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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

JAN 2005, Sec. I

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

Table of Contents

Section I

Main Essay: 
    When You Love What You Do, They Want to Do What You Love:  Part I
      The 25 Dumbest Quotes of 2004, Tradition

Section II

Shrink Rap:
      Working with Families Under the Cloud of War & War Poem
Heads Up:  
       Baltimore Convention Center; HRA-NCA (DC SHRM Chapter)
          Training Kit, Books, CD and AOL Chat

Main Essay:

Based on recent audience affirmation, the Stress Doc begins to explore the power of "loving what you do."  First the Doc reflects on the love-perseverance toward goal connection.  Part I of this two-part series also examines both the seductive illusion of stage life and the impact of an exuberant speaker on his audience.  And there's a final analysis of the role shifts that occur between performer and workshop participants, especially when the boundary between substance and style and medium and message is blurred.

When You Love What You Do They Want to Do What You Love:  Part I
Creating Uncommon Synergy between Artist and Audience

By Mark Gorkin, LICSW, the "Stress Doc" ™

Recently I led a "Practice Safe Stress:  Creatively Managing Stress and Building Team Cooperation through Humor" workshop for the employees of the Federal Witness Assistance Unit of the Department of Justice.  These folks labor under very demanding and trying conditions.  They jumped at the opportunity to share, laugh and play with their everyday sources of stress and conflict.  So the numbers that came up and expressed their gratitude for the morale-rejuvenating oasis we had created didn't surprise me.  What did take me aback was when several attendees commented, "You really love what you do."

In fact, I spontaneously hugged one woman, after her warm sharing.  I was struck by her empathy and perspicacity; she seemingly had looked beyond my performance persona and had peered into my soul.  Upon reflection, my response was not simply an expression of appreciation for being truly seen.  I sensed she understood the years of blood, sweat, tears and joy that infuse my speaking and training programs with, I believe, an uncommon substance, style and spirit.

The Search for Survival and the Pursuit of Excellence

Soon thereafter I began to ponder my tenacious pursuit of excellence as a presenter.  Why have I not forsaken this professional path despite the years of business survival uncertainty, cycles of anxiety and despair, along with periodic financial crisis and accumulating credit card debt?  Why have I refused to take a day job?

Actually, there has been a second perseverance path, in addition to speaking:  the role of author and the "sturm und drang" odyssey of self-publication.  After years of coming so close to finding a publisher, and then having hopes and promises dashed again and again upon the book publishing shore -- including the dissolution of a dot.com house that was ready to bring out my book - what kept me going?  What drive, what need enabled me to bring forth Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, and Depression?  (The publication process took so long I likened it to giving birth to a teenager!)

The Self-Motivation Fires

To attempt an answer I need to place these psychological and existential questions and issues -- "love of my work" and "staying the tumultuous and painful course" -- in some context.  A couple of weeks preceding the DOJ program I did a keynote on "The Art of Personal Motivation:  Rebuilding the Fire, Designing the Future."  An obvious question started percolating:  what does fire my motivation, intense energy and imagination, especially as a speaker?  In addition, is it possible to capture why I love and, perhaps, seemingly need to share my understanding of pain and passion, purpose and play with others?  (And somehow this love-need seems connected to my idiosyncratic method of performing and sharing.)

And there was no denying the obvious question:  To what extent is sharing my story and expertise simply an exercise in feeling self-important, not to mention the desire for recognition from others?  (Alas, this may be a tough call.)  Nonetheless, my trials, tribulations and triumphs could be a motivational mantra and map for others:

For the Phoenix to rise from the ashes
One must know the pain
To transform the fire to burning desire!

Illusions, Motives and Intentions

My fiery Aries temperament can light and heat up a room.  But I must be careful not to be seduced by mythical illusions of grandeur and rebirth.  (Alas, Stress Doc, you are still just a legend in your own mind.)  Evangelical fire and fury has a long and hallowed tradition in the field of motivational speaking.  Too often, however, these so-called spiritual gurus are more hollowed than hallowed.  (I suppose the grossest caricatures are men like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker and, frankly, I'm inclined to throw in such luminaries as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.)  Too often the essence of the message is more smoke and mirrors than fire and brainstorm.

And while I must confess to possessing some narcissistic tendencies (though with years of therapy and "the school of hard knocks for hard heads" under my ego they are shrinking), when it comes to objectives as a speaker my driving motive is not to impart "the answer" or "the gospel"; the drive to reach, teach or preach is, at best, a secondary intention.  First and foremost, performance fire and fury is ignited by being my fullest and most genuine, if not my most expansive and somewhat hypomanic, self.  "Joy for the self, then (hopefully) joy to the world!"

And I believe it was this dynamic and honestly self-expressive balance among entertainer, educator and evangelist roles that fueled the resonance between DOJ folks and me.  After a while, this audience was not simply or primarily focused on my spoken message.  I suspect they were very much caught up with if not captured by my style and passion, that is, both my stage presence and genuine essence.

