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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

MAR 2006, Sec. II

 The Stress Doc opens with some mental meandering on the conjunction of wit and wisdom and eventually locates parallels between wise individuals and wise systems.  And the main text of the essay examines key characteristics of wise systems:  1) Diversely Talented, 2) Interchangeable Parts, 3) Highly Mobile, 4) Acutely Responsive to Its Environment, 5) Error-and Opportunity-Driven and 6) Self-Organizing.

 On Becoming a Wise System:

The Dynamics of Individual Imagination and Organizational Innovation

As a self-styled (as well as self-invented and trademarked) “Psychohumorist” ™ my personal and professional challenge is to blend being both a “wise man” and a “wise guy.”  I suspect I have a constitutional if not congenital need to embrace psychological contradiction, that is, to be seriously insightful and playfully irreverent, to explore the dark shadows and seek light-hearted enlightenment.  In fact, this attraction (or is it addiction) to contradiction and complexity reflect a longstanding desire to infuse my word artistry (“word artist” being a label bestowed upon me by an ex) with “wit and wisdom.”  For example, an early ‘90s collection of my N’Awlins radio essays and later lyrics was titled, From Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and Cool Moon Cats:  The Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc.  (“Cool Moon Cats” is the title of a wicked poem for another ex.  Hmm…maybe I need another ex to feel more inspired as a writer.  Anyway, email if interested in purchasing the book or being an ex. I warned you about the “wise guy.”  ;-)

 Classic and trademarked concepts such as “Psychohumorist,” “Safe Stress” ™ and “Shrink Rap” ™ capture the essence of wit as ingeniously conceived by that American master of letters and humor, Mark Twain:  Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation.

Another example of the marriage of “wise man” and “wise guy” as well as “wit and wisdom” is using the “Serenity Prayer” as a closing inspiration to my speaking programs:  “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!”  (I warned you; it’s congenital.)

 “Hiding the bodies”…a good segue to the purpose of this essay:  discovering, designing and applying the link between individual and system wisdom.  While wisdom is usually perceived as a human capacity, this essay will discuss the dimensions, drives and dynamics of a “Wise System.”

For this essay, though, individuals, teams and departments all have the potential to be wise systems (or subsystems of a larger systemic context).  And such entities have some fundamental operational principles in common.  For example, imaginative and innovative individuals as well as complex and “smart” systems thrive on openness.  Such entities have a strong need for exploration and a high tolerance for error and the willingness to acknowledge the same; they learn from mistakes and missteps  (As we’ll see, open systems, in fact, don’t “hide the bodies.”)  Open boundaries and transparency encourages individuals and subsystems – teams, departments, divisions, industries, etc. – to acknowledge uncertainty while grappling with and disseminating contradiction and complexity.   Savvy systems accept the operational conjunction of danger and opportunity, and these entities foster a vital interdependency with other subsystems.  This process often launches parts and wholes along that uncertain, less traveled path of wisdom. 

With this intro in mind, here are Six Key Characteristics of a Wise System:

 1.  Diversely Talented.  At the risk of garnering a DSM IV diagnosis of 301.81 – Narcissistic Personality Disorder – let me begin with some self-analysis of my professional path.  Over the years, my career has evolved from therapist, university professor and media “Stress Doc” ™ to workshop leader, organizational/team building consultant; and from keynote and cruise line speaker and “motivational humorist” to syndicated writer and author (of Practice Safe Stress, among other works); and, finally, to word artist, “Shrink Rapper” and “Psychohumorist” ™.  This diversity of services and products along with a variety of delivery channels has several “wise system” implications:

a) One Stop Shop.  While clients may hire me for one service (e.g., speaking at a conference or leading a workshop) they often discover my capacity for follow-up – improving team communication or conflict mediation as well as providing management coaching.  There’s less fragmentation of services.  In the short run, there’s less chance for too many cooks to spoil the broth.  Yet over time, a wise system wants to bring in varied and divergent perspectives.

 b) Broad Integration and Deepening of Knowledge and Experience.  An extensive clinical and critical incident/consulting background (e.g., being a Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service) means my Motivational Humor speaking and workshop programs have substantial, “hands on” depth; my “war stories” are truly battle-tested.  Conversely, my consulting and team building work, especially in the most trying or hazardous work environments, is infused with M*A*S*H humor.  As Acting Director of the IT Center, Department/National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, noted:

 As you will recall, I was confronted with some serious, inherited issues when I was appointed to the ITC in an Acting Capacity. Morale was low, interpersonal conflicts among management and staff existed, and there was a pervasive fear of the future of the ITC itself. Largely through your plenary, group, and one-on-one sessions, we were able to air and resolve our many concerns. Your thorough, professional, and humorous approach made our job of recognizing and addressing the myriad issues much easier.

