The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™
APR 2004, Sec. II
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 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
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
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
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
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
"The Passion" of Gibson vs. the Passion of Gorkin
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
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
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
Anyway, I hope you see it so we can talk more about it. Thanks for allowing me
to righteously rant. ;-)
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
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
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
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.)
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
b) 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)
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:
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
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 email@example.com
or call 202-232-8662.
(c) Mark Gorkin 2004
Shrink Rap Productions