Up
Jan 01, No 1, Sec 1
Jan 01, No1, Sec 2
Feb 01, No 1, Sec 1
Feb 01, No 1, Sec 2
Apr 01, No 1, Sec 1
May 01, No 1, Sec 1
May 01, No 1 Sec 2
July 01 No 1, Sec 1
Aug 01, No 1, Sec 1
Sep 01, No 1, Sec 1
Oct 01, No 1, Sec 1
Nov 01, No 1, Sec 1
Dec/Jan 02, No 1, Sec 1

The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist (tm)

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

Table of Contents

Heads Up: Audio Stream, Violence Series on HR.com, AOL/Digital City Chat
Q & A:
Battling and Seducing Egos at the Training Battlefront
Shrink Rap: The Secret of Wisdom

Sect 2:

Main Essay: Developing a Cadre of Motivational Humorists
Readers' Submission:
Internet Axioms

Heads Up:

1. MediaExposure:

a) Dr. Hurd Interview with the Stress Doc: an audio stream on "Stress, Anger and Humor." It's a lively, thoughtful and fun 45 minute program. It's now a permanent feature on my website -- http://stressdoc.com/drhurd.htm. (Or go to homepage -- www.stressdoc.com -- and click blue audio stream icon/link.)

The reviews have been great:

And here is the Production Director's take on the show.

Mark...

I've got to tell you that your show is one of the all-time greats. We can't wait to air it.

Thanks

Bob

Audience Feedback

Nutritionality, March 17-18, 2001

Date: 3/17/2001 6:58:12 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: clintman@airmail.net (Clint Stevens)

 

PSYCHOHUMORALITY (and a note on CPEU's, not to be confused with CPUs or CEUs):

This is an exceptional 45-minute streaming audio program featuring the official AOL "psychohumorist" (AKA "Stress Doc") at http://www.stressdoc.com ...

your computer will need its speakers on for this, and you will need a 45-minute block of time ...

it provides a LOT of insight into stress, anger and control in the work environment... worth listening to by anyone trying to make sense out of our wacky world of work!

***Award yourself one "personal" CPEU (the official term that is going to be used from here out for continuing professional education for registered dietitians and dietetic technicans [vs CEU] ... for listening all the way through!

SubjectOther: Solutions---Not Excuses - Michael Hurd, PH.D.

UserEmail: SusanB

Date: 18 Mar 2001

I listened to the radio talk show you did with Dr. Michael Hurd. I found the show to be very interesting and helpful. I work in law enforcement and I am responsible for supervising 7 supervisors and 33 line officers. I thought you were talking about the people in my work place since I recognized many of my co-workers in your descriptions. Thanks for the insight on new ways to approach these people. I receive your newsletters and really find them helpful and enjoyable.

Thanks....keep up the good work!

b) HR.com eBulletin: My series on Workplace Violence is being repackaged and reprinted by HR.com. Alas, it's as timely as when I first wrote it nearly two years ago.

Subj: HR.com's eBulletin for the Week of April 2, 2001

From: weeklymag@corpmail.hr.com

ARTICLES TO HELP YOU

Mark Gorkin has the dubious pleasure of consulting on stress to

the US Post Office. He talks about the dynamics that trigger

workplace violence in this first part of a series on Going Postal.

http://www.hr.com/hrcom/clickthru/clickthru.cfm?linkid=1011881003

Welcome to HR.com's eBulletin for the Week of April 2, 2001

We are your free online resource for HR. Our eBulletin gives you a

taste of what's new on our site this week.

To view our HTML (nicer looking) version of this eBulletin please cut

and past this web address into your web browser:

http://www.hr.com/hrcom/clickthru/clickthru.cfm?linkid=1012171003

2. Chat Groups and Live Workshops

a) Stop by my AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) andGroup 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) Catch this dynamic one-day Stress Doc Program in Washington, DC. It's sponsored by the National Assn. of Social Workers-Metro Chapter. Will get you 6 CEUs!

Saturday April 21, 2001

Dynamic Speaking & Workshop Leading, Program Marketing & Internet Entrepreneuring: "How To" Skills and Strategies

http://naswmetro.org/janfeb/gorkin.htm [Take a peek at a fun pic.]

c) Check out my website for Metro-DC April-May workshops on Stress and on Anger open to the public; www.stressdoc.com

 

Stress Doc Work Stress Q & A:

HR.com asked me to expand an article on how to deflate expansive egos and disarm power struggles as a trainer or workshop leader. Three common provocative scenarios are illustrated along with three uncommon and satisfying strategic interventions.

