The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
MAR 2007, No. I, 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: Kind Words and an Encouraging Exchange
Work Q & A: When a Boss Enables Tattling on Employees Everyone Suffers
Readers: One Woman's War (and Moments of Wonderment) with Cancer; Altered
State/Creative Process Experience; Supreme Court Give's Gore's Oscar to Bush; 60
Minutes Correspondent Andy Rooney (CBS) on Women Over 40, Airline Cabin
Testimonials: Holiday Park Multiservice Senior Center -- Program on Senior
Heads Up: Federally Emloyed Women/Federal Triange and Patent & Trademark Office
Chapters, US Dept. of State/Foreign Service Institute/Careeer Transition Center,
Prince Georges County, MD Chamber of Commerce
Main Essay: Avoiding Avoidance: Tips and Techniques for Confronting Anxiety
and Channeling Aggression into Productive Action; Shrink Rap Ditty:
Overview: Sec. I
1) Shrink Rap: Kind Words and an Encouraging Exchange.
2) Work Q & A: When a Boss Enables Tattling on Employees Everyone
Suffers. Q. Our HRIS Manager (female late 30s, very bright) frequently
tattles to our overall boss about peers/associates' perceived gaffes. The boss
(VP HR Director) then counsels the employee or has his Assistant do it. The
only employee she does not tattle on is her only subordinate. Why dos she do
this, what do you see as the ramifications, and what might cause her to change
her behavior? She is really wrecking morale, teamwork and communications in our
Overview: Sec. II
1) Main Essay: Avoiding Avoidance: Tips and Techniques for
Confronting Anxiety and Channeling Aggression into Productive Action. Based
on recent talks on "Stress and Time Management" the Stress Doc is expanding his
understanding of "procrastination," especially the concept of "avoidance." This
essay outlines four avoidance traps and then provides techniques for turning
procrastination anxiety and anger into productive action.
2) Shrink Rap Ditty: Procrastination...Procrastination
Words and an Encouraging Exchange
On Feb. 20, I received an email that simply said: "I wanna be like you when I
And I simply responded, "Why's that? ;-)
And what ensued highlights one impotant reason why I keep throwing words and
ideas into cyberspace:
Miss D wrote back:
I would like to professionally shape my corny sense of humor to develop a
meaningful approach to educate others and assist with building successful
Thanks for the response...and rapid one at that! Totally unexpected!!! :)
And in a follow-up email, she continued:
Taking advantage of your response, I just want to say one more thing...
I've been looking at your site, your archives, and your works in publications as
I attempt to write a book about my experiences in successful team-building for
the "Social Sector!" It seems as if every BRILLIANT idea that comes to my mind,
has already been discovered and discussed by you!!!
Today, I was thinking of cute little banker terms to use as analogies for
investing in employees, and realized that you'd already coined the "IRA"
concept. [Editor's Note: "Incentives, Rewards/Recognition and Advancement
Opportunities.] At that moment, I looked further into your biography and
determined, what I said on your site, that, "I wanna be like you when I grow
Of course I'm a young (at least claim to be young) black "girl," and you're a
not-so-young...and not-so-black :) male...I truly admire your accomplishments,
and look forward to building a distinguished profile such as yours someday!!!
Hello Ms. D.,
Your note definitely brought a smile to my face.
And while our chromosomal makeup may be a bit different, I sense a kindred
spirit ready to make her mark on her world.
As I look back (and in some sense I recently did; will send you my
FEB07 newsletter. See the attached Main Essay, Sec. II) here's my
recommendation re: your stated goal ("would like to professionally shape my
corny sense of humor to develop a meaningful approach to educate others and
assist with building successful teams!!!"):
1) whether for a newsletter, your own or someone else's, keep writing. Writing
two-minute "Stress Brake" essays for the radio in N'Awlins in the early-mid '80s
definitely helped me discover and develop my "psychohumorist" voice.
2) turn your ideas into material you can present in public, as a teacher,
workshop leader, team consultant, conference speaker. Start anywhere and
everywhere and never be too proud to speak for free. The paid gigs will follow
(sometimes slowly, alas). But you are not doing it for the money. You are
doing #1 and #2 because you cannot follow any other path. This path is in your
psyche and in your genes; it's your genuine and larger "Self," as Carl Jung used
Will place you on my mostly monthly newsletter and send some other start-up
stuff. To blood, sweat, tears and joy!