The ITC is a much more productive and secure environment since your involvement. Thanks again for all your help!

 I believe this seemingly paradoxical, psychohumor perspective also reflects my having two personae:  a cave persona (i.e., introverted and introspective as a therapist and writer) and a stage persona (i.e., extroverted and a tad hypomanic as a speaker/performer).  And as the inventor of psychologically humorous rap music – “Shrink Rap” ™, of course – I can say with confidence that when you combine the sublime and the silly you’re moving from “Ha-ha” to “Aha” humor; your playful message is also evolving from “wit” to “wisdom.”

 c) Intimate Outsider.  A freelancer with a broad, diverse and deep experience and skill base, a professional who has not been shaped and conditioned by the prevailing “corporate or agency culture,” is able to perceive with fresh eyes, is able to see both “the obscure and the obvious.”  Such a background helps me empathize with both management and employees.  And a consultant perceived as knowledgeable and objective, also possessing good listening skills (a therapy background always is an asset) will often become a sounding board, both formally and informally, for individuals and groups throughout an organization.  Which means that I am privy to information and ideas not for general consumption.  And a frequent byproduct of this inside access is greater knowledge and understanding of the formal and informal system culture.  There’s a greater likelihood of my being seen by system participants as a trustworthy authority figure. Clearly, these empathic power dynamics and strategic tools are critical for wise system intervention.

2.  Interchangeable Parts.  We can think of “interchangeability” as a byproduct of a team with sufficient wide and diverse talent.  Members have received enough job share training and “hands on” experience so that if one person cannot perform his duties (or goes on vacation) other colleagues can step in and sustain operational procedures.  One important implication is that the system is less likely to succumb to the dangers of indispensability.  The effectiveness of the system is not tied to or in a codependent relationship with one heroic figure.  Interchangeability makes for team partnerships and shared performance.  (I’m reminded of the 2006 Duke basketball team with its great shooter, J.J. Reddick.  On occasion, the coach, Mike K., has criticized his team for just standing around watching J.J. shoot.)  Interchangeability means there’s a mix of specialists and generalists (i.e., a wise system), as well as specialized generalists and generalized specialists (i.e., wise individuals).

 While there are scenarios where a system has a one-of-a-kind specialist, even here a wise system has a backup.  For example, a field goal kicker in American football is definitely a specialized position.  However, some teams have punters (also specialized) who also practice field goal kicking.

At the same time, an “interchangeable part” is not a clone.  Each replacement person brings his individual capacities and skills, experience and perspectives, anxiety and energy to the new role.  Again, with a stand-in performer there’s potential for both overlapping yet different viewpoints and a variety of goal-related plans and actions.  And some of these differences may ultimately be integrated into an ongoing and expanded role set and job description.

Finally, in addition to formal training, for a replacement person (especially when basically thrown into the soup), there invariably is a learning curve or “on the job training.”   This individual clearly has the potential to return to his or her original position or role with an enriched perspective.  Such a process may well stimulate a cycle of openness and cross-fertilization, change and evolution.

 3.  Highly Mobile.  A system that preaches and practices mobility tends to operate in multiple and varied settings.  Such a system brings products and services to an expanded base of markets and clients.  A meaningful and mobile message can be spread far and wide, especially if you share it with “community criers” (or “Connectors,” to quote Malcom Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point) or with networking hubs, for example writing an article for a national association newsletter.

Now living in an economically diverse and vibrant region like Metro-Washington-DC makes it easier to interact with and learn from a wide web of organizations.  (Of course, I still do programs around and outside the country.  With all the political hot air, one can only stay in DC for just so long.  Actually, my motto:  “Have Stress?  Will Travel:  A Smart Mouth for Hire!”)  The Washington client base includes government agencies – from federal to county, corporations – from industrials to IT companies, and an array of associations, law firms and healthcare organizations.