 

Battling and Seducing Egos at the Training Battlefront

As authority figures working on a visible and vulnerable stage, workshop and training leaders often become lightning rods for highly charged, emotional sparks and for ego-driven sparring. With years of combat experience -- painful, joyful, humbling and ego toughening -- I don't mind being put on the hot seat, whether in a one-on-one or group vs. leader contest. Now, intellectual and psychological confrontation excites me; maybe adrenaline has become my mental testosterone. A bigger concern is when an innocent bystander gets caught in the leader-participant crossfire. With these battle contexts in mind, this essay will provide three past conflict-driven vignettes. A tactfully assertive approach and two psychohumor techniques highlight interventions for disarming provocative competitors and self-centered and rebellious upstagers at the training battlefront.

1. Participant Challenging Leader. This scenario involved a middle-aged Navy Civilian Manager who, during a Conflict Management workshop, would routinely interrupt or quickly rebut my conflict resolution concepts and techniques. He claimed my tactics were naïve in his world of military-civilian power struggles. Before breaking for lunch, I called him over and asked, "Do we have a personality conflict?" He seemed startled by my question. He was also surprised by my description of his behavior, for example, rebutting so quickly without acknowledging the point that it was hard to imagine how much thought went into his reaction. His was a classic Type A conflict communication pattern - impatient and judgmental. I asked him to consider my perspective.

Fortunately, a later group exercise provided similar feedback from other workshop participants (from other government agencies). By the end of the two-day program, this combative Navy Man was determined to be a more careful listener and be less indiscriminately critical. And this public declaration was not just intended for his employees and colleagues, but also with his teenage son.

Learning Curve and Conclusion. A non-combative, non-adversarial yet authentic and personal approach helped disarm my antagonist. Getting backup from other participants was also vital. (We don't have to be the Lone Ranger.) And by reducing his aggressive emotional charge, this individual was freed to shift the focus from proving me wrong and defending his modus operandi to more honestly observing and challenging himself.

2. Ringleader-Group Against Leader. This vignette highlights the inherent training tension when upper management mandates participation and there's also a culture clash between leader and audience. The group consisted of 15 front-line supervisors of a Louisiana printing plant. These guys were definitely Cajun cowboys in appearance and attitude. Already disgruntled, they didn't take kindly to my somewhat formal and stiff academic air and attire. (Alas, I wasn't such a wild and crazy guy in my early training years.)

Noticing my business card attached to the handout packet, a ringleader suddenly pounces: "What are all those letters after your name?" Gulp…I'm being set up, still I proceed: "Well, the BCSW is a Board Certified Social Worker state license and the ACSW is for Academy of Certified Social Workers, a national certification." Without missing a beat, Mr. Ringleader chimes up, "Must take you a long time to say your name."

Ouch. A "we gotcha" snicker snakes around the room. After silently licking my wounds, feisty instincts surface: "You know, the father of an ex-girl friend, a self-made businessman who never went to college, helped me put all that in perspective. He also asked me what those letters were. So I explained the BCSW license and the ACSW certification. He then said, 'Mark, don't forget, you have one other four letter degree." Puzzled, I said, 'What's that?' He shot back: 'C-R-A-P!'"

Well the room erupted with laughter, including the ringleader. I had taken the group's best shots and was still standing and thinking on my feet. I had earned some respect. And the rest of the workshop was as easy as eating crawfish pie and file gumbo.

 

Learning Curve and Conclusion. Cultural diversity issues too easily lead to divisiveness and "black or white" stereotyping. Higher power humor is a universal healing tool that allows a trainer to avoid defensiveness yet be constructively aggressive. You can poke some fun at yourself while still being self-affirming. And such a humble yet humorous approach reduces the tension often reflexively triggered by obvious or superficial differences while strengthening the common human bond.

