, Malaprops.
As an aside, Asheville has a definite literary tradition. This is the
birthplace of 1920s-30s novelist Thomas Wolfe, whose passionate poetic-like
prose about dysfunctional families and "sui generis" characters, self-discovery,
the (southern) small town-big city journey and the evolution of the artistic
path make him one of my favorites. Try Look Homeward Angel or You
Can't Go Home Again. Pat Conroy, perhaps best known for The Prince of
Tides, credits Wolfe for inspiring him to become a writer. Alas, Wolfe died
when he was 38. While pneumonia is the official cause, "Our Gargantua" as
likely died from a compelling desire for overliving.
Back to Malaprops…I approached the Gen X female clerk with some hesitancy,
suspecting my quest might seem odd: "Do you have a CD with someone singing
"Danny Boy?" I explained my recent CD acquisition and the desire for more.
The young lady admitted my request (at least for her) was unprecedented; she
then proceeded to search her stock. While no CD was found, this attractive
woman (with her reddish blond hair and fair complexion may well have been an
Irish lass) did not disappoint. Actually, she left me speechless when she
suddenly began singing the first few lines. Her soft and soulful lilt truly
lifted my spirits; this was a fairly magical moment.
And while she demurely declined my offer of lunch if she would continue
singing…this lovely lass did provide additional assistance. My muse suddenly
pulled from behind the counter a compendium of folk songs and turned to the
sought after lyrics. While I copied the words, it was increasingly apparent
that for me both lyrics and melody created some harmonic convergence.
Basically, the lyric captures the sentiment of a young lover knowing that her
Danny needs to be leaving home. She fervently hopes that he will return once
again, much like the changing of the seasons, with a full bloom commitment to
their love. And even if she does not (or cannot) survive his absence
physically, she holds out the prayerful wish that the two will forever be
connected spiritually: "Then I simply sleep in peace until you come to me."
(I'd like to interpret these lines as not simply a sign of codependence but of a
truly kindred connection and also, alas, that many did die too young in olden
With summer fast fading in this Appalachian Mountains setting, the opening
stanza of this Old World ballad clears some of the psychic mists and also speaks
O, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen and down the mountain side
The summer's gone and all the flowers are dying
Tis you, tis you must go and I must bide.
But come you back when summer's in the meadow
Or, when the valley's hushed and white with snow
Tis I'll be there in sunshine or in shadow
O Danny Boy, o Danny Boy, I love you so.
Over the course of these five-days of "R & R" -- rest and rejuvenation -- what
I've called my "incubation vacation," it becomes obvious that more than pastoral
ambiance and poignant melody is resonating in some intuitive, deeply felt
psychic space. Ironically, it is my "peace and quiet" escapade, if not an
escape from the day-to-day, in surroundings that are externally compelling, that
expose large interior clusters of growth, if not overgrowth -- psychic fields of
wildflowers and weeds -- that lie within. And that need some tending!
Wounds and Wellsprings
Here's a brief listing of some key mind-body-spirit issues stirred by music and
1. Exhaustion. In hindsight, the last few weeks before the vacation
were fairly crazed with wave upon wave of proposal and pamphlet writing,
grinding out final book edits, working up the Stress Doc StoreFront catalogue
copy and waiting nervously on a couple of potentially outrageous speaking and
training contracts. While in hyper-coping mode, I may be unaware of the energy
toll being extracted. Then paradoxically, the calm reveals the effects of the
recent storm: suddenly the physical and emotional drain overtakes me. And one
of the consequences of emotional strain and drain (shall we call this "s & d"?)
is a weakening of my psychological defenses. Rushing headlong, an underground
wellspring of emotions and memories break the surface and flood my
consciousness. Yet, in yin-yang fashion, this emotional and tearful outpouring
is a sign of my letting go, of giving in to my exhaustion and beginning to allow
nature's natural recovery process to unfold.
2. Existential Aloneness. At this moment in time, my social support
system needs strengthening; there's no cadre of friends or comrades as once
existed in my expatriate years in New Orleans. During my early adjustment to
more straight-laced DC, an artists' support group provided a haven of creativity
and some intimacy. An ambitious Type A need for achievement can mute the need
for affiliation, but only for so long. Another poignant association also
lingers. Recalling an observation from above, perhaps it's not surprising that
painful memories of an elusive lover still bubble up in these emotionally
turbulent, mountain wellspring waters. When outer and inner worlds coalesce,
perhaps serenity, sadness and solitude make surprisingly intimate bedfellows!
