The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
AUG 2005, Sec. I
Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Table of Contents
Work Q & A: "Why Are Some People So Decisive...?"
Readers: Out to Lunch and Scientists Discover New Element
Offerings: Phone Consultation/Coaching and Books
Main Essay: Leaving the Circle Behind: Part I
Heads Up: SI International, Classic Hyatt/Senior Residence, Dewey
(law firm), Housing & Urban Development (HUD)
Overview: Sec. I
1) Shrink Rap: Through a personal vignette, the Stress Doc illustrates why
persistence (and letting go) are vital when pursuing a dream, even in the face
of repeated disappointment.
2) Stress Doc Q & A: Why do some people seem to be so decisive about what they
want out of life -- they set a goal and go for it -- and stick to it -- and
others, like myself, keep changing our minds, never getting anywhere, going in
circles? I like so many things (career wise) I can't focus!
Both the Doc’s
answer and the questioner’s reply are included.
Overview: Sec. II
1) Main Essay: In Part I the Stress Doc traces both a geographical and
creative path that connects the Deep South, the old west and the heart of the
District. Will Kensington, MD become the next transitional space on the
Through a personal vignette, the Stress Doc illustrates why persistence (and
letting go) are vital when pursuing a dream, even in the face of repeated
Pursuing Your Dream:
Walking and Talking Again and Again
that Fine Line between Vision and Hallucination
Once again I was reminded of the importance of not letting a dream die and why
it's essential to keep knocking on doors. Two years ago a colleague informed me
that Washington DC's Improv Comedy Club (part of the national chain) was
instituting a corporate comedy program. The Improv would supply comics who
could appropriately entertain and productively energize the organizational
troops, on-site or at the club. While I have had the self-proclaimed (and
trademarked) title of "psychohumorist" ™ for six years and have been evolving as
a "Motivational Humorist," the thought of pitching myself to the Improv, with
its stable of professional comedians, was a bit daunting.
Eventually I found the courage and dropped by the club. To my surprise the
Program Manager, John X, invited me in to his cramped
piles-of-paper-and-videos-strewn-everywhere office. The ambiance reeked of
overload and deadline pressure. I fumbled through my rationale for visiting
and, to my surprise, I hadn't been thrown out. Suddenly, I kicked into a
condensed and manic-paced version of a "Practice Safe Stress" workshop…and he
was laughing at all the punch lines. (In fact, I often reassure folks my
programs are not "touchy feelie"; more like "touchy punchy.")
This spontaneous audition lasted all of five minutes, but he was sold.
Fortunately, I had brought some marketing material. John assured me that once
the Improv website was revised he would add me to their gallery of corporate
speakers. The Stress Doc goes Improv. Way cool!
I floated onto the street. This had been too good to be true. And, of course,
it was. The barely controlled chaos in his office was likely a snapshot of an
overloaded, X-rated brain. John meant well. In fact, last summer he purchased
ten copies of my new book, Practice Safe Stress. Still, my speaking
material never made it to the website which was forever undergoing
reconstruction. Eventually, after a year and a half of periodically dropping
by, keeping John informed of the great responses to my speaking and workshop
programs and still no progress on the promotion front, I basically gave up. And
in the past six months, with a move and financial pressures taking center stage,
the Improv dreams faded from consciousness…at least until two weeks ago.
Two weeks ago, I did a business mass mailing announcing my new address and phone
number. The email to John X proved undeliverable. And while I didn't spring
into action, something must have been percolating. Last week, after an easy
dental cleaning, strolling along Connecticut Avenue, I suddenly realized what
was ahead – the Improv. (The club is a five-minute walk from my former
neighborhood, Dupont Circle.) Okay, why not. Let's officially find out John
X's status. Once again, I headed down two flights of stairs and struggled to
open the glass door until remembering to push the safety button. Walking
through the dark nightclub hallway, walls covered by posters of Improv
performers, I couldn't help fantasizing: Would my turn ever come?
I quickly came to John's foxhole…and no John X. John J, the General Manager,
confirmed my suspicion – X was an ex. To my surprise, the GM even remembered me
along with my books. And before I could get rolling on a pitch, he asked for a
video. (Fortunately I had recently edited an hour-long spring '05 keynote with
250 Fairfax County Virginia government employees.) If John J's calm,
no-nonsense demeanor wasn't telling, the state of the room was. The sense of
pandemonium was gone.
