The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
MAR 2006, Sec. I
Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Table of Contents
Shrink Rap: Finding the Pass and Passion in the Impasse
Readers: Spiritual Art Website, Stress Doc Web Video, Kindred Eyes
Poem, Political Humor, Bible vs. Constitution, Why Cheney Won't Resign, Decoding
Women's Personal Ads, Women's/Men's English, Mental Hospital Answering
Heads Up: Office of Human Resources/Montgomery County, MD, Booz Allen
Hamilton/Disability Forum, Dept. of Human Services/Fairfax County Govt., Holiday
Park Senior Center, Montgomery County, MD, Region IV, Public School Nursing
Conference, Prince William County, VA
Main Essay: On Becoming a Wise System
Offerings: Phone Consultation/Coaching, Training/Marketing Kit and
Overview: Sec. I
1) Shrink Rap: The Stress Doc outlines three recent encounters that
stimulated the design of a new speaking program. He also provides a
paradigmatic preview: the emotional tasks and trials, tears and small triumphs
as well as key skills and strategies for cultivating "Passion Power."
Overview: Sec. II
1) Main Essay: 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.
The Stress Doc outlines three recent encounters that stimulated the design of a
new speaking program. He also provides a paradigmatic preview: the emotional
tasks and trials, tears and small triumphs as well as key skills and strategies
for cultivating "Passion Power."
Finding the Pass and
Passion in the Impasse:
Keys to Unleashing Purpose, Persistence and Power
At a recent Society of Government Meeting Planners (SGMP) luncheon I was
confronted with some cold hard marketing reality. An experienced
hospitality-hotel-conference planning consultant explained that today's meeting
planner or hotel salesperson would not immediately bite on my Practice Safe
Stress program line. While there is considerable stress in the industry, in the
current highly competitive, numbers-driven economic climate these professionals
are obsessed with the bottom line. Based on feedback from running scores of
focus groups, the consultant declared that industry personnel are thinking of
themselves first and foremost: will a speaking or training program help
increase their sales; will a program make them more influential communicators or
more savvy marketers; in the eyes of clients or potential customers, what skills
and strategies will have these folks perceived as more powerful, responsive and
This was the first of two other recent encounters that began pushing me out of
my presentation program comfort zone. The second encounter was actually the
culmination of a series of interactions that almost always occur right after
I've delivered a keynote or workshop. I'm no longer surprised (though always
pleased) when people come up and tell me that they really enjoyed the workshop
or "great program." But for this essay, even more salient is how they aver with
a touch of amazement, admiration and/or gracious envy that, "You really love
what you do, don't you!" Or someone will comment on my "great energy."
Clearly, the motivation is not simply due to a desire to express one's
appreciation. The implicit message is: How can I get such an emotional charge
from my work? How can I bring such intensely focused, exuberant energy to my
professional (and/or personal) life?
A Mentoring Moment
And just two weeks ago, a workshop participant took her exploration one step
further. During a break in my Safe Stress Program, a social worker approached
me about her interest in doing public speaking. People have told her she has a
flair for communicating with groups. When I encouraged her to choose a subject
that for her evokes feelings of passion, her immediate reply: "That's what
everyone says." But alas, she claimed she wasn't feeling passionate about
anything right now; she couldn't focus on a particular subject.
I suspect she may have been dealing with some form of BBS: Bjorn Bored
Syndrome. BBS is named after Bjorn Borg, the Swedish,'80s tennis great who
suddenly burnt out and dropped out of the pro tennis circuit despite being,
seemingly, at the top of his game. After so many championships, the glamour was
gone while the daily grinding practices remained. The Bjorn Bored Syndrome:
When Mastery Times Monotony Provides an Index of Misery!
The Stress Doc's rejuvenating elixir: "Fireproof your life with variety!"
This woman intuitively understood the need to shake up her career puzzle. What
helped her find the proverbial pass in the impasse? I made and raised several
additional suggestions and questions:
1) identify a source of or an experience related to major personal pain or
trauma and/or life-identity challenge or crisis
2) reflect broadly and deeply on how this experience impacted you and
significant others?; what were past-present-future fears, frustrations and
fantasies exposed or cultivated by this trauma or challenge?