Blending the Boundaries

It's the old "chicken and egg" dilemma:  is an audience swayed more by style or substance, by form or function.  And while we are at it, let me add "the medium vs. the message."  Was that mid-20th century media guru and philosopher, Marshall McLuhan, once again being vindicated?  If dealing with a multifaceted dramatic performer and a multi-channeled and participatory program (with its hallmark "discussion & drawing" exercise, to be explained shortly) does the "Stress Doc" "psychohumorist" ™ persona along with the playfully passionate and interactive "Practice Safe Stress" medium become the message?

As a speaker, somehow, if I'm fully present the boundary between style and substance, between form and function seems to dissolve or, perhaps, blend.  That is, style has substance and substance is one's style; form has function and function is per-"form"-ing.  And when one's stage presence suddenly becomes a tad larger and wilder than life, yet still has some connection to one's real essence while lampooning empathetically members of your audience, then there's potential for a magical motivational space.

Mad Medium as Motivational Message

Let me illustrate.  I'm pioneering the field of psychologically humorous rap music.  And, of course, calling it (no groaning, please) "Shrink Rap" ™ productions.  The clever lyrics do provide a stress and anger management message, albeit sometimes with a little spice.  Consider these lines from "The Song of Safe Stress":

I mean when battling for position you won't stop
Cause you know your place…You're always on top.
Or if you just withdraw from the fighting and fuss
You're still using "conflictus interruptus"…

If you often erupt with volcanic rage
No one will dismiss it as just a phase.
So better put hot fury back on the shelf
Unless you want to make an ash of yourself!

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

Considering the fact that I'm decked out with Blues Brothers hat and black sunglasses and also armed with a black tambourine, my form and style have function and substance.  Clearly, this white boy, doing a rap and arrhythmically banging his tambourine while prancing around the room is musically challenged.  (Just call me the anti-Fred Astaire.)  While there may be some madness to my method, I'm also crazy like a fox when it comes to my playful purpose.

At this moment, being a conventional content provider is not my primary motivation.  Actually, the loudest and clearest message is that it's okay to be a little foolish and inept in public.  You don't always have to come across as a perfect performer.  You don't always have to appear polished and in control.  Of course, my overt silliness is wrapped in sly wit, that is, I'm banging out psychohumor lyrics that expose our flaws and foibles.  I love when I can transform rage into the "out-rage-ous."

Also, remember, engaging an activity with childlike energy and playfulness, no, make that exuberance, is truly a wonderful stress buster.  My mood-uplifting endorphin and dopamine chemicals are bubbling with abandon while spreading a self-accepting glow.  And now, ready to share the stage, I just may become a motivational model.

Audience as Artist Transformation

Not only are the boundaries between form and function, adult and child dissolving.  In this passionately playful transitional space the boundary between speaker and audience is ready to fade.  In short order my solo speaker/performer role transforms into orchestra leader in the context of a highly interactive discussion and drawing exercise.  The large audience divides up into small teams and lists the sources of stress and conflict in their workplace operations.  And then they have to come up with a group picture that integrates the various stress perspectives into a thematically unified drawing.  For example, when working with the US Navy, especially during periods of downsizing, I would often see images of sinking ships and sharks circling in the water.  Finally, the teams get a chance to show and tell and shine in front of the entire audience.  (Or with large groups the ballroom is turned into an art gallery; attendees weave in and out among the tables discovering both an array of clever and heartfelt images along with some universal, "we're all in this together" themes.)

And sometimes a team will theatrically present its symbolic imagery.  As a member of the Baltimore Convention Center's HR staff recently wrote:  "When one group of gentlemen came up to the front of the room and acted out their assigned project, the entire room [of 250 employees] shook with laughter and applause!  That was great!"  The attendees are now definitely the stars of the show.

I wonder if the above analysis sheds some light on a contributing factor to the DOJ folks' previously mentioned observation -- "You really love what you do!"  Perhaps there is a subjective source beyond objective assessment.  Is it possible that these individuals loved the chance to transform the raw materials of everyday stress and frustration into passionate play as well as team camaraderie and creativity?  And the icing on this verbal-visual cake is sharing their production and then basking in communal affirmation and appreciation.

So love is in the air:
1) I'm loving what I'm doing
2) the audience is experiencing my love
3) these folks start loving what they are doing
4) I'm being energized by their infectious enthusiasm, collaborative focus and the rising decibel level in the room, and
5) we are both grooving on the mood-uplifting laughter, the vital synergy along with the surprising intimacy and evolving communal spirit.

Clearly, we have transcended the realm of simply delivering an informational message.  Actually, our medium and message is bordering on the inspirational.  Even if only in this safe if not sacred momentary space-time, we have created a partnership that has turned hassles and hostility into higher power humor and harmony.  For a hot medium, it's a cool way to…Practice Safe Stress!