Work Q & A:
a Boss Enables Tattling on Employees Everyone Suffers
I wanted to thank you for another insightful look at human behavior.
I read your answer to the question "When a Boss Enables Tattling on Employees
Everyone Suffers." You hit it right-on-the-nose about the possible motivation
behind both the HRIS Manager and VP's dysfunctional behavior. Morale at places
where this happens is low. I know of one person who delighted in this behavior
and used it as her source of power in making herself indispensable to the VP. It
got out of hand.
One thing to note is that if HR people possess this dysfunctional behavior, they
are likely to give bad advice to line-managers dealing with employee relation
issues. This [dysfunctional behavior/bad advice] perpetuates throughout an
organization and the corporate culture and policies become punishing and
Thank you again. H
Here's the Work Q & A:
When a Boss Enables
Tattling on Employees Everyone Suffers
[Written for WorkforceOnline.com]
Q. Our HRIS Manager (female late 30s, very bright) frequently tattles to our
overall boss about peers/associates' perceived gaffes. The boss (VP HR
Director) then counsels the employee or has his Assistant do it. The only
employee she does not tattle on is her only subordinate. Why dos she do this,
what do you see as the ramifications, and what might cause her to change her
behavior? She is really wrecking morale, teamwork and communications in our
A. The scenario seems to come straight out of a family script or elementary
school situation. The HRIS Manager is telling Daddy about how naughty her
siblings have been; she comes across as wanting to be "teacher's pet." Alas,
she's more pest than pet. Even if the HRIS Manager has very high work standards
that she feels others are not meeting, the boss is the real problem.
For your first question, why does the HRIS Manager do this, I suspect there are
some immature needs for attention and approval, maybe even some sibling rivalry
that is being played out. Unfortunately, the VP HR Director is certainly
enabling this "family dysfunction." Now his motivation is another unanswered
question. One can speculate widely (yet not necessarily wisely) -- from his
need to be a father figure, to seeing information as enhancing his sense of
power and control, to a possible romantic dalliance. More tangibly, in addition
to a work climate of unfairness and favoritism, this tattling certainly will
stir resentment, perhaps evoke some jealousy and as you note will wreck morale,
team work and office communications. Let's concentrate on some specific issues
1. Talk to the Boss. Even if you think this will go nowhere, I would at
least go on record as registering your concern. Even better would be having two
or three employees confirm and detail the negative impact of the HRIS Manager's
behavior. Come with documentation both of her behavior and observable
consequences, e.g., time spent by team members venting at lunch, any verbal
blowups or testiness observed, etc. If the boss claims that he likes having a
set of work floor eyes and ears, propose having a team meeting to discuss any
concerns about individual or departmental performance or team cooperation. I
suspect that if both the boss and the HRIS Manager knew how to run effective
team meetings, much of the problems you report would disappear. Nonetheless, if
he dismisses this suggestion or if he labels your complaints as mere jealousy,
then it's time for other intervention options.
2. Talk to the EAP. If the first option isn't successful or doesn't feel
safe, and if you have an Employee Assistance Program, make an appointment and
share your concerns as noted above. This professional can speak with the VP if
you give the EAP Counselor permission. Your meeting is held in strict
confidence if you prefer. This counselor may well be able to get your boss'
attention. He or she may be able to facilitate a team meeting (or bring in a
conflict mediator) to get the issues on the table. Finally, the EAP counselor
can go over your boss' head and hopefully get someone higher up the authority
chain to get your boss' attention.
3. Talk to a Colleague of Your Boss. If you want to try an informal
intervention before using the EAP option, try to enlist the support of an
executive colleague or friend of your boss. This person should have your boss'
welfare in mind and not be afraid to talk straight with your boss. Of course,
don't trash your boss; mainly express your desire to stop the damage to morale
and to rebuild team coordination.