3) how did you not just cope but fight through the warring external dungeons and
dragons and internal self-doubts and demons?
4) what did you learn from the initial or ongoing trials, failures and
successes? What aspects of your life -- substance and style, mind-body-spirit -
were transformed? and
5) how will you organize your newfound understanding in your head and heart and
how will you share this hard-earned wisdom with others?
And suddenly the light went on. This seeker had a pregnant concept to ponder,
nurture and pursue. She stated that she would credit me for her launch once
she's on the national speaking circuit. And with practice and persistence,
along with a healthy dose of such attitude, she just might make it!
So these three encounters - professional confrontation by an expert, audience
affirmation along with attendees' covert and overt desires to capture some of
that Stress Doc energy and exuberance, as well as a brief mentoring experience -
have moved me to design a new speaking and workshop program. Its name:
Unleashing Your "Passion Power": The Four "P"s for Generating Powerful Presence
and Peak Performance. (The Four "P"s in the program subtitle is based on a
model for powerful public presentation developed a couple of years ago. Email
email@example.com for the article and those magical "P"s.)
Walking My Talk
I will close this essay with "Seven Keys for Unleashing Your 'Passion
Power.'" (Hopefully, the book will come out in 2007!)
1. Let Go of Toxic People or Situations. Perhaps the biggest drain on
unleashing your dynamic, positively motivated and visionary self occurs by tying
up time and resources, energy and ego in dysfunctional relationships or
self-delusional undertakings. In each circumstance you believe your identity
and well being, more often psychological than physical, is dependent on staying
in the draining or self-defeating situation. In your clouded mind, even trying
to break out of the toxic box would yield disheartening if not devastating
consequences, e.g., fervent dreams or financial opportunities would be dashed or
lost forever; feelings of failure and humiliation seem like an eternal cross to
Or you feel stuck in emotional quicksand or bound by golden handcuffs. Or
self-righteous and rage based battling with a partner or significant other more
likely reveals some codependency, difficulty being alone and/or a fear of
striking out on your own than it reflects a healthy relationship worth fighting
for. In truth, if you resign yourself to a "no exit-no option" scenario, if you
do not reach out for help, then, over time -- sometimes quickly, more often
inexorably -- you will truly erode your sense of confidence and competence. You
will increasingly feel helpless and hopeless.
While letting go definitely stirs feelings of anxiety and anger, shame and
sadness, you are actually taking the first steps out of your burnout or
depression tunnel. And if we can stay on this courageous path of liberation,
there is often a rainbow at the end of the psychic storm. As Nobel-winning
author, Albert Camus, observed: Once we have accepted the fact of loss we
understand that the loved one [or loved position] obstructed a whole corner of
the possible pure now as a sky washed by rain. Plan for your first step!
2. Pursue a Passionate Path of Excellence. Choose a stimulating
activity, a role or facet of a job description, a hobby, an entrepreneurial,
athletic or artistic dream, etc. in which you have a strong desire to excel or
succeed. And to excel or to realize your goal, you must embark on a learning
path that continuously provides evolutionary challenges: grappling with or
hurdling unexpected barriers, absorbing data, tackling new problems or tasks
that have you feeling stuck, and generating solutions that are imaginative, that
have you breaking "out of the box." On this journey, you must find resources
and develop skills to forge insights, methods and designs that are both obvious
and obscure. Grappling, hurdling, absorbing, tackling, breaking and
forging…these are charged action words. Clearly, in the pursuit of excellence,
focused aggression is a vital component for realizing ambitions or aspirations.
3. Bring Your Whole Self. To heighten your energy and determination
engage in an activity that asks you to bring your fullest self (without being
full of your self). This includes bringing a paradoxical or "yin-yang" and
holistic perspective. As much as possible, you should be challenged to be both
analytical and emotional, to possess substance and style, to give play to both
your masculine and feminine sides, to be aggressive and empathic, to be
intuitive as well as logical or sensation-driven when processing data, and to
integrate your mind-body-spirit for maximum health and vitality.