3. Leader-Provocative Participant-Innocent Participant Triangle. The setting for the final example is a federal government agency in the throes of reorganization. The group is engaged in a two-person role-play exercise. One dyad involved a rather good-looking gentleman in his mid-late 50s and a woman half his age. In the role-play, this gentleman is helping his partner grapple with the restructuring; and for the woman it's not an imaginary exercise: the young lady has actually been transferred to another department. She is upset both with the loss of the familiar - tasks, colleagues and friends - and because her commuting time may now double or triple.

In the feedback segment, the suave looking fellow raises his hand and, with a somewhat self-important tone, comments, "I didn't really have my heart in this exercise." Glancing at the woman, I catch a fleeting but perceptibly pained expression. Looking at me, she exclaims, "I thought he was sincere." In the pregnant moment, a face-saving reply spontaneously generates. Turning to the fellow and the audience, I playfully observe, "Gee, you know this guy broke a lot of hearts when he was younger." Well, our male lead cracks up laughing, and the audience, including our female protagonist, follows suit.

Learning Curve and Conclusion. By carefully observing the physical attributes and unfolding dynamics - age difference, attractiveness, self-important pronouncement, hurt expression - for me a sense of injustice and empathy are ignited. And a "tongue fooey" counter helps our female player in distress while humbling Senor Suave with a subtle thrust. Yet this psychic swordsmanship is double-edged, delivering a stroke, not just a strike, to his ego. By appealing to his vanity and former conquests, I'm being a good winner. Lightly exposing his egocentric manner, I nudge Mr. "Too Cool" from his high horse while allowing for a gentle(man's) landing.

Remember, it's easier for participants to laugh at themselves and it's safer to acknowledge flaws and foibles when they are playfully (yet purposefully) teased out through understanding banter. So as a training leader, seek the higher power of humor: May the Farce Be with You!

 

Shrink Rap: The Secret of Wisdom

 

Have to thank my colleague and friend Tula for some recent exposure in a popular newsletter, The Motivational Mailer. I know it has a big following. I've received over fifty requests from TMM readers to get on my free newsletter list. Either these folks are very discriminating, literate and thoughtful types or they need to get a life beyond online newsletters. Just kidding. ;-)

Tula, herself puts out two popular and thought-provoking e-newsletters called Wisdom Seekers and Enduring Wisdom, the former provides daily quotes on an array of meaningful subjects, the latter has comprehensive passages from powerful thinkers and writers. (She even solicits readers' suggestions for authors to be featured.)

Tula710@aol.com

Reply-to: wisdomseekers-owner@yahoogroups.com

Her support came at a good time as we are both feeling the effects, one as publisher, the other as potential author, of the dot.bomb crisis. Whether the challenge is advertising revenue shortfall or book production slowdown, the economic and psychological fallout for many folks is not trivial. In this challenging moment many would like to discover "The Secret of Wisdom."

-----------------------------

The Motivational Mailer   April 3, 2001

==================================================

THE SECRET OF WISDOM

Words of wisdom. Most of us seek them. I immediately think of

two of my favorite sayings. Jonas Salk, the great scientific

pioneer observed: "Evolution is about getting up one more time

than we fall down, being courageous one more time than we are

fearful...trusting one more time than being anxious." And along

with a sense of persistence, everyday struggle and appreciation

for even small triumphs is the need for serenity: "Grant me the

serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to

change the things I can...and the wisdom to know where to hide

the bodies." No...Just kidding. ;-) "And the wisdom to know

the difference." And the older I get, the more profound "The

Serenity Prayer" seems. Yet, a fundamental question remains:

how the heck do you get the wisdom? Okay, folks. Here it

is...The Secret of Wisdom.

Once there was a young woman who heard that an old wise woman

had the secret of wisdom. The young woman was determined to

track the old woman down. After traveling many months, the

young woman found the old woman in a cave. She entered and

addressed the old woman: "Old Wise Woman, I hear you have

The Secret of Wisdom. Would you share it with me? The old

woman looked at the youth and said, "Yes, you seem sincere.

The Secret of Wisdom is good judgment." "Good judgment, of

course," said the youth, thanked her mentor, and started to

leave. However, as she got to the entrance of the cave she

paused, turned back and said, "Old Woman, I feel funny, but,

if I may ask, how does one obtain good judgment?" "That's

a good question," said the sage. "One obtains good judgment

through experience." "Experience, of course," said the young

seeker, and proceeded to leave. But once again she stopped in

her tracks, and humbly walked back to her mentor. "Old Woman,"

said the young woman, "I feel foolish, but I have to ask: How

does one obtain experience?" The old woman paused, nodded her

head, then proceeded: "Now you have reached the right question.