Subj:  The 25 Dumbest Quotes of 2004

From:  TerezaByrne1@cs.com

By Daniel Kurtzman, AlterNet
 Posted on December 30, 2004, Printed on December 31, 2004


25. "This is the best election night in history." -Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, Nov. 2, 2004, just before 8 p.m. EST

24. "This race is hotter than a Times Square Rolex." -CBS Anchor Dan Rather, on election night

23. "As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time." -Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, responding to a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq who asked him why troops had to dig through scrap metal to armor vehicles

22. "I heard there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft." -President George W. Bush, during the second presidential debate

21. "You've done a nice job decorating the White House." -Pop star Jessica Simpson, upon being introduced to Interior Secretary Gale Norton while touring the White House

20. "Go fuck yourself." -Vice President Dick Cheney to Sen. Patrick Leahy, during an angry exchange on the Senate floor about profiteering by Halliburton

19. "I even accept for the sake of argument that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged." -Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking at Harvard

18. "You forgot Poland." -President Bush to Sen. John Kerry during the first presidential debate, after Kerry failed to mention Poland's contributions to the Iraq war coalition

17. "I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel." -Sen. Zell Miller to Chris Matthews, during a heated interview on "Hardball"

16. "We are in a three-way split decision for third place." -Sen. Joe Lieberman, on his fifth place finish in the New Hampshire primary

15. "If I could only go through the ducts and leap out onstage in a cape – that's my dream." -Ralph Nader, on the presidential debates

14. "You bet we might have." -Sen. Kerry, asked if he would have gone to war against Saddam Hussein if he refused to disarm

13. "Gammie, we love you dearly, but you're just not very hip. She thinks 'Sex and the City' is something married people do, but never talk about." -Jenna Bush, speaking at the Republican convention

12. "All of a sudden, we see riots, we see protests, we see people clashing. The next thing we know, there is injured or there is dead people. We don't want to get to that extent." -California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, on the dangers posed by gay marriage

11. "I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified." -CIA Director Porter Goss, in a March 3, 2004 interview that was conducted while he was still in Congress and which was cut from "Fahrenheit 9/11"

10. "I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it...I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn't yet...I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't – you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one." -President Bush, after being asked in a news conference to name the biggest mistake he had made

9. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere!" -President Bush, joking about his administration's failure to find WMDs in Iraq as he narrated a comic slideshow during the Radio & TV Correspondents' Association dinner

8. "So anyway I'd be rubbing your big boobs and getting your nipples really hard, kinda' kissing your neck from behind...and then I would take the other hand with the falafel thing and I'd just put it on your p – -y but you'd have to do it really light, just kind of a tease business..." ˜-Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, as quoted in a sexual harassment suit filed against him by a Fox News producer

7. "Wolf, be excited. This is Joementum here in New Hampshire." -Sen. Joe Lieberman to Wolf Blitzer, on his momentum leading up to the New Hampshire Primary

6. "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." -President Bush

5. "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it." -Sen. Kerry, on voting against a military funding bill for U.S. troops in Iraq

4. "Go, balloons. Go, balloons. Go, balloons ... What's happening balloons? There's not enough coming down. All balloons! Why the hell is nothing falling? What the fuck are you guys doing up there?" -Democratic Convention producer Don Mischer, overheard on CNN having an apoplectic seizure when the balloons failed to drop from the ceiling of the Fleet Center in Boston

3. "As I was telling my husb-" -National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, overheard making a slip of the tongue at a Washington dinner party. Rice, who is unmarried, stopping herself abruptly, before saying, "As I was telling President Bush."

2. "Not only are we going to New Hampshire ... we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York! And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. And then we're going to Washington, D.C. to take back the White House, Yeeeeeaaaaaargh!" -Presidential candidate Howard Dean's Iowa concession speech

1. "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." -President Bush

 © 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
 View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/20852/


Subj:  Tradition
From:  MDodick

A young Jewish man falls in love with a Native American woman and they decide to get married. When his mother hears the news, however, she is extremely distressed because she wanted him, of course, to marry a nice Jewish girl.

When she hears that not only is he marrying this Native American girl but has decided to live with her on the reservation, the mother becomes so upset that she refuses to even speak to her son, practically disowning him.

After a year, the son telephones the mother to tell her that he and his wife are expecting a child. The mother is happy for him, but there is still quite a bit of tension in the air.

Nine months later, the son calls the mother again. "Mom," he says, "I just wanted you to know that last night my wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I also wanted to tell you that we've talked it over and we have decided to give the baby a Jewish name."

Upon hearing this, the mother is overjoyed. "Oh, son, this is wonderful," she gushes. "I've been waiting for this moment all my life. You have made me the happiest woman in the world."

That's great, Mom," replies the son.

"And what," asks the mother, "is the baby's name?"

The son proudly replies, "Smoked Whitefish"


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, USA 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 stressdoc@aol.com or call 202-232-8662.

c)  Mark Gorkin  2005

Shrink Rap Productions