 Another personal example of high mobility within a concentrated space involved working as a Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for a 24/7, 6,000-person US Postal Service Processing and Distribution Plant in Baltimore, MD.  I was asked to walk the three, huge work floors, each way larger than a football field and also to canvass several warehouses.  Management wanted me to be visible; I purposefully did not have an office.  The goal was to have people come up to me and ask for assistance.  While it took awhile to gain employee trust, eventually I was approached:

a) ”I think my daughter’s doing drugs”

b) ”Doc, can you help our team; the supervisor is squashing us?”

 This peripatetic role also involved my getting to know the motivational and communicational landscape.  For example, by casually talking to supervisors on the third shift I recognized a need for some conflict resolution between front-line supervisors and distribution managers.  (And believe me, it was a challenge being a wise mediator at 3am.)  After a few months, no one knew as well as the Stress Doc the motivational and morale issues of the “postal plantation” (the moniker coined by the overwhelmingly minority employees assigned to the work floors).  And I didn’t just have a sense of the big picture.  I also understood first hand how conflicts in one department impede productivity in another subsystem.

Finally, let me share two other types of mobility – one slow building and the other virtually rapid – and the benefits of each:

1) Geographic Assimilation.  A vital source of my diversified perspective comes from growing up in Type A New York City and then, in my mid-twenties, doing my coming of age, “American in Cajun Paris” years in that “laissez les bons temps roulez” city of N’Awlins.  Those uncommon and seemingly contradictory cultures seeped in my blood and infused my brain.  This mix definitely laid the ground for the aforementioned “Shrink Rap.”

 Reconciling seeming opposition is often an essential component of creative or imaginative thinking.  For example, after sixteen years in “The Big Easy” I suddenly had this urge to move to Washington. I didn’t understand it till I got up here.  Then I realized if New York City and New Orleans had a baby it would look like Washington, DC.  Alas, I haven’t decided if it’s a love child.  A paradoxical perspective, whereby one must balance or integrate contradiction and complexity, challenges you to expand your specific viewpoints and world view.

 2) Cyberspace Cadet.  Clearly, with the advent of emails, IMs, cell phones and websites there is unprecedented opportunity for mobility.  One doesn’t need a corporate jet or unlimited frequent flyer mileage to be visible across the globe.  For example, recently I had a call from a private practice PhD psychologist living in London with her husband, a professor at the London School of Economics.  A large investment firm asked her to run a half-day Stress Management workshop with account representatives.  Never having run such a workshop, she anxiously began a web search.  After much clicking and surveying of various websites, this psychologist was sold on the substance and style of www.stressdoc.com.  She decided that I could help her put on an interactive and fun, as well as content-rich program that was not academic.  Through email and then a phone call, she chose to purchase my training kit, which includes up to two hours of free phone consultation.  We walked through my content and exercises, which she adapted for her presentation.  (I subsequently received a “thank you” email.  Her program was very well received, and she was asked to do follow-up training.  Email stressdoc@aol.com for info on the training/marketing kit.)

 And other cyberspace visibility venues include inquiries to republish Stress Doc articles, link exchanges, a wide array of heartfelt stress-related questions and even requests to use “Shrink Rap” lyrics at public presentations.  I’m a virtually mobile maven, though still not sufficiently diversified.  After a recent episode of postal violence, the major Spanish speaking communications network, Univision, based in Miami, asked if I would be an on-camera expert.  Alas, the deal breaker was that I did not speak Spanish.

 Closing this “mobility’ segment, I’m reminded of the ‘60s environmental activism slogan:  “Think Global, Act Local.”  For me the inverse is more far-reaching and powerful:  Think Local, Interact Global!

And drawing on my classical exhortation from the mid-90s, my ultimate paean to mobility:  Go Web Young Cyberite!

 4.  Acutely Responsive to its Environment.  A wise system understands that the only constant is change – both external and internal.  And therefore such a system also practices this necessary operational axiom:  “Clear- and wide-eyed attention illuminates intention and outlines purposeful action.”  With thoughtful attention you can detect meaningful variation or “news” – a difference that makes a difference – between one’s beliefs and expectations and one’s current and ongoing reality.

