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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

APR 2004, Sec. II

Main Article:

If you're trying to manage an overloaded schedule, this article written for the DC Association of Meeting Planners should hit home.

Safe Stress Tips for the Springtime

Springtime for Meeting Planners.  As much as the cherry blossom buds, meeting and conference buzz fills the landscape and mindscape.  Unless, as the eleventh hour approaches, the buzz feels like a buzz saw, and now you fear being sliced and diced and spread way too thin.  From rates of attrition to contract negotiation, from indemnification and acts of terrorism, is springtime morphing into stresstime?

Have no fear…for springing lightly above the blooming and buzzing confusion, Five Stress Doc Tips:
1.  Start Early.  For one Planner, meeting survival means the big tasks are done thirty days before the E-Day (Event Day) invasion.  You'll have the energy and clarity to manage unexpected fires and last minute details.  The strategic key, of course, is self-organization and overcoming procrastination tendencies.  Easier said than done?

2.  Start Small.  At the onset, many are prone to big project paralysis.  To get started, carve out a doable first step, no matter how small or seemingly trivial.  Amazingly, this provides a window of opportunity:  at minimum, you can begin transforming an overwhelming mass into a manageable mess.  Though multi-tasking is the buzz, sometimes you need to establish mental and physical boundaries - such as an occasional closed door (or perhaps bamboo-like curtains for a cube) or temporarily turning off a cell phone.  When necessary, your "step" mantra:  "One task at a time!"

Of course, as a once big time procrastinator, I had to learn the hard and humbling way.  Unbelievably, my mother was a channel for the ancient Roman poet Horace:  To begin is to be half done.  Dare to know - start!  (And you wonder why I'm such an expert on stress, performance and neurosis.)

3.  N & N, Not Just R & R.  After a crazy conference, you surely know the importance of taking time for "Rest & Recreation."  (Though, speaking of steps, sometimes "R & R" seems closer to "Rehabilitation & Recovery.")  But for a prevention strategy, "N & N" is as good as it gets:  the ability to say "No" and to "Negotiate."  Alas, the ability to "Just Say No" ain't always so easy.  People who avoid conflict at all cost, or who have an inordinate need to be liked, and also believe they must always be pleasing or accommodating may be vulnerable to being overextended and exhausted.  Remember, burnout is less a sign of failure and more that we gave ourselves away.

Consider these steps for "N & N":
Ø Don't reflexively say "no" unless absolutely necessary or you are clear about what you can and cannot do
Ø Sleep on or reflect upon the other's order or request; identify your concerns and questions.  Now's a good time to bounce ideas off a supervisor, colleague or mentor.  Develop a support system that understands your business.  As one Planner noted:  When it comes to her work, "family members don't have a clue."
Ø Reengage the other party and now explain your concerns and the reason for your "no"; also provide exploratory problem-solving options and negotiation points.  When negotiating with a supervisor about workload, for example, if your plate is truly full ask for her help in reprioritizing key tasks.   Don't be the "Lone Planner."

Try this Stress Doc aphor-mation:  "A firm 'No' a day keeps the ulcers away…and the hostilities too!"

4.  Negotiate with Flexibility and Integrity.  As a negotiator, strive to be confident and flexibly firm.  For example, when negotiating with a NIH program committee (interviewing a number of potential speakers), these members looked askance when I shared my intention to do a discussion and drawing exercise with 150 participants, despite the auditorium setting.  (The committee members could not conceive of such an exercise in the tight space.  Previous success in such settings was my negotiation partner.)  I had agreed to content changes but held fast to my signature exercise.  I left the interview thinking my "bottom line" stance had me on the bottom of the interview barrel.  To my surprise, they gave me the contract.  The reason:  the committee liked my conviction, confidence, passion and track record.  (P.S. The exercise was a smash hit.)

5.  Communal Sharing, Playing and Laughing.  The aforementioned exercise has had a near magical quality as an individual, departmental, and, even, organizational stress reliever and team builder.  The audience is divided into small groups that discuss the sources of stress and conflict in their workplace operations.  (Make group composition diverse, e.g., by seniority, gender, race, etc.)  Then the individual stress perspectives are converted into a group picture with a common theme, into a stress icon or a visual story.  Transforming angst into a shared creative art project becomes a team adventure for high energy, passionate play and camaraderie.