Here's a brief example of my being a walking and talking (actually rapping)
paradox. At the close of my speaking programs, I pull out a Blues Brothers hat,
black sunglasses and a black tambourine. I proceed to let folks know that I'm
pioneering the field of psychologically humorous rap music. Naturally, as a
therapist, calling this endeavor "Shrink Rap" ™ Productions. (Go ahead; imitate
the audience…groan loudly.) Invariably, once the audience gets over the shock,
they dig the clever lyrics. For example:
When it comes to feelings do you stuff them inside?
Is tough john Wayne your emotional guide?
And it's not just men so proud and tight-lipped
For every Rambo there seems to be a Rambette!…
And with respect to bringing one's fullest self, participants eat up this
rhythmically-challenged expert coming alive as a "psychohumorist" ™, prancing
around in a joyfully absurd and self-absorbed manic mode. And just yesterday,
on an evaluation form, I received the ultimate post-rap, contradictory yet
harmonious compliment and outrageous moniker: "Stress Doc, you are a 'righteous
4. Work through Old Hurts. Another means of bringing your fullest self
and heightening your "passion" is to choose an activity that: a) challenges you
to relive past painful feelings, especially childhood feelings of humiliation,
failure or unworthiness, and b) has you grappling with these emotions as you
build a skill-based sense of competency and confidence. Overcoming longstanding
fears of embarrassment and a sense of inadequacy through public speaking has
significantly closed the gap between my real and ideal self-image. Earlier I
mentioned how people come up to me and say, "You love what you do." One reason
for this is that I am literally feeling self-love; each speaking opportunity
reminds me how far I've come from being the fearful, shame-based child and young
5. Generate Audience Synergy and Self-Effacing Laughter. For some,
passion power is released by being on stage -- through self-expression and by
engaging with an audience. Energize your audience, but also allow your audience
to turn you on or rev you up. You don't have to be a star or a charismatic
authority figure to feel the power. Through Q & A and interactive exercises,
from being a playful provocateur to a low-key orchestra leader, you can enable
and encourage others to bring out their best music. Learn to bask in and feed
off this communal energy and "higher power" expression.
Also, people feed off your being genuine, especially when revealing both your
vital and vulnerable sides. And one powerful way to be both real and to reveal
your imperfect humanity is through gently poking fun, first and foremost, at
yourself. People admire and identify with the ability to use self-effacing
humor, to reduce perceived status and cultural differences between you and your
audience. Such humor fosters a sense of "we're all in this together." For
example, sometimes people razz me for needing to be in the limelight, soaking up
all that attention. My two retorts: "You haven't heard the old expression,
'Vanity they name is Gorkin?'" Then I inform them that my greatest desire is
"to get enough exposure so I'm finally arrested for indecency!"
6. Harness Time Pressure. Learn to structure and harness time and
psychic energy. Passion power isn't just unleashed at the eleventh hour.
Passion power is cultivated by having sufficient opportunity to work on and
sleep on a problem. You want an optimal cycle of performance anxiety,
problem-solving focus, hitting the wall in frustration, grieving or letting go,
taking, as I call it, an "incubation vacation" to hatch a new perspective, etc.
You need sufficient time and space to allow this new perspective and high-energy
mix to unfold.
At the same time, for intense motivation, it helps to feel somewhat that time is
running out, and not simply because you are wondering if there can be "life
after deadlines." But time sense can be tied to other existential concerns.
Gail Sheehy's writings on mid-life crisis in her groundbreaking book,
Passages, pose such bridge questions:
a) to what degree are your decisions and choice of actions determined by a sense
of security and/or danger; i.e., do you tend to be bold and decisive or do you
procrastinate out of fear?,
b) to what degree does your life and sense of self reflect aliveness and/or
stagnation? Of course, too much security or too much "dead time" or "time to
kill" without a sense of time limits or time consciousness can lead to ennui,
apathy and helplessness? Conversely, when we believe time is running out, we
often get into a higher gear.