 Alas, open and thoughtful attention is confounded by complexity.  From social psychology classes I learned that the old saw, “Seeing is believing,” in fact does not sufficiently capture the intricacies of perception.  Frequently what may be more apt is the notion, “Believing is seeing.”  That is, what we attend to, what we choose as figure from ground, what we focus on and recall from the “bloomin, buzzin confusion” (William James) is often based on preconceived notions, mindsets and biases.  Clearly, some prejudice and attributional error is not uncommon.  However, in my book, absolute or fundamentalist believing yields self-deceiving more often than accurate perceiving or conceiving.  (By the way, attribution theory is the process of identifying and explaining the motivational factors or causes – personal or situational – regarding a person’s thinking, feeling or behaving.  We make both self and other attributions.  And error is not uncommon.  For example, when explaining another person’s lateness when coming to work, there is a tendency to attribute this behavior to personal sources, that is, the other person is lazy or disorganized.  When explaining our own lateness we often find external or situational factors, e.g., traffic, dropping the kids at daycare, etc.)

 In contrast, a wise system, while not immune from bias, with its openness and willingness to evaluate input does have some safeguards against chronic self-righteousness and stubbornness. Though anchored by tradition or values, a wise system is not tied down by rigid convention, inflexible positions, mindless habit or old and sacrosanct voices, beliefs or rules.  This system is capable of trusting its gut.  It’s also sufficiently confident to do a gut check, and, in addition, checks in with its head and heart.  And it also places issues in a socio-cultural context.  That is, it learns to speak the language of and is sensitive to historical or status issues of its customers and clients and of its employees or members.

 Bridge the Divide, Laugh, and Conquer

Consider this example of clashing cultures and how sensitivity to one’s audience along with self-effacing humor transformed an audience and working environment.  A number of years back, just starting out as a corporate trainer, I was leading a stress management program for about fifteen front-line supervisors for a New Orleans printing company.  The Human Resources Director basically mandates that they attend this workshop.  So these guys are not happy campers.  And when they see me…in those days, I looked a little stiff and academic:  blue blazer sports jacket, gray slacks, shirt and tie, neatly trimmed beard, not to mention my Yankee accent.  In contrast, these guys mostly look and act like Louisiana’s version of John Wayne – Western shirts, jeans, cowboy boots, and not exactly fans of touchy-feely subjects.  There is an immediate culture clash, and tension is building.

I begin by passing out the workshop handouts along with my business card.  Suddenly, a ringleader type challengingly questions, “What are all those letters after your name?”  I gulp reflexively, freezing in my loafers.  (Now I understand the real function of western footwear.  It’s so much more dignified to freeze in your boots.)  Ever feel like you are about to become someone’s straight man as well as the fall guy?  Like a lamb to the slaughter, I reply:  “Well, the BCSW is a Board Certified State License and the ACSW is for the Academy of Certified Social Workers, a national certification.”  Without missing a beat, Mr. Ringleader chimes out, “Must take you a long time to say your name.”  Ouch.  An “I gotcha” snicker snakes across the room.  

After silently licking my wounds, my feisty instincts surface:  “You know, the father of an ex-girlfriend, a self made businessman who never went to college, helped me put all this in perspective.  One day, he also asks me what those letters are.  So I explain the BCSW state license, and the ACSW national certification.  He then says, ‘Mark, don’t forget, you have one other four-letter degree.’  I was truly puzzled and reply, ‘What’s that?’  He says:  ‘C-R-A-P!’”  Well the room erupts with laughter, including the ringleader.  I have withstood his best shot and I am still (thinking) on my feet.  And the rest of the workshop is as easy as eating crawfish pie.

 Strategic Points. Today, when cultural diversity so easily leads to divisiveness and “black or white” thinking, there’s a universal healing tool that’s still underutilized.  Self-effacing humor allows a trainer to accept individual and/or group threat disguised as hostility or aggression without (the trainer) feeling or acting in a diminished or defeated fashion.  The group can blow off aggressive steam; people have greater trust in your professional resilience.  This “higher power” tool allows you to avoid defensiveness, to poke a little fun at yourself, while still affirming your integrity and commitment to the mission.  And it reduces the superficial differences between people while strengthening the common human bond.  


Dysfunctional Dependency

 A wise entity knows that it usually is more a planet than a sun:  the “world” of other planets does not perpetually revolve around a wise system; the latter revolves around a common sun and the planet is part of a larger solar system.  Speaking in more terrestrial terms, such a system is not self-centered, nor is it egoal-driven, that is, its goals and action steps reflect test-of-time values and ongoing trial and error learning not insecurity-driven illusions or grandiose fantasies.  And even when the latter unduly influence perceptions and choices, the growing wise system admits error and eventually turns mistakes into successful adaptations.  (More on the power of error in the next section.)