How does one obtain experience?. . .Through bad judgment!"

Errors of judgment rarely mean 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 the these

unpredictably rejuvenating waters.

And just remember...Practice Safe Stress!

Copyright (c) 2001, Mark Gorkin

All rights reserved worldwide.

Reprinted here with author's permission.

Stress is no laughing matter, that is unless you're multimedia

humorist and psychotherapist Mark Gorkin, who uses the

"Higher Power of Humor" and is internationally known as the

"Stress Doc." His award-winning web site is a comprehensive

and fun-filled resource network highlighting the Doc's popular

national Practice Safe Stress speaking/workshop programs;

his wide-ranging thought-provoking syndicated essays, his

free newsletter, Work & Love Q&A columns and chat services

as the Internet's and America Online's 'Online Psychohumorist.'

The Stress Doc, Motivational Speaker (StressDoc-@aol.com)

http://www.stressdoc.com

 

(c) Mark Gorkin 2001

Shrink Rap™ Productions

The Stress Doc Newsletter

Main Article

APR 2001, No. 1, Sect. 2

Part I of this three-part series introduces a novel organizational productivity, change management and morale-building concept: creating a niche for a Motivational Humorist. Through his Practice Safe Stress workshop, the Stress Doc shows how purposeful and playful humor techniques enliven group discussion, role performance and interactive exercises. Finally, key principles and features of humor and wit are outlined.

Developing a Cadre of Motivational Humorists

For you or your employees, has it become a furious, 24/7 vertigo inducing, lean-and-MEAN, right-sizing and fright-sizing, dot-bombed out world? In a rapidly changing, high and "HARD"-driving work environment - of high demands in "Hours, Accessibility, Responsibility and Data" - ironically, yet not surprisingly, many professionals seem bereft of and, at the same time, overwhelmed by time, energy and resources. One feels out of control; ego-defining goals are in jeopardy. Employees personalize criticism and snap back more quickly. A vaguely anxious, humorless horizon looms ahead: oh no, there's a fine line between vision and hallucination!

In the midst of such corporate and individual drama, what is one to do? Well, we all could do a lot worse than consider the wisdom of the beloved humanitarian and undaunted perceptual pioneer, Helen Keller. Her words still ring with truth: "The world is so full of care and sorrow that it is a gracious debt we owe one another to discover the bright crystals of delight hidden in somber circumstances and irksome tasks."

What if corporations, non-profits and government agencies truly took this message to heart? Does an organization as a whole, without giving everyone raises or unexpected bonuses, or having a besotted holiday party, have the capacity for transforming periods of darkness or heaviness into lightness and enlightenment? To draw on a favorite punchline, can you help your company…Practice Safe Stress?

Motivational Humor: The Four "P" Operational Foundation

Paradigm. Not every HR Manager has the time, nature or inclination to deliver an ongoing one-person light and enlightenment show. But what about a band of in-house motivational mavens assembled by temperament, talent and training. Such a collective likely could help others appreciate the serious in the humorous; or they might cleverly yet compassionately challenge staff to see the glass as half empty and half full even in trying times.

In addition, we know that laughing with gusto is not just fun; it's also a great stress reliever. Such laughter turns your body into a big vibrator giving vital organs a brief but hearty internal massage. And, vigorous laughter seems to lubricate the creative side of the brain as well. The bottom line: dispensing positive humor that helps your employees productively go with the flow in these rapidly cycling, predictably absurd times would be both a valuable investment and an invaluable gift.

Philosophy. Clearly, such a coterie would likely resonate with the individual par excellence who blended the serious and the humorous - the pioneering film genius, Charlie Chaplin. I'd venture that this unique artist - both in concept and application - may well be the father of "Motivational Humor." And at the heart of his philosophical perspective is a double-edged truth: "A paradoxical thing is that in making comedy, the tragic is precisely that which arouses the funny…we have to laugh due to our helplessness in the face of natural forces and (in order) not to go crazy."

Personality. And, along with a rich sense of the tragic, what often helps us laugh at our "helpless" condition is being able to accept our own fears, flaws and foibles, and knowing we are not alone in our frenzy.

