The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™
DEC 2004, Sec.
Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
Table of Contents
Shrink Rap I:
Lights, Camera, Action: Transitioning from the Cave to the Stage
Readers: Canada Busy Sending Back Bush-Dodgers
Main Article: Disarming Critical and Power-Driven Aggressors
Heads Up: Dept. of Justice/Federal Witness Assistance Unit, American
Offerings: Training Kit, Books, CD and AOL Chat
The Stress Doc's "psychohumorist" persona lately has been in demand and "on
stage" - whether requested by other people or of his own making. From a video
proposal and a different standup experience to a picture of the Stress Swami in
action, the Doc continues to Practice Safe Stress. In fact, this article
includes his "humor as stress reliever" script for the upcoming shoot. Enjoy!
Lights, Camera, Action:
Transitioning from the Cave to the Stage
My self-invented role as a "Psychohumorist" ™ is receiving some high profile
attention. The Department of Agriculture (DOA) recently approached a consulting
firm about producing a stress video. DOA has an extensive Continuing Education
program. The school wants to have a stress videostream that can be a reference
download. When it was decided that the video would have a "humor as a stress
reliever' segment, the consulting firm called the "Stress Doc" ™. I'll have six
minutes max on camera. It's been years since I've used a teleprompter; the last
time was for a New Orleans Public Television (WYES) taping. Back then we shot
five five-minute segments. It was an exhausting, all-day affair. Being out of
practice, might the Stress Doc need a taste of his own medicine? Still, one
character flaw may prove beneficial: absolutely no appropriate sense of shame.
I'll also try to hold on to wisdom gained from my early-80s "stage fright"
meltdown during an inaugural taping of a Cable TV health segment: The only
thing more dangerous than taking a big risk, or not taking any risk, is taking a
risk while minimizing the precarious reality of the situation.
Reality of Flying Solo
Of course, sometimes I don't wait to be approached to show off my inner
exhibitionist and psychohumorist side. My marketing motto: "To achieve so much
exposure that I'm finally arrested for indecency!" It's finally fully
registered that to be successful as a solo entrepreneur I have to make a
personality/role paradigm shift: from "cage" persona (as introspective writer)
to primarily "stage" persona (as slightly manic speaker and networker). Yes,
there can be some benefits having bipolar-like, cyclothymic tendencies.
And here are two recent "stage" ventures:
1. ASTD Showcase. Recently, I joined the American Society for Training
& Development-DC Chapter. This past Thursday, my first monthly meeting, they
had an unusual program. Instead of a guest speaker all attendees were
encouraged to share a robust training concept or a practice methodology. Oh, by
the way, there was one instructional caveat: our presentations had to be
completed in 99 seconds.
There definitely were some energetic and thought-provoking presentations. The
one I liked best (besides my own, of course; you know the aphorism - "Vanity thy
name is Gorkin") was an interactive exercise. The presenter (who disclaimed
authorship) offered an audience member a $20 bill. Just as the member was about
to accept the gift, he crumbled up the bill. The presenter then asked if his
subject still wanted the money. The subject answered affirmatively. Next, the
presenter threw the crumbled bill onto the floor and began stomping on the
twenty. The presenter picked up the beat up bill and again made an offer. The
potential recipient was still willing to find a home for the twenty in his
wallet. Finally, just as he was to release the bill, the presenter shared the
purpose of this demostration. The exercise is often used with groups of
individuals who have been downsized, "right-sized," outplaced or outsourced.
The moral of the exercise: Even if you have lost a job, and you feel crumbled
up, mashed and discarded or spit out, the reality is you have not lost your
intrinsic value or (self)-worth!
For me, this was a wonderful way of dramatically making visual an essential
learning pont, especially valuable in a "lean-and-mean" and "do more with less"
The Doc Is UP
Now for my 99-second routine. After introducing myself as a Licensed Social
Worker, a Motivational Speaker and Trainer, I also noted my role as AOL's
"Online Psychohumorist." I proceeded to give the audience a sample of
psychohumor. First, I shared my tip for surviving the holidays - understanding
the difference between Holiday Blues and Holiday Stress:
Blues is the feeling of loss or sadness that you have when, for whatever reason,
over the holidays you can't be with those people who are special or
Stress…is when you have to be with some of those people!