I returned the next day with DVD and testimonials. This time, though, being on
a project deadline, Mr. GM couldn't talk. But I'll be dropping by next week to
see if the "J" walks his talk. I'm trying not to get too excited. As I learned
decades ago from my New Orleans TV and radio daze (and, alas, with my "hype
springs eternal" nature still keep relearning), nothing is a sure thing and
conditions can shift as dramatically as a Category Three hurricane sweeping in
from the Gulf. My survivor mantra: "I no longer count on nor discount any
Still there is a message and moral: "Persistence is a virtue." Now whether
persistence is its own reward, I'll keep you posted. So, in closing, perhaps no
one needs my tag line more than yours truly: Stress Doc, just remember…Practice
Ask the Stress Doc™ Work Q & A
Q. Why do some people seem to be so decisive about what they want out of life
-- they set a goal and go for it -- and stick to it -- and others, like myself,
keep changing our minds, never getting anywhere, going in circles? I like so
many things (career wise) I can't focus!
A. As you note, some folks decisively know what they want or have a more
traditional or conventional, a more confined or less complex/expansive goal path
and their journey is or may seem smoother. They may be in a field, or have
expertise in a skill area, that society rewards generously. (Or their mother
was a doctor and mom was a great role model.) However, I've also seen such
specialists be vulnerable to two developments:
a) the Bjorn Bored Syndrome (BBS) named after Bjorn Borg the late '70s-early
'80s Swedish tennis great who after winning four or five back-back French and
Wimbledon championships suddenly burnt out and dropped out of the circuit.
Maybe after winning so many events the glamour was fading. And he still had
numbing hours of daily repetitive practice. Anyway, the Bjorn Bored Syndrome:
"When Mastery time Monotony provides an index of Misery!
The Stress Doc's formula: Fireproof your life with variety! And P.S.,
people are susceptible to BBS during an MLC or MCC – a mid-life or mid-career
b) such decisive or one track specialists may be vulnerable when the economy or
their work environment changes and their area of expertise/skill is no longer in
(high) demand. And if they have been resting on their laurels, then a "niche of
success can turn into a ditch of excess." For example, I recall consulting with
an organization comprised of skilled mapmakers, people who had spent years
developing their incredible hand-eye talents and craft. Yet many of these folks
were thrown into a serious crisis with the advent of computer graphics.
So how to short-circuit the confusion and circularity of a career path when
there are seemingly too many interests and potential options? Assuming that
unmanageable Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is not the main instigator,
consider these four strategies:
1. Appreciate Life Being Double-Edged and the Road Being Long. Yes, it
definitely can feel like both a blessing and a curse when we have multiple
talents and interests. Which to focus on; which direction to go? One survival
requirement is expanding your time perspective for goal-focused
achievement. For example, based on my personal/professional experience, it has
taken a number of years (if not decades) to sufficiently develop/hone skills as
a therapist, workshop leader, speaker, organizational/team building consultant,
writer, and motivational "psychohumorist" ™. (When you integrate enough skills
you may have to develop a new job title or description to accommodate your new
reality.) And even after you've achieved sufficient skill and integration,
there's another obstacle: finding or more likely designing an arena in which to
2. Sometimes You Can't Do It All, at First. Clearly, carving out a career
path that allows you to practice and integrate the complex mix or, at least, put
into action a significant portion of your talents and interests can be
challenging. And if any of your skill areas basically become inactive then it's
the old survival adage: "Use it or lose it!" There's also the inner nagging of
the skill-interest that's being neglected: "Pay attention to me!" And finally,
this sobering reality: to truly perform at a high level in a skill area you
have to practice/perform that skillset on a regular basis. Michael Jordan would
not have been Michael Jordan if he only played one basketball game/month.
The following recommendation may not be totally satisfying. You may have to
select a smaller numer of your job choices and skills for a period of time.