So if a person can blend a touch of personal craziness, an appreciation for absurdity or contradiction and an ability to express verbally and nonverbally comfort with neurosis and imperfection there's definite potential as a humorist. Of course, a motivational leader must also have empathy for pain and healthy tolerance for feedback and conflict. Throw into this psychological and communicational gumbo a sense of timing and…voila! You now have a recipe for serious and luminous lunacy. As well as one intriguing job description.

Purpose. Armed with some practical philosophy, a mature yet slightly mischievous personality and en-lightened strategies, skills and techniques a cadre of purposeful and playful interventionists just might positively impact individual and group morale and productivity. The keys to a successful and mirthful "Mission Improbable" involve strengthening mutual understanding, shared enjoyment and collaborative conflict resolution among diverse and often competing people - rather critical objectives in today's always on, "do more with less" increasingly territorial "survivor" climate. So why not a cadre of "Motivational Humorists" for your organization?

Cultivating the Corporate Climate

The development and safe implementation of a cadre of motivational humorists invites both subtle and obvious questions:

a) is the Motivational Humorist role a formal one? Is it more an attempt to shape the values of the corporate culture?

b) Are Motivational Humorists selected or trained (or both)? And if training is involved, what's the curriculum?

c) What are the risks in having a cadre of Motivational Humorists as part of your in-house human resources team - for you (HR Manager), for the humorist, for employees, for the company as a whole?

However, before entering the administrative arena, I would like to sow some startup Motivational Humor seeds. (I will tackle the above risks in the closing segment of this three part series.) A soil and climate must be cultivated for an organization to explore, experiment and embrace such a novel human resources methodology. Key principles of humor and the techniques of a motivational humorist must come to life; humor concepts and healing-harmonizing interventions must capture the attention, build sufficient trust and stir the imagination of employees and management.

Toward this end, the first two parts of the series will explore three roles/scenarios in which Motivational Humor is used as a creative stress and conflict reducing tool:

1) company, division or department workshop (Part I),

2) organizational development and team building consultant (Part II) and

3) workfloor conflict presentation (Part II).

Let's proceed from whole to parts, first illustrating the workings of a general mirthful and motivational workshop that enables participants to safely and constructively express feelings about individual stress and thorny workplace issues and to playfully and creatively problem-solve the same. This program also can be a springboard for legitimizing and training a select group of employees as ongoing Motivational Humor problem solvers and morale boosters. And most likely, this cadre's immediate purpose will be to "Save the Motivational Humor Retreat."

Motivational Humor Startup Scenario

1. Company Workshop. There are various ways to lay the groundwork for a "Motivational Humor" climate in your organization. I have found a large group interactive workshop to be an effective groundbreaking procedure. Let me share some of the process and exercises from my Practice Safe Stress Program: Managing Stress/Conflict and Building Team Morale through Humor. Participants have found two exercises to be particularly engaging: a) a small group discussion-drawing exercise and b) staged skits or "role plays." (As the second "Motivational Humor" scenario will involve a staged production, let's focus on the first verbal-nonverbal learning encounter.)

Actually, the foundation laying begins with a small cluster warmup - "The Three 'B' Stress Barometer Exercise: How does your Brain, Body and Behavior let you know when you are highly stressed?" A more serious discussion of "The Four Stages of Burnout" then follows. The Barometer warmup confirms the updated adage: "People don't just like company…they like miserable company!" Almost everyone can relate to having some stress symptoms these days. And after the burnout phases, plenty are gasping, "Oh no, he's talking about me."

Folks are ready to break the tension, and I accommodate with my pioneering effort in the field of psychologically humorous rap music. As a therapist I call it, naturally, "Shrink Rap" Productions. (I'm also in rap regalia - Blues Brothers hat, black sunglasses and tambourine.) Okay, since you asked, here's a small sample of "The Stress Doc's Stress Rap":

When it come to feelings do you stuff them inside?
Is tough John Wayne your emotional guide?
And it's not just men so proud and tight-lipped
For every Rambo there seems to be a Rambette!…

Are you grouchy with colleagues or quietly mean?
Hell, you'd rather talk to your computer machine.
When the telephone rings you're under the gun
Now you could reach out and really crush someone.

(Email stressdoc@aol.com for the entire lyrics.)