For example, when an unreasonably demanding customer or a "devil of a boss" has a long tail, exaggerated ears and whip in hand or the organizational ship has sprung a leak and the sharks are circling, the gales of laughter erupting throughout the room indicate how much the participants needed this "Stress Brake."  (And the revelry is a builder of trust:  management is open to creative and constructive expressions of frustration and employee feedback.)  People feel less isolated knowing there are common concerns.  And science tells us that hearty laughter really is good medicine:  such laughing is like turning your body into a big vibrator giving vital organs a brief but vigorous internal massage.  The endorphin chemicals released are natural mind calmers and mood uplifters.

As psychiatrist Ernst Kris observed:  What was once feared and is now mastered is laughed at.
And as the Stress Doc inverted:  What was once feared and is now laughed at is no longer a master!

Surely words for springtime rebirth and renewal, and words to help you…Practice Safe Stress!

Shrink Rap:

"The Passion" of Gibson vs. the Passion of Gorkin

P.S.  I saw Gibson's movie last night; sent a review to a friend.  If you think this is worth publishing, I'll do some final edits.  Of course, my take/expression is not quite detached and objective.

Don't believe the hype, right?

J, Of course, I bring the perspective of a Jewish Atheist.  (And my biggest fear is people will accuse me of being redundant. ;-)
But I also bring the perspective of someone who rarely sees the world in black or white.  Alas, in this film almost all Roman soldiers are blood thirsty, sadistic Nazi-types (how come Roman citizens were not considered Christ-killers?  Oh, the Pope lives in Rome, of course; please forgive my cynicism.)
The Jewish patriarchy are portrayed as a threatened, shallow, calculating cabal, who will do anything to rid themselves of a threat to their authority.  The Jewish rabble come across as a mostly mindless mob, bloodthirsty and (with the exception of one-mulatto-skinned Jew) more than ready to see Christ crucified.  They are seen as blindly obedient to their leadership.  (Again, the irony is that Gibson makes the Roman and Jewish characters/groups out to be very Nazi/Germany-like in psychology and sociology.  I wonder where this craving for violence, glorification of violence and blood, degradation of fellow human beings, transcendent purity vs. evil scum dichotomy comes from.  Not from Mel's "I know the light" mind...nooo)
In comparison, Pontius Pilate is shown as a much more subtle human figure, with a wife sympathetic to Jesus and his preachings/powers.  Again, Pilate has some sympathy for Christ, and his existential angst over whether he should have Jesus killed (i.e., turned over to the Jewish Mafia) or not.  And even his fear of being punished by Caesar if more uprisings break out among the Jews makes him seem much more of a complex human figure in comparison to the various high and low bloodthirsty beasts.  Damn, even Judas, is allowed some redemption.
It's only the Romans who temper the evilness of the Jews.  Though in some way the Roman soldiers are excused from having human attributes or feeling because they are truly portrayed as vicious animals, almost incapable of stopping their murderous lust.  The Jews, by comparison have just enough touches of being homo sapiens so that their defensive yet chosen behavior makes them responsible, guilty and evil.  (Their pure evil is not unlike the devil character who periodically walks among them, as one reviewer noted.)
If this was a movie that didn't have the spiritual-historical context, I'd say it was a Grade B-- movie.  Some good acting.  Some beautiful photography.  Emotional story.  A hero you want to root for.  But the bad guys are such obvious setups.
Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the movie is that it is so violent, the characters early on are so heinous, that after a short while, hardly any emotions registered.  After two minutes of violent whipping then, later, gouging, I just got inured.  (The scene goes on for ten minutes.)  Gibson's bloodlust and/or his pandering to what he thinks modern day audiences want, prevented this from truly being a psychologically powerful story with real characters, e.g., more of the interaction with disciples, Mother, Mary; more of the fears and prejudices of the Jewish leaders, etc. Gibson used such a crude and cruel brush that, ironically, it wasn't that I was turned off or repelled by the violence (okay a couple of times I turned away, e.g., when the spike was being driven into his hand, for example) but that I didn't feel brought into a genuinely engaging story.  This rendition was hardly "The Greatest Story Ever Told."  I didn't feel the kind of empathy/sympathy that this normally all too sensitive guy feels for characters and their pain, plight and their passion.
Now some who are spiritual-emotional believers and who don't care about the lack of artistic substance and style, (i.e., the low-minded, malicious manipulation) may overlook (or I suppose, even agree with) Gibson's take on characters and plot.  I suspect there will be a numbers of Christians who see through Mel's treatment; but I wonder.
So I guess the movie did move me, perhaps seeing it brought to the fore some of my own biases and prejudices as a non-deistic-seeking yet still spiritual human-artist.  However, it mostly angered me for its motivation, manipulation, malevolence and mayhem, when I think there is potentially a human and heartfelt and transcendent story to tell, even for this nonbeliever.  But it raises another question:  do most religions need evil figures in order to justify their righteousness, truthfulness, being the exalted path, etc.  Aren't we seeing enough real life violence, terror and bloodshed from such individuals, groups and their religions (or the individual interpretations of the same), i.e., people who equate nonbelievers as blasphemers and infidels (or "geeks" in a non-religious context) thus more easily justifying their condemnation and eventual extermination?
Anyway, I hope you see it so we can talk more about it.  Thanks for allowing me to righteously rant. ;-)