The group laughed heartily. (Big mistake…don't encourage me.) Now I shared how
I'm pioneering the field of psychologically humorous rap music - "Shrink Rap" ™
productions. Well the groans bellowed forth. Me daunted? No way. Proceeding
to put on my Blues Brothers hat and black sunglasses, while armed with a black
tambourine, I announced, "Buckle up your strait jackets. It's the 'Stress Doc's
Stress Rap.'" (See the lyrics below.)
While initially in a state of surprise if not shock, gradually one, two, three
people…then the entire audience was clapping rhythmically to my clever lyrics
and rap beat. I was having a ball when it dawned on me that my clock was
running out. GRRR! (A power point-like countdown device was projected on a
screen.) I managed to get in one last punch line then, belying my inner
frustration, nonchalantly declared, "Alas, time is up."
Now the palpable groaning was a sign of audience frustration and
disappointment: these training pros were really into it; they wanted me to
finish the rap. (I was the only presenter to elicit such a reception.) And I
walked off stage to enthusiastic applause.
In addition to the ego stroke, there was an important training/speaking lesson,
besides the fact that you really, really have to focus and be on point when you
have only 99-seconds. The lesson: sometimes you don't have to get everything
in; you don't have to have things neatly wrapped up. There's real power and
value in ending your presentation with folks hungry for more!
2. ISES Expo. The second association I've recently joined is the
International Special Events Society. I also purchased a table at their end of
year Expo. Before the tradeshow hall opened, workshops were being held. Upon
walking into a workshop room the emcee anxiously called out: "We need a Stress
Doc." The scheduled speaker had been delayed in traffic. No problemo. Without
missing a beat, I engaged the group in one of my favorite power struggle
exercises called, "You Can't Make Me!" (See the main Essay, Sec. II for a
All went well. The speaker finally showed. And here's a great pic of me in
To see Swami Stress Doc (in costume at the recent Intl Special Events Society
Click here: ISES DC Gallery :: Annual EXPO 2004 :: 1
The humor video script immediately follows. I'll keep you posted on the video
shoot. Until then, best wishes for a joyful and graceful holiday. And, of
course, a mandatory resolution for 2005…Practice Safe Stress!
Humor as a Stress Buster
understand humor as a way to reduce your susceptibility to stress, let's start
by defining humor. Then we'll describe the therapeutic power of laughter.
Humor is the recognition and expression (both verbal and non-verbal) of the
absurdities and incongruities in people and in situations. It helps each of us
embrace or better accept our fears, flaws and foibles.
And hearty laughter is like turning your body into a big vibrator, giving vital
organs a brief but vigorous internal massage. Such laughter, also called "inner
jogging," releases the mind-body's mood uplifting chemicals, like endorphins and
dopamine. Another way of creating "stress buoyancy."
How to bring humor and laughter into your life? Try these five tips:
1st, do things that make you laugh: watch Seinfeld reruns, HBO comedy specials,
or read your favorite comics.
2nd, learn to "reframe," that is, put events in an unusual or playful
perspective. For example, the 20th century French poet, Edmond Rostand, upon
turning 75 gazed into a mirror and declared: "Mirrors just aren't what they
used to be."
3rd, share and embellish an embarrassing moment. Write a funny story; learn to
laugh at your flaws and foibles. Years back, after discovering, through good
old cutthroat medicine, that a tumor in my thyroid was benign, I could laugh
with relief and invent the field of "tumor humor."
4th, embrace both serenity and the unexpected. You know the Serenity Prayer:
"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,
of course, it's the "wisdom to know the difference." But playful surprise is
almost always a good source of laughter. And sometimes it can even be vital for
surviving hazardous situations.
Let me share a story. In late-1990, as war clouds were gathering in the Middle
East, almost all the staff at the American Embassy in Kuwait were confined to
the compound. Not surprisingly tension was building, along with internal
grumbling and some verbal sniping. The Ambassador decided to intervene before
coping capacity and morale were adversely affected. He told his
second-in-command to inform personnel that the next day was a holiday and that
all embassy staff would be going to the beach.