Immediately following the Shrink Rap comes a standard disclaimer: "After twenty years of all kinds of therapy - from Jungian Analysis to Primal Scream - I have one singular accomplishment: Absolutely no appropriate sense of shame." And with the group laughter still in the background, the audience is ready for a moderately risk-taking and maximally rewarding problem-solving experience.

Discussion and Drawing Exercise

First I break up the audience into teams of four or five. Try to have diverse people (gender, race, rank, etc.) or different department personnel working together. Then I ask participants to discuss the sources of stress and conflict in the organization or department. I remind folks that this isn't "true confessions." People are to share only at a level that feels comfortable. After ten minutes of discussion, the team proceeds to generate a group picture or composite of the individual stress scenarios. (Large flip chart paper and a colorful variety of markers are provided.)

Believe me, I've seen it all: sinking ships, stalking dinosaurs, wildly rampaging twisters, exploding castles, barren deserts and consuming black holes; all sorts of chained bodies and contorted faces (along with a lot of "bad hair days"). Adults seem to divide between those who get excited at the prospect of drawing and the greater number who become self-consciously anxious. To clarify task instructions and reduce performance anxiety, I describe a vivid group design from a previous workshop in addition to reassuring participants that I myself am a graduate of The Institute for the Graphically-Impaired. Stick figures are just fine.

The drawing phase is also limited to about ten minutes. In both segments, I periodically give time limit reminders. This invariably heightens arousal level and task focus.

 

You'll have to take my word...but the evolution of shared energy in the room is remarkable. From tentative small group discussion to more open, relaxed sharing; from hovering at the edge of the paper (like a reluctant diver on a high board) to a group now frolicking in a body of images and colors of their own making. The decibel level of laughter increases as the images take exaggerated and symbolic shape and direction.

Finally, we do a "show-guess-and tell," whereby the teams proudly display their colorful composites (perhaps "darkly bright crystals," to modify Ms. Keller's metaphor) while the entire audience free associates to each of the drawings. People can project their perceptions, biases and fantasies onto the pictures. This last interactive-feedback segment becomes a free associative, supportive and playfully aggressive large group catharsis.

Before closing the experience, I ask the audience to reflect on what made the exercise valuable and enjoyable. Here's a condensed consensus list:

a) an opportunity to share real feelings and discover you are not alone, and a greater understanding of the stressors other people and departments are encountering,

b) the realization that "drawing out" feelings, especially angry ones, allows for lampooning, relief and fun,

c) the process of exaggerated drawing allows one to see some of the absurdity in the situation, to take persons and things less personally, while putting events in proportion or a more objective perspective; there's a feeling, even if momentary, of increased control,

d) there was no one right answer, everybody's experience and input was valuable,

e) the exercise was an uncommon mix of both emotional process and being kept on task, and

f) there was creative energy and a chance for true teamwork.

So the exercise enables participants to vent, to gain support and insight while generating laughter and group synergy. In fact, this exercise often breaks the ice between individuals, status hierarchies, sections, departments, etc. It facilitates beginning conflict resolution during the program and also sets the stage for future collaborative problem solving. A playful and uncommon time and safe space have evolved that allows workshop participants and groups to move beyond frustration and the realm of aggressive humor. Both as individuals and team members, quite a few folks are now exploring and experiencing themselves as well as colleagues in the role of the healing humorist.

Humor Principles and Techniques

Let's extract the key humor characteristics from the opening exercises, especially the "Shrink Rap" and the discussion-drawing group interaction. This will enable you and your cadre to start developing a "Motivational Humorist" bag of principles, techniques and tricks.

Five Principles and Techniques

1. Recognize the Personal and the Practical. Healing humor often involves playfully exposing or acknowledging everyday occurrences - like different kinds of stress. During the feedback segment of the Barometer Exercise, for example, when a group mentions "sleeping problems," I'll highlight the double-edged nature of sleep disturbance: "Aren't there days when you don't want to get out from under the covers for nothin?…Then aren't there some people who know all the best buys on eBay or the Home Shopping Channel at three in the morning?" When people realize they are not alone in their fear, frustration or frenzy, laughing with others and even at themselves becomes easier.