Hi J

Thanks for the Chicago Times review.   http://www.suntimes.com/output/ebert1/cst-ftr-passion24.html THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST / **** (R)

I think it was very thoughtful; perhaps Ebert saw the glass as mostly full while I saw it at least half empty.  The occasional kind gesture of the Jewish characters seemed to me to come from people who were sympathetic to Jesus, not from a Jew who was not swayed by Christ.  To me, these Jews were portrayed as a rather cruel rabble.
And as for Caiaphas being ambivalent, that also didn't come through to me.  I think Ebert's point about Gibson leaving out the saying "if one man needs to be sacrificed to protect a nation," speaks volumes.  I don't think he wanted Caiaphas as a nuanced character.
But thanks.  It does give me a wider perspective reading the review of someone who is quite favorable.  I try to understand all sides.
And I was thinking further about my rant.  There have been many times in history where large numbers of a country, of a racial, religious or ethnic group, etc. have from an overall perspective behaved in an evil way:  institution of slavery (which, btw, was rationalized by many church leaders/followers), how Americans slaughtered and displaced the Native Americans, the Holocaust, Stalin, Pol Pot, Sadam Hussein, etc.  Alas, martyrs are a part of human history.  People who bring new and profound ideas often are perceived as threatening and dangerous by those in power, and indirectly by those who follow the powerful.  And die for their courage and convictions.  (And such a martyr's/hero's death -- Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, etc -- ultimately seems to make their their essential truths about the human spirit burn brighter in that darkened night.)  And, of course, it has taken many Jews many decades to not feel revulsion for all things German; and some will never forgive.  So, I guess Gibson is entitled to stigmatize and demonize a people (even if it's a couple of thousand years after the fact).  But I still think he dumbed down and numbed down a good story.

So let me just say, that in my opinion, I think it's important that you get your review out there (somewhere) for people to read. Someone needs to keep speaking up for those us that care about "psychologically powerful stories" (as you put it all so well) and to speak against all the excessive violence that Hollywood keeps pushing on us. The bottom line for me is the same as your bottom line. (And by the way, just so you know, I'll listen. So rant anytime.

Can I ask the Stress Doc for advice? I'm on a list serve of mental health professionals and one of them asked if anyone had seen Mel Gibson's film The Passion.  I answered, that I did not intend to see it for two reasons: 1) It was anti-semitic and 2) I was disturbed enough by the torture scenes I had to watch on Jesus movies as a child and this movie was full of graphic hard core violence.

Well, now all the Christian Counselors have come out of the woodwork and are individually posting to each some variation of Jesus saves and he died for your sins. THEY WON"T GO AWAY.

Does the stress doc have any witty comeback or advice?

Try this D.

Now I'm convinced you are well versed in "The Passion," as your, I'm sure, well-justified righteousness is increasing my suffering.  (Passion's meaning originally had less to do with sex; in the Latin it meant pain or suffering.)

Heads Up:

Selected April Speaking Program:

1.  PESI Healthcare. 
Three Managing Anger/Preventing Violence Continuing Education Seminars for PESI Healthcare in Lexington, Worcester and Springfield Mass.

2.  Paralegal SuperConference.  Upcoming Dynamic Teaming and Practice Safe Stress Keynote in LA on April 23rd for Estrin Professional Careers.  More info:  888-803-8807

3.  Building Owners.  Safe Stress Keynote in Tulsa, OK for Building Owners Assn. (members in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma) for Brewer Management Group on April 24.  More info:  918-742-1403


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: Training/Marketing Kit http://stressdoc.com/kitbook.htm or email.