(Aha, perhaps I've finally fulfilled my fantasy for a threesome. ;-)
3. Parental Mortality. My overdetermined reaction to "Danny Boy" became
incontrovertible when without premeditation I unexpectedly transposed the letter
"n"s with "d"s. Now I was singing "Oh, Daddy Boy." For a father who has
recently turned eighty, despite fighting through a series of strokes and
prostate cancer in his mid-late seventies, it's not hard to imagine that "the
pipes, the pipes are calling." Alas, the father flower is gradually, if not
gracefully, withering. In fact, this once angry man seems to have accepted with
equanimity his evolutionary destiny. Of course, I'm going through some
anticipatory grieving: he was a model for dogged determination as a salesman,
for fighting through depression and for honest confrontation. Dad became an
inspiring figure when, in the mid-60s, he finally replaced intermittent shock
therapy with a dozen years of ongoing group therapy.
Perhaps because my battle to carve out viable career and vital relationship
paths is still raging, I don't want to hear the calling pipes -- his or mine.
At times I still want him to fight his shrinking, slowly dying world. But for
every time and turn, for every person, there is a season. And with the summer
nearly gone, I must embrace this bygone ballad's wisdom about "letting go":
Tis you, tis you must go and I must bide.
4. Spiritual Connection. For me, acknowledging feelings of loss,
allowing the healing process of grief to unfold, in time stills the psychic
Sturm und Drang. Those dark clouds constricting my vision and aspiration
begin to fade and disappear. Perhaps there's a contrast effect: this
post-tempest dawns early light, embracing the silence and stillness within and
without, yields a communal connection beyond words; a connection of such breadth
and depth that the experience can only be called spiritual. From this quietly
pregnant space arises an almost overwhelming sensation of oneness, of being part
of a much larger life force. And for a while the loneliness fades and my reach
expands to the mountains, and the music of strangers can open and massage my
soul. For an incandescent moment outside of time, I am part of the mysterious
if not mystical web of nature, human and otherwise.
Back from my "R & R" vacation -- more regression than rest and rejuvenation --
now, with hindsight, it's clear that a desire for simply getting away from the
homeland actually had me returning to and also recovering a most essential and
pure heartland. Hey, I'm a four "m" mix master: my ingredients are music and
mountains, memories and mortality. As I was asking, does anyone know a singer
who does justice to "Danny Boy?"
Words to help me stay connected and to…Practice Safe Stress!
P.S. I did find another wonderful instrumental of "Danny Boy" on a CD of
violinist "Nigel Kennedy's Greatest Hits." His rendition is particularly
1. Confirmed Keynote for Americas' SAP Users' Group, Orlando, FL; Oct. 21
I am writing from the ASUG Headquarters (Americas' SAP Users' Group) in
Chicago and we are preparing for our Annual Forum Meetings in Orlando. We
are researching keynote speakers for our Human Capital Management Forum (for
more information on this Forum and ASUG in general, please visit our website
at: http://www.asug.com . This forum focuses on Payroll/Time Management
and Human Resource Management. The specific date of our meeting is October
20 - 22 in Orlando, FL. We would like to know your availability on Tuesday,
October 21 from 8:00 am - 9:10 am.
Education and Programs Division
Smith, Bucklin & Associates, Inc.
2. Stress Doc Q & A/Interview on Sprint's University of Excellence
One of our employees pulled the attached Q & A article off the HR.com web site.
We in Sprint's University of Excellence would like permission to put this
article on an internal Change Management web site.
Sprint's University of Excellence
Project Manager, Supplier Relations
[Ed. note: Email email@example.com for the interview Q & A.]
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a psychotherapist, an
international/cruise speaker (Celebrity Cruise Lines) and syndicated writer, was
recently interviewed on BBC radio. The Doc is America Online's "Online
Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" on AOL/Digital
City. See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" --
www.stressdoc.com (recently cited as a workplace resource in a National Public
Radio feature on "Bad Bosses"). Mark is also an advisor to The Bright Side --
-- a multi-award-winning mental health resource. 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 call
(c) Mark Gorkin 2003
Shrink Rap Productions