2. Introduce Elements of Surprise, Contradiction and the Unexpected. Fast on the heels of a mostly serious presentation on "The Four Stages of Burnout," the group is not prepared for my metamorphosis into a Shrink Rapper. Both surprise and contradiction have come to play. Sure there are immediate groans and startled expressions. But I'm also challenging the participants to grapple with a cognitively complex, paradoxical truth: one can embody both a serious role (therapist/presenter) and a playful persona (performance rapper).

Yet because of the tension generated by the "Stages" and the edginess of my "Rap" number, once past their moans or state of shock, people tend to embrace the witty and truthful message. And upon completion they cheer heartily. (Of course, there's a quick self-effacing counter: "That's okay. I know when an audience is applauding out of relief.") Surprising humor and ensuing laughter are a dynamic tension-building and tension-breaking team.

Also, worth mentioning, the Rap Performance lasts just over a minute. So there are both the surprise and the Shakespearean factors. As the great bard noted: "Brevity is the soul of wit."

3. Make It Vivid and Visual. Clearly the Shrink Rap conforms to these specs; but so does the discussion-drawing exercise. A setting that encourages channeling verbal frustration into exaggerated and outrageous images, literally does just that: it gets the rage out in a safe fashion transforming individual anxiety and aggression into shared lampooning and laughter. The images are larger than life; for a moment, anyway, a devil of a boss loses some of his fearful fire when adorned with a tail and horns on his head. The value of absurdist humor is that it can transform frightening reality into fantasy or have frightening fantasy dissolve into the ridiculous.

Another point worth considering. For many participants, the drawing segment is initially anxiety producing. So folks are often surprised at the productive result - how group collaboration can turn negative energy into creative collaboration and team synergy. And, finally, the presentation of the images to a knowing and appreciative audience allows each group and spokesperson to get recognition and a concrete sense of the role of healing and harmonizing humorist.

4. Boldly Expose Our Inconsistencies and Insanities, Our Fantasies and Foibles. The "Shrink Rap" performance definitely has me confronting "The Intimate FOE: Fear of Exposure." My lack of formal music training, not to mention tenuous rhythmic capacity, is fairly transparent. Some folks initially laugh at me; some immediately enjoy the silliness. And eventually, most get past the silliness and appreciate the cleverness and relevance of the lyrics. I'm not particularly worried about looking and sounding ridiculous. Actually, I see myself as a model for playfulness. If I'm not taking myself so seriously, maybe audience members can be a little less hard on themselves and be more risk-taking.

This capacity for self-effacing humor is critical for a Motivational Humorist as it is based on ego strength and the awareness of limitations, not self-deprecation. Such a humorous perspective also reflects loosening of inhibition and lowering the volume of rigid or judgmental inner voices. This is not a passive stance but an active one, providing "Triple A" insurance:

a) Aggression. There's a confident, if not somewhat competitive, component to self-effacing humor. It tells an audience or an antagonist, "I can poke fun at myself even better than you can poke fun at me." Or, "You only know the half of it…my pain, my cleverness, etc."

b) Affirmation. When audiences laugh warmly at such humor, they vicariously acknowledge their own shortcomings and, most important, are likely admiring the humorist's display of openness and courage.

c) Acceptance. The ability to expose flaws and foibles often is a tangible sign of self-acceptance; perfect performance has been replaced with purposefulness and playfulness as a modus operandi.

Even Sigmund Freud might have acknowledged the potential contributions of a healing humorist. For Freud, the capacity for mature humor - by which he meant internalizing the encouragement of our efforts and the gentle tolerance of our failures - is perhaps the greatest gift parental figures can bestow upon a child…or a Motivational Humorist can share with a colleague.

5. Distinguish and Combine Humor and Wit. Perhaps the power of the "Shrink Rap" is that it blends humor and wit. Bouncing around the room in Blues/Rap regalia while shaking a tambourine in rhythmically challenged fashion is dramatically at odds with my serious role and professional image as a psychotherapist and stress expert. According to the Random House Dictionary, the performance also illuminates the definition of humor: The recognition and expression of incongruities or peculiarities in a situation or character. It illustrates some fundamental absurdity in human nature or conduct.

In contrast, the lyrics articulate the wily and wicked ways of "wit": The quick apprehension and ingenious and apt expression of the connections or analogous properties between things seemingly unlike. Actually, the terms "Shrink Rap" and "Practice Safe Stress" also embody this essence. Some more lyrics:

The boss makes demands yet gives little control
So you pray on chocolate and wish life were dull.
But office desk's a mess, often skipping meals
Inside your car looks like a pocketbook on wheels.