2. "R & R" (Rap & Relaxation) CD:
(a) Relaxation-Visualization CD (10-minutes); with three Shrink Raps™ and two of the Stress Doc's classic articles:  "The Four Stags of Burnout" and "The Stress Doc's 'Top Ten' Stress Tips."  (Total time:  55-minutes.)

Price:  $15

3.  Stress Doc Books:

a) Almost Hot:  The Paperback Version is about to be "live":

Practicing Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, & Depression, 2004, Stress Doc Enterprises

Almost Hot off the Press and Ready for Download: The Stress Doc's Store Front

Practice Safe Stress tackles the "Toxic-Traumatic Trio" -- stress, burnout, and depression.  Learn practical and playful, inspiring and insightful strategies for transforming these toxins into life-affirming energy, creative focus, and goal-achievement.  Bringing a personal, professional, and organizational perspective, the book is alive with imaginative language and memorable "how to" ideas for:

§ Understanding the "Four Stages of Burnout," the "Erosive Spiral"
§ Rebuilding your fire and developing "Natural SPEED"
§ Achieving liberation through "Emancipation Procrastination"
§ Reducing conflict as a healing or motivational "psychohumorist" ™

There are satirical essays on "lean-and-MEAN" managers and on mismanaged downsizings.  Learn to "laugh in the face of layoffs" and ponder the possibility of "Van Gogh, Prozac, and Creativity."  The Stress Doc also shares his his own trials, errors, and triumphs in battling the "Toxic Trio."

Safe Stress provides many discrete "Top Ten" lists and "strategic tips" essays useful as educational/informational handouts.  To quote the Internet Newsroom:  Your Guide to the World of Electronic Factgathering:  "The most outstanding feature…is his 'psychohumor' essays.  Always witty, thought-provoking, and helpful."  With this easy-to-follow, fast-paced, and fun health and wellness guide, you'll return often to Practice Safe Stress.

Published:  2004; Pages:  372

Paper:  $20 (plus 3.85 for priority shipping and $2.00 for 1st class shipping)
Ebook:  $15


The Four Faces of Anger:  Model and Method
Transforming Anger, Rage and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior

The "Four Faces of Anger" presents an elegantly simple yet intellectually powerful model that will challenge your beliefs about anger -- both regarding its range of emotion and its potential for positive communication.  The book is a dynamic blend of popular psychohumor articles, essays, case examples and short vignettes, as well as Stress Doc Q & As and even "Shrink Rap" ™ lyrics.  You will gain ideas and tools, skills and techniques for personal control, playful intervention and conflict mastery.  Learn to:

Ø Identify self-defeating styles of anger and violence-prone personalities
Ø Transform hostility and rage into assertion and passion
Ø Confront directly or disarm outrageously critics and (passive) aggressors
Ø Bust the guilt not burst a gut
Ø Prevent emails from becoming e-missiles

And finally, his years as a multimedia psychotherapist and as a Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service yield a survival and spiritual mantra at the heart of the "Four Faces of Anger":

Seek the higher power of Stress Doc humor…May the Farce Be With You!

Published:  2004; Pages:  114


Paperback:  $20 (includes shipping and handling)
E-Book:  $15


c) Hard Copy Book -- Truly on the Cutting Edge

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)

To purchase books and/or tape, make check payable to:  Mark Gorkin

Send check to:

Mark Gorkin
Stress Doc Enterprises
1616 18th Street, NW  #312
Washington, DC 20009-2542

Questions?  Call 202-232-8662


4. Chat Group:
Stop by my AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) and Group Chat DC Debate Tuesdays, 9:30-11pm EST DC Support Chat (Alas, only for AOL members.)

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, an international/Celebrity Cruise Lines speaker, training consultant, psychotherapist, syndicated writer, and upcoming author of Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression.  Mark, recently interviewed by BBC Radio, has a multi-award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com -- cited as workplace resource in a National Public Radio feature.  As AOL's "Online Psychohumorist," ™ Mark runs his weekly Shrink Rap and Group Chat.  Email for his monthly newsletter recently showcased on List-a-Day.com.For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 202-232-8662.

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2004
Shrink Rap Productions