 Alas, sometimes systems (or subsystems) can be dysfunctionally dependent upon a power source.  Two recent examples come to mind:

1) NASA Space Missions.  In a recent mission, a number of scientists and engineers were skeptical about how well fastened were certain heat-proofing rocket tiles.  However, these professionals were being pressured from above to give a green light on a launch date placed on hold because of recent tragic history.  Prestige and money (funding) were on the line.  Program survival trumped human survival.

2) Weapons of Mass Destruction.  In my estimation, another example of skewing or selecting data to fit the needs of those in power was the CIA’s report to George Bush on the “slam dunk” evidence for WMDs.  Despite protestations of making an honest mistake, in my view the president got precisely what he asked for:  data that supported his preconceived intention to invade IRAQ.

 Perhaps George W. fancies himself less a President and more a Sun King, or using a solar system analogy, in his mind the US is less a planet and more the central star.  The world of nations revolves around the US; their survival course depends on our gravity and energy, pull and overwhelming power.  Of course, the Iraq war clearly shows the limits of our being able to induce or coerce a broad array of nations to join our holy campaign for “democracy.”  (And we won’t dwell on the possibility that controlling another energy source – the oil variety – may also have motivated the Bush Administration’s imperial and imperious decision-making.)  History will judge the wisdom of this system.

 5.  Design for Error and Opportunity.  Learning from one’s mistakes is a cardinal characteristic of a wise system…and then taking corrective action.  For example, I recently led a “Managing Stress and Conflict” program with “Road and Street” Washington state employees in Spokane.  Early on I had the almost exclusively male, blue collar and rural employees engage in a role play exercise that proved to be too “touchy feely.”  This exercise creates a dyad and roles are assigned:  one person (A) sharply criticizes his partner’s presentation at an important meeting.  Person B then responds verbally to Person A’s attack.  Suffice to say, this exercise increased the discomfort level in the room.

 Two months later, at the Seattle “Road and Street” Conference, I substituted a “power struggle” exercise that was still real but also generated face-saving laughs, and people loved it.  Clearly, initial error triggered learning curve opportunity.  If this quick change doesn’t quite reach the status of wisdom, at minimum I had been pretty smart.

 However, I do believe wisdom (and courage) are often demonstrated when a system purposefully jumps into a situation that’s somewhat outside the realm of experience or of its comfort zone.  As I’ve previously noted, such a system “Aware-ily Jumps In Over Its Head.”  Only by jumping into the fray can you quickly discover how adequate your resources are for the challenge ahead.  (An example comes to mind:  In the ‘80s, jumping into Cable TV, feeling overwhelmed, yet quickly learning survival skills while slowly evolving some foundational “on camera” techniques.)  This approach precludes a strategy that eliminates all risk in advance.  (Okay, some prep may be necessary.  When living in N’Awlins the survival mantra was “check to see if there are any alligators in the bayou.”  I suppose today one would add, “Check to see if there are any broken levees in the canal!”)  You may encounter realistic anxiety and have a sense of losing control.  You may confront your “Intimate FOE:  Fear of Exposure” and contemplate forsaking your goal.  However, if you stay the course, the reward for the risk is frequently a readiness to build knowledge, emotional hardiness and skills for survival while evolving a capacity for strategic and imaginative problem solving.  That is, you are laying a foundation for exploration, trial and error learning through rapid feedback and eventual wisdom.

 Exploratory systems are error generators because they are more attuned to a range of possibilities than to fixed or ideal (or safe) goals.  They are willing to experiment and grapple with uncertainty while floundering through a sea of confusion in order to:  a) make unexpected conceptual and operational connections, b) evolve long range mastery and c) develop a novel, non-traditional or uncommon “big picture” that opens up new vistas and pathways, policies and procedures.  The siren of perfection does not seduce a wise system, at least not for long.  Nor does this system typically succumb to the illusion of easy achievement or short-term control.

 In leadership terms this means a wise system values the rapid and objective reporting of errors as a way of strengthening system operations.  Only when error is egregious or ongoing is it a sign of individual or system dysfunction or failure.  In fact, such systems “strive high and embrace failure.”  From a “wise system” perspective, error or failure is typically seen as the gap between a future ideal and the system’s present reality.  Failure becomes a transitional space that fosters exploration and evolution rather than the self-deluded pursuit of absolute mastery (and ultimate stasis.)