His deputy, incredulous, protested: "Sir, a war could break out at any
moment. It's not safe to leave the compound!" The Ambassador, nevertheless,
reaffirmed his directive.
Bright and early the next day the Ambassador descended the stairs in bathing
trunks and robe while carrying a blowup rubber ducky. Most personnel were not
similarly attired. "Ye of little faith," declared the Ambassador and proceeded
to march everyone outside. And lo and behold, during the night, somehow, this
Ambassador had managed to have tons of sand trucked into the compound. And
staff had a tension-relieving, fun-filled day at the beach. The in-house stress
siege was broken; the embassy personnel regrouped individually and as a
community and professionally weathered the war storm.
The moral: Even under trying conditions, stress doesn't have to spiral
uncontrollably downward. When safely encouraged by a savvy leader, some
outrageous play can be joyfully infectious and uplifting.
My final recommendation is based on having lived in N'Awlins for many years:
embrace the Mardi Gras spirit. Try costuming. Explore different personas; not
only is it fun, but you just may gain a fresh perspective on your world.
In fact, let me give a live demonstration. [I start putting on my rap
costume.] You see, I'm pioneering the field of psychologically humorous rap
music and, as a therapist, calling it of course, "Shrink Rap" ™ productions.
So, buckle up your strait jackets for, "The Stress Doc's ™ Stress Rap":
When it comes 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.
So you give up sleep, become wired and spent
Escape lonely frustration as a mall-content.
It's time to look at your style of stress.
You can't just dress or undress for success.
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.
The boss makes demands yet gives little control
So you prey 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."
(c) Mark Gorkin 1992
"Shrink Rap" ™ Productions
As you can see, 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!
So seek the higher power of humor: May the Farce Be with You!
CANADA BUSY SENDING BACK BUSH-DODGERS
Columbus Dispatch Tuesday, November 16, 2004
The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has
intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the
The re-election of President Bush is prompting the exodus among left-leaning
citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray and agree with Bill
Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology
professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at
"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a
producer huddled in the barn," said
farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders
The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry.
"He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I
didn't have any, he left. Didn't even get a chance to show him my screenplay,
In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but
the liberals scaled them. So he tried installing speakers that blare Rush
Limbaugh across the fields.
"Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through, and Rush annoyed
the cows so much they wouldn't give milk."
Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the
Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons, drive them across the
border and leave them to fend for themselves. "A lot of these people are not
prepared for rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one
carload without a drop of drinking water. They did have a nice little
Valley cabernet, though."
When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing
loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been
circulating about the Bush administration establishing re-education camps in
which liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR.
In the days since the election, liberals have turned to sometimes-ingenious ways
of crossing the border. Some have taken to posing as senior citizens on bus
trips to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen
young vegans disguised in powdered wigs, Canadian immigration authorities began
stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior-citizen passengers.
"If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we get
suspicious about their age," an official said.
Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating and
organic-broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan Sarandon movies.
"I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support
resident said. "How many art-history majors does one country need?"
In an effort to ease tensions between the United States and Canada, Vice
President Dick Cheney met with the Canadian ambassador and pledged that the
administration would take steps to reassure liberals, a source close to Cheney
"We're going to have some Peter, Paul & Mary concerts. And we might put some
endangered species on postage stamps. The president is determined to reach out."
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a psychotherapist, an
international/Celebrity Cruise Lines speaker, training/OD consultant and author
of Practice Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout
& Depression and The Four Faces of Anger: Transforming Anger, Rage, and
Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior. The Doc is also America
Online's "Online Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap and Group
Chat." See his award winning,
Today Online "HotSite"
www.stressdoc.com (recently cited as a workplace resource by National Public
Radio (NPR). Email for his monthly newsletter showcased on List-a-Day.com. For
more info on the Doc's speaking and training programs and products, email
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-232-8662.
c) Mark Gorkin 2004
Shrink Rap Productions