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
Main Essay: When You Love What You Do, They Want to Do What You
Love: Part I
Readers: The 25 Dumbest Quotes of 2004, Tradition
Shrink Rap: Working with Families Under the Cloud of War & War Poem
Heads Up: Baltimore Convention Center; HRA-NCA (DC SHRM Chapter)
Offerings: Training Kit, Books, CD and AOL Chat
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
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
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
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 email@example.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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-232-8662.
c) Mark Gorkin 2005
Shrink Rap Productions