 A wise feedback process sets the stage for ongoing learning and self-organization.  Which leads us to…

 6.  Self-Organizing.  A common denominator and dynamic of the preceding five “wise system” components is thrusting an individual or an organization into new roles and environments.  (Of course, there are times when wisdom involves learning to wait patiently, to strike when the timing is right not only when the iron hot.)  In an open system new data is continuously streaming in.  And the data is being assessed for its congruence or variance with baseline measures and operational experience.  Invariably, some of the data will challenge the wise system’s current beliefs and expectations, short-term performance output and even long-term goals; enduring values too may eventually be destabilized by informational and experiential dissonance.

 When engulfed by change or confronted by a pattern of discrepancy, assuming the system is not too exhausted or heavily defended, then individuals or the entity as a whole must reorganize at least some of the operating principles and procedures.  Survival of the fittest is not simply a cliché.  Business as usual won’t cut it.  Such an attitude is an anathema to being “cutting edge.”  (And in today’s “lean-and-mean” world, if you’re not operating on the edge you’re taking up way too much space.)

Actually, operating on the edge means being sensitive to the winds of change.  This doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning a position or path as soon as you meet wind resistance; nor does it automatically suggest mindlessly going with the flow.  The image that comes to mind is navigating a sailboat; your five senses are bombarded with data.  While gauging wind direction and water current are critical, so too is manipulating the tautness of the sails and having a sure yet sensitive hand on the rudder.  And depending on the ambient conditions, you are gradually or furiously adapting to your ecosystem in light of your plans and goals.

 And even if highly experienced, when information is pouring in and decisions must be made quickly, there is, as we’ve suggested, opportunity for error and new learning.  To reinforce this point, let me close with a paradoxical parable called “The Secret of Wisdom”:

 Once there was a young woman who heard that an old wise woman had the secret of wisdom.  The young woman was determined to track the old woman down.  After traveling many months, the young woman found the old woman in a cave.  She entered and addressed the old woman:  "Old Wise Woman, I hear you have The Secret of Wisdom.  Would you share it with me?  The old woman looked at the youth and said, "Yes, you seem sincere.  The Secret of Wisdom is good judgment."  "Good judgment, of course," said the youth, thanked her mentor, and started to leave.  However, as she got to the entrance of the cave she paused, turned back and said, "Old Woman, I feel funny, but, if I may ask, how does one obtain good judgment?"  "That's a good question," said the sage.  "One obtains good judgment through experience."  "Experience, of course," said the young seeker, and proceeded to leave.  But once again she stopped in her tracks, and humbly walked back to her mentor.  "Old Woman," said the young woman, "I feel foolish, but I have to ask:  How does one obtain experience?"  The old woman paused, nodded her head, then proceeded:  "Now you have reached the right question.  How does one obtain experience?. . Through bad judgment!"

 Remember, errors of judgment rarely mean incompetence; they more likely reveal inexperience or immaturity, perhaps even boldness.  Our so-called "failures" can be channeled as guiding streams (sometimes raging rivers) of opportunity and experience that ultimately enrich – widen and deepen – the risk-taking passage...If we can just immerse ourselves in the these roiling yet unpredictably rejuvenating waters.

 Closing Summary 

Six key characteristics of “wise systems” have been posited.  These are:

 1. Diversely Talented

2. Interchangeable Parts

3. Highly Mobile

4. Acutely Responsive to Its Environment

5. Error-and Opportunity-Driven and

6. Self-Organizing

 Developing or strengthening these aptitudes and abilities, tools and techniques will enable you and/or your organization to not just go with, but also to grow with, the flow.  Surely this is a formula for helping one and all, various parts and the systemic whole…Practice Safe Stress!


1. Consultation-Counseling-Coaching Service from the Stress Doc ™

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The Doc's areas of expertise as a consultant, counselor and speaker include:

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Practicing Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, & Depression; Stress Doc Enterprises

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§ 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.

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:  116  [Book size:  9"x12"]

Paperback:  $20 + $4.95 priority shipping in US; $4.05 in Metro, DC area; $27 in Mexico and Canada; other international destinations to be determined

E-Book:  $15

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 stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-946-0865.

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2006

Shrink Rap Productions