Then practice and integrate these priorities and sets as best you can, hoping
that at a later point you will do the same with those options and skills sitting
on the bench. Nonetheless, you may have to do some emotional grieving --
grappling with sadness and anger, maybe even some feelings of rage -- as you put
aside your other interests and aspirations. I recall a demanding, yearlong
half-time stress and violence prevention consulting position with the US Postal
Service. Many of my other speaking and training activities slowed; at times I
was frustrated and even felt trapped. But I was learning so much unique stuff
from the postal gig that when it did end, and I went back to a broader mix of
activities, all areas were enriched. For example, I wrote some of my best
satirical articles on how top management can screw up a downsizing by drawing on
my experience at this major processing and distribution plant.
Or you may have to take a part-time job to pay the bills while you are evolving
an uncommon integration. Some are able to find peace with this division. I
know many IT professionals who would love to be professional musicians, but know
that's not going to happen. They band together with other like-minded folks and
play music on the side.
3. The Uncommon Integration. I recently met a paralegal who had labored in
a law firm for eight years. She enjoyed aspects of the law but dealing with
Type A personalities was wearing thin. (You know the "A" in Type A stands for
"Attorney.") Drawing on her experience and her analytic and synthesizing
aptitudes, she finally grasped the big picture and eventually devised an
elaborate yet clear and well-structured procedure for collecting and organizing
legal evidence. Her original operational format increased efficiency and
effectiveness for colleagues in a wide array of job descriptions.
I don't recall if she realized the far-ranging potential of her uncommon
integration and promoted it or if a major legal consulting organization had
heard about her work, but in short order she had a new job. Now she was being
encouraged to write about her operational concepts and methods and to consult
with law firms and paralegals around the country.
The point here is that people who over time grapple with complexity and
integrate a number of knowledge bases and skillsets often are the individuals
who make unexpected discoveries or develop innovative tools, conceptual models
and procedures. And such integration and innovation also allows them to pursue
a path that significantly gives play to their own passions, purposes
and well-practiced skills.
4. Pursue Your Own Path. When you are juggling and integrating a large
variety of skills and interests you may find that there is no employee position
that allows you the time, energy and freedom to translate your uncommon body of
knowledge and skills into a suitable job description. You realize it's time to
explore and ultimately build an entrepreneurial path. Start talking to folks
who are self-employed, in private practice or are running their own business.
Ironically, developing a network of business relationships – from colleagues and
career counselors to memberships in professional associations – is often
critical when taking that personal "road less traveled."
Best wishes on the challenging journey. Hopefully, the above will help put the
brakes on the confusing if not vicious circle, enable you to establish realistic
limits as well as manageable options and, eventually, support your integrative
breaking away while helping you...Practice Safe Stress!
[And the readers response to my "answer"]
Thanks for the great response. You are very insightful! I've seen a few
different therapists over the past 10 years or so and none seem to understand
the difficulties in in seeing so many possibilities that one can't decide what
path because I don't want to "lose" the other possibilities for the future!
My brother in law once said, "When you go into the samples room (fabrics), you
see a ton of possibilities of what can be put together. Most of your fellow
students don't see that many."
I have often been told that I've created long term benefit at companies I'm
with, enhance procedures, etc., improve customer morale, etc. but I either:
1) Get bored and feel like I have to move on as I'm not really in a "good"
position-- I've sort of created" it myself out of an "administrative assistant,"
etc. and the company is too afraid to change "job descriptions." After enough
frustration/hitting my head against the wall, I quit.
2) Rock the boat too much and clash with either co-workers or management and get
My passions run the gamut from wolf restoration to wild horse sanctuaries to
fashion to interior design to writing to travel to politics and more. My husband
is the opposite. He has a "limited" palette of things he's interested in so he
isn't in constant "agony" about what to do when he "grows up."
However, once I set my mind to something, I can achieve it. I suppose I still
could have ADD and try taking medication for it to see if anything changes. I've
never been diagnosed with it before.
I wish you were available in person in this area – I don't know if phone
consultations would work very well but I am seriously thinking of them.
I do think I would be better off running my own business but I don't think I
have the dedication and focus it requires.
Thanks for your input!
Subj: Out to Lunch
Here's today's joke -- an oldie, and maybe a little bit moldy, but I had never
heard this one before.
(Ed.'s Note: Being partly of Polish blood allows me to share this joke, though
I don't eat sausage of any kind!)