7. Embrace Evolution and Risk. Finally, if you are feeling trapped and
are having to dull your senses in order not to feel empty, lonely or helpless,
if you are suffering from that Bjorn Bored Syndrome -- when mastery times
monotony equals degree of misery -- than reach out for help. Don't suffer in
silence. While significant change or shaking up your life puzzle can be
difficult and scary, chronic stagnation can be both existentially and medically
injurious if not deadly. With proper coaching, you too can turn pain into
purposeful and powerful passion and persistence; you too can transform stagnancy
into a new life journey. And while pursuing this risk-taking path can generate
moments of angst or painful periods, consider the wisdom of the medical pioneer,
Jonas Salk: Evolution is about getting up one more time than we fall down,
being courageous one more time than we are fearful, being trusting just one more
time than we are anxious.
So go ahead, start breaking down the walls of the self-imposed prison. Take a
chance on new life over false security. One must not just risk failure but
actually fail over and over again to realize one's rich, complex and imperfect
self, to narrow (never completely close) the gap between the ideal and the
real. To be reborn, to ignite your "Passion Power," consider this
For the Phoenix to rise from the ashes
One must know the pain
To transform the fire to burning desire!
Finally, let me close with a passage penned years ago:
Errors of judgment or design 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.
Surely words to encourage the cultivation and release of "Passion Power" and
words to help one and all…Practice Safe Stress!
Responses, Requests and Submissions
Spiritual Art Website:
"Making art is an act of praying for me." Says artist Terresa "Naila" Ford.
Esoteric Incarnations, launched in 2004, seeks to showcase artwork that
encompasses ideas about spiritual evolution. "One of my goals is to use visual
imagery as a catalyst for discussions about the nature of human evolution."
Says Ford who has been creating art for more than twenty years. The website is
comprised primarily of paintings and oil pastel drawings. Original works and
reproductions are available for purchase on the site.
Founded in 2004 by Terresa "Naila" Ford, the mission of Esoteric Incarnations,
Inc. is to become an integral member of the greater worldwide spiritual
community and encourage visual arts expression. Through its "other world"
imagery, Esoteric Incarnations, Inc. seeks to actively participate in the
spiritual evolution of all man/womankind.
Responses to the Stress Doc Web Video
Your body of work is impressive and inspiring. How great to finally be able to
see you live and in action! This is just what I needed today to get me out the
door and back into the fray.
I'm proud to say I'm one of those who've "been there from the beginning" with
the Stress Doc.
Well done, and thanks for keeping me in the loop. As my students would say:
Your erstwhile fan and friend,
Mark-as usual you amaze me. The videos were magnificent! BRAVO to you!! You
enlightened me once again. I am passing this on with a word of advice for
everyone listen to your videos. I am especially interested to hear my son's
(type A--IP Director of small company) thoughts! Thanks as always in helping so
many people. Ohhhh, and I loved you new ID? LOL!! [As a Shrink Rapper]
I was reading through your blog today and noticed the write up relating to
the grandmother. Very interesting and touching!
If possible, would you be able to forward the poem "Kindred Eyes"?
Thanks you and have a very nice day.
Grandma's eyes age old crystal wisdom
Starry eyes to bathe in heaven's light
Teary eyes mirrored soulful freedom
Cold marble eyes...farewell sweet dreamy nights.
Grandma's eyes, grandma's eyes
Warmed your heart like a sunrise
Grandma's eyes, grandma's eyes
Rays of hope in a sea of lies!
Momma's eyes their brilliance masked the danger
Magnetic eyes compel an iron will
Towering eyes watched her huddled strangers
Such lonesome springs would never get their fill.
Momma's eyes, momma's eyes
Her gold stars were the prize
Momma's eyes, momma's eyes
Why were they so idolized?
Are there laser beams dancing with moon vision
Two fire balls blazing their own path
Buddha blues in the face of confusion
Kindred cat's eyes when, oh when, you coming back?
My cat's eyes, my cat's eyes
From afar romanticize
My cat's eyes, my cat's eyes
Are you real or in disguise?
Are you real or in disguise?