Those deadlines, deadlines; all that aggravation
Whew…you only have time for procrastination.
Now I made you feel guilty, you want to confess
Better you should practice "The Art of Safe Stress"!

Practice Safe Stress…definitely a classic witticism fulfilling the renowned author and humorist, Mark Twain's ingenious conception: "Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation."

Finally, here are some bullets along with an example to distinguish these two vital "Motivational Humorist" tools.

Key Features of Humor:

** Says things in a funny way

** What is being observed

** Often has a non-verbal component

** Is silly and playful

** Caution: Can turn into the ridiculous

Humor frequently is slow, awkward and gentle; the audience may be caught off-guard, but is not typically threatened. For example, I liken healing humor to letting the air out of a balloon; it involves tickling the funny bone or poking fun with, not just at, another.

Key Features of Wit:

** Saying funny or paradoxical things

** Mostly derived from the observer's cognitive processing

** Highly verbal

** Clever and artful

** Caution: Can turn into ridicule

Wit is rapid and incisive; sharp or biting: putting a needle to a balloon, that is, skewering another or deflating an ego, not just gently poking fun.

When healing and harmonizing humor and wily yet wise wit are joined and put to work by "Motivational Humorists" they can energize and humanize your world.

Conclusion

This two-part series explores ways companies can purposefully inject tension-relieving and morale/productivity-building humor into work relations and group settings. Part I has examined the uses of humor in group discussion, role performance and interactive exercises within a Practice Safe Stress workshop. Also outlined, key principles and features of humor and wit.

Part II features several case examples of the creative use of humor in the role of OD Consultant and in workfloor conflict prevention, and in two non-common system settings. Building on Part I "Principles," this segment illustrates key strategies, techniques and tips for developing a cadre of "Motivational Humorists." And finally, key administrative questions will be addressed:

a) Is this a formal role or an attempt to shape the values of the corporate culture?

b) Can anyone volunteer or are "Motivational Humorists" selected then trained (or both)? And if training is involved, what's the curriculum?

c) What are the risks in having a cadre of "Motivational Humorists" as part of your formal or informal in-house, human resources team: for you, for the "humorists, for employees, for the division or company as a whole?

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, known as "The Stress Doc," is the Internet's and America Online's "Online Psychohumorist"™. An experienced psychotherapist, The Doc is a nationally recognized speaker and training and OD consultant specializing in Stress, Anger Management, Reorganizational Change, Team Building and HUMOR! His writings are syndicated in a wide variety of online and offline forums and publications, including AOL's Online Psych and Business Know How, WorkforceOnline, Mental Health Net, Financial Services Journal Online, Paradigm Magazine and Counseling Today. Check out his USA Today Online "Hotsite" Website -- www.stressdoc.com . For info on his workshops or for his free newsletter, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 202-232-8662. Spring 2000, look for Practice Safe Stress with The Stress Doc™, published by AdviceZone.com.

Higher Power of Humor Section

Subj: The Weekly Psyclone-Final Issue

From: LDRS OLP Randi

INTERNET AXIOMS

Submitted by iVillagers cheezcrisp & JM

1. Home is where you hang your @.

2. The e-mail of the species is more deadly than the mail.

3. A journey of a thousand sites begins with a single click.

4. You can't teach a new mouse old clicks.

5. Great groups from little icons grow.

6. Speak softly and carry a cellular phone.

7. C: is the root of all directories.

8. Don't put all your hypes in one home page.

9. Pentium wise; pen and paper foolish.

10. The modem is the message.

11. Too many clicks spoil the browse.

12. The geek shall inherit the earth.

13. A chat has nine lives.

14. Don't byte off more than you can view.

15. Fax is stranger than fiction.

16. What boots up must come down.

17. Windows will never cease.

18. Virtual reality is its own reward.

19. Modulation in all things.

20. A user and his leisure time are soon parted.

21. There's no place like home.com.

22. Know what to expect before you connect.

23. Oh, what a tangled website we weave when first we practice.

24. Speed thrills.

25. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to use the Net and he won't bother you for weeks.

Seek the Higher Power of Humor:

May the Farce Be with You!

(c) Mark Gorkin 2000

Shrink Rap™ Productions