An Irishman, a Mexican and a Polish fellow were doing construction work on steel
framework of the 20th floor of a building. They were sitting side by side on a
beam eating lunch and the Irishman said, "Corned beef and cabbage! If I get
corned beef and cabbage one more time for lunch, I'm going to jump off this
The Mexican opened his lunch box and exclaimed, "Burritos again! If I get
burritos one more time I'm going to jump off, too."
The Polish guy opened his lunch and said, Polish sausage again! If I get a
sausage sandwich one more time, I'm jumping too."
The next day, the Irishman opened his lunch box, saw corned beef and cabbage,
and jumped to his death. The Mexican opened his lunch, saw a burrito, and
jumped, too. The Pole opened his lunch, saw the Polish sausage and jumped to his
death as well.
At the funeral, the Irishman's wife was weeping. She said, "If I'd known how
really tired he was of corned beef and cabbage, I never would have given it to
him again!" The Mexican's wife also wept and said, "I could have given him tacos
or enchiladas! I didn't realize he hated burritos so much." Everyone turned and
stared at the Polish wife. She looked back at them and said, "Don't look at me.
He makes his own lunch."
Subj: Scientists Discover New Element
Major research institution has just announced the discovery of the
heaviest element yet known to science. The new element has been named
"Governmentium". Governmentium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75
deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic
mass of 311. Forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of
lepton-like particles called peons, hold these 311 particles together
Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be
detected, as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A
minute amount of Governmentium causes one reaction to take over 4 days to
complete, when it would normally take less than a second. Governmentium
has a normal half-life of 4 years; it does not decay, but instead
reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and
deputy neutrons exchange places.
In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each
reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.
This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to believe
that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in
concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical
Morass". When catalyzed with money Governmentium becomes Administratium,
an element which radiates just as much energy, since it has 1/2 as many
peons but twice as many morons.
1. Consultation-Counseling-Coaching Service from the Stress Doc ™
Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, the "Stress Doc," is an uncommon psychotherapist-coach
with nearly 30 years experience. Why the distinct perspective? In addition to
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Expert, and Critical Incident Specialist (with 25 years experience as a
consultant and coach, including a stint as a Stress & Violence Prevention
Consultant for the US Postal Service).
Much information can also be obtained from his multi-award-winning website --
The Stress Doc is also the author of two books: 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
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as AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™.
Expansion of Service: In-Office, Phone or Online
Doc's areas of expertise as a consultant, counselor and speaker include:
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Flexibility in length and availability for coaching-consultation sessions; day
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The first phone or online contact/consultation (up to 15 minutes) is free.
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National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (including National
Weather Service), Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Sea Systems Command, Department
of Commerce, US Postal Service, Fairfax County Govt., Suffolk, VA
2. Stress Doc Books:
Make check to: Mark Gorkin
9629 Elrod Road
Kensington, MD 20895
a) Really Hot: The Paperback Version of Practice Safe Stress:
Practicing Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, &
Depression; Stress Doc Enterprises
Published: 2004; Pages: 372
Price: $20 + $4.95 priority shipping in US; $3.95 in Metro, DC area; $27 in
Mexico and Canada; other international destinations to be determined
Or, download: The Stress Doc's Store Front: www.stressdoc.com
Ebook Price: $15
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"
§ 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
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helpful." With this easy-to-follow, fast-paced, and fun health and wellness
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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 + $4.95 priority shipping in US; $3.95 in Metro, DC area;
$27 in Mexico and Canada; other international destinations to be determined
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, is a psychotherapist and
"Motivational Humorist" whose Interactive Keynotes and Kickoffs draw wide and
"amazing" acclaim - from Fortune 100s and Federal Agencies to around the world
with Celebrity Cruise Lines. An OD/Team Building Consultant, Mark is the
author of Practice Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress,
Burnout & Depression and of The Four Faces of Anger: Transforming Anger,
Rage, and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior. Also, the Doc is
AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap ™ and Group
Chat." See his award winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" --
www.stressdoc.com (cited as a workplace resource by National Public Radio
(NPR). Finally, Mark is an advisor to The Bright Side ™ --
www.the-bright-side.org -- a multi-award winning mental health resource.
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 301-946-0865.
(c) Mark Gorkin 2005
Shrink Rap Productions