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
Main Essay: Developing a Cadre of Motivational Humorists
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.
I've got to tell you that your show is one of the all-time greats. We can't wait to air it.
Nutritionality, March 17-18, 2001
Date: 3/17/2001 6:58:12 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: email@example.com (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.
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
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.
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:
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
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
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:
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
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.)
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 (StressDocfirstname.lastname@example.org)
(c) Mark Gorkin 2001
Shrink Rap™ Productions
The Stress Doc Newsletter
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
When the telephone rings you're under the gun
Now you could reach out and really
(Email email@example.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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
But office desk's a mess, often skipping meals
Inside your car looks like a pocketbook
Those deadlines, deadlines; all that aggravation
Whew…you only have time for
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or
call 202-232-8662. Spring 2000, look for Practice Safe Stress with The Stress Doc™, published by
Higher Power of Humor Section
Subj: The Weekly Psyclone-Final Issue
From: LDRS OLP Randi
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