(c) Shrink Rap Productions 1992
Bill Maher's line: Cheney is sorry that he shot a 78-year-old man; but the
VP is convinced that he now has a long-term solution to Social Security,
Officials in Texas are swamped with requests for hunting permits now that they
know it only cost V.P. Cheney $7.00 to shoot a lawyer there.
Subj: The Bible vs. the Constitution
On Wednesday, March 1st, 2006, in Annapolis at a
hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to
prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law
at AU, was requested to testify.
At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy
"Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a
man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?"
Raskin replied: "Senator, when you took your oath of
office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to
uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand
on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."
The room erupted into applause.
Subject: FROM THE LETTERMAN WEB SITE...
Top Ten Reasons Dick Cheney Won't Resign
10. Trying to fix up Condi Rice with his daughter
9. Turns out when you shoot somebody, if you're not vice president, you gotta do
8. Bush leaves at two every day and then it's margaritas and Fritos
7. Set the solitare high score on his office computer
6. Wants to see if he can help Bush get his approval rating under ten
5. Too hard to give up Vice Presidential Discount at D.C. area Sam Goody stores
4. Wants to stay on the job until every country in the world hates us
3. Extra-zappy White House defibrillators
2. Undisclosed location has foosball and whores
1. Why quit when things are going so well?
Subj: Dictionary for Decoding Women's Personal Ads
40-ish ........................ 49.
Adventurous .............. Slept with everyone.
Athletic ...................... No breasts
Average looking .......... Moooo.
Beautiful .................... Pathological liar.
Emotionally Secure .... On medication.
Feminist ................... Fat
Free spirit .................. Junkie
Friendship first ........... Former slut.
New-Age ................... Body hair in the wrong places.
Old-Fashioned ............ No BJs.
Open-minded .............. Desperate
Outgoing ................... Loud and Embarrassing.
Professional ............... B!tch
Voluptuous ................ Very Fat
Hugh frame .............. ...Hugely Fat
Wants soul mate ......... Stalker
1. Yes = No
2. No = Yes
3. Maybe = No
4. We need = I want
5. I am sorry = you'll be sorry
6. We need to talk = you're in trouble
7. Sure, go ahead = you better not
8. Do what you want = you will pay for this later
9. I am not upset = of course, I am upset, you moron!
10. You're certainly attentive tonight = is sex all you ever think about?
1. I am hungry = I am hungry
2. I am sleepy = I am sleepy
3. I am tired = I am tired
5. I love you = Let's have sex now
6. I am bored = Do you want to have sex?
7. May I have this dance? = I'd like to have sex with you.
8. Can I call you sometime? = I'd like to have sex with you.
9. Do you want to go to a movie? = I'd like to have sex with you.
10. Can I take you out to dinner? = I'd like to have sex with you.
11. I don't think those shoes go with that outfit = I'm gay
Subj: Mental Hospital Answering Machine
Hello, and welcome to the mental health hotline.
1. If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly.
2. If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you.
3. If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5, and 6.
4. If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want. Stay on the
line so we can trace your call.
5. If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the
6. If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell
you which number to press.
7. If you are a manic-depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press;
no one will answer.
8. If you have amnesia, press 8 and state your name, address, telephone
number, date of birth, social security number, and your mother's maiden name.
9. If you have bi-polar disorder, please leave a message after the beep or
before the beep or after the beep. Please wait for the beep.
10. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term
memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have
short-term memory loss, press 9.
11. If you are menopausal, hang up, turn on the fan, lie down, and cry. You
won't be crazy forever.
12. If you have low self-esteem, please hang up. All of our operators are too
busy to talk to you.
Recent Programs [testimonials upon request]
Office of Human Resources/Montgomery County, MD; half-day Stress/Conflict
2. Booz Allen Hamilton/Disability Forum; Safe Stress Workshop; Mclean, VA
3. Dept. of Human Services/Fairfax County Govt.; half-day Stress/Conflict
4. Holiday Park Senior Center, Montgomery County, MD; Safe Sress Program
5. Region IV, Public School Nursing Conference, Prince William County, VA;
half-day Stress/Conflict Program
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 2006
Shrink Rap Productions