If your boss can see his behavior in a more objective light, and stop
encouraging the tattling, then confronting the HRIS Manager's behavior is not a
big step. First the boss needs to talk with the HRIS Manager alone, or perhaps
with the EAP counselor as a facilitator. And a recommendation for EAP
counseling for the HRIS Manager may be appropriate. And depending on how much
team damage has been done or how long the dysfunctional operations have been in
existence, the facilitator may also want to have brief individual meetings with
other team members as part of a venting and debriefing process. Then there
needs to be a group meeting, including the boss, his assistant and HRIS Manager
(best held with a trained facilitator), that allows: a) the group as a whole to
vent about the tattling and unfairness issues, b) all parties to express any
unfinished emotions in a constructive manner and, then hopefully, c) the healing
process, including regular and productive team meetings, to commence. These
meetings need to encourage the open and safe discussion of work problems or
interpersonal concerns and to also generate positive problem-solving approaches.
Hopefully these are words and strategies that can rebuild trust and help one and
allÖPractice Safe Stress!
One Woman's War (and Moments of Wonderment) with Cancer
Just because you find yourself in a difficult situation, one in which you are
really up against it, doesn't mean you're necessarily brave. In fact, you're
probably scared to death. Observers often have a tendency to remind you what an
inspiration you are and how much courage you have. But, you have no choice,
you're in it screaming inside because you hate it, you hate being sick, you hate
being here having to fight this endless battle and you have greed for more.
Greed for good health, greed for someone to Ďreallyí understand, greed for the
past when you were healthy and happy, greed not to see your families/friends sad
faces when they see you ill. You try and hide, but there is no place to hide.
Cancer is an awful thing, but it does put you in touch with wonderful people.
The receptionist at my Oncologist office is always cheerful; the girls in the
chemo room do all they can to make your stay as pleasant as it can be. They hand
you a cookie, put your favorite channel on the TV, tell you jokes, talk about
their families and try and make you as comfortable as possible. It amazes me how
these people can do this job, day in and day out, with their
up-lifting smiles and thoughtfulness. This has to be one of the hardest jobs
Today when I went for my radiation treatment I wanted to scream; ďis it all
goneĒ? Did you burn/kill it all?? Please tell me something I want to hear! I
didnít scream; I smiled, I thanked the technicians. I went home; I pondered, and
I wondered, is it gone? And, I prayed for it to be.
copyright, Susan Wells
February 12, 2007
[Regarding the SDNews: FEB07 "Main Essay" on my Mandala/Altered State/Creative
The article was very moving for me. It was powerful and affirms my understanding
of the spiritual, creative process.
What saddens me is that you have not, as far as I've seen, explored it further
and have gone off into behavioral and medicated forms of interventions. For me,
that approach does not met my need for deep spiritual transformation.
On the other side of the stick I think some of your understanding of anger is
extremely important and needs to be made more well known. Here is what I find
intellectual satisfying for me:
Injustice. A rule of conduct, a cherished belief or instrumental goal is
being threatened or abused; you see yourself (also others with whom you are
psychologically dependent or connected) as a victim of an injustice, unfairness
Injury. You feel disrespected, discarded or ignored; there's a sense of
insult and humiliation along with injury -- often psychological, at times also
Invasion. Your freedom, autonomy, boundary and personal space are
perceived to be constricted, disrupted or violated; your identity and bodily
and/or psychological integrity are being threatened or attacked.
Intention. There is an energy and determination to do something about the
above injustices, injuries and invasions; you are ready - reflexively and/or
purposefully - to challenge the status quo.
There is also "organic rage" which is spontaneous and of short duration to
prevent injury to life.
Thanks for your generosity in providing so much of your material at no cost. It
meets my need for cost-effective learning as I am a senior citizen living on a
limited budget. I teach "Anger Transformation', my own synthesis, at the local
county jails here in upstate New York.
Good luck in you future efforts
What a ride! Thanks for sharing that, I could relate to a lot of it. The closest
Iíve had to your description of the mandala experience was a sense of the
connection of all things descending on me as I was reading one of the Upanishads
at an Ashram north of Sydney (from the fullness take away the fullness, the
fullness remains). I canít quite describe it, but it was much more a full
sensation than an intellectual insight. Since than Iíve been more able to move
between the contradictions in my life with a little more calmness and a sense
than seemingly distant things are connected and that there is some kind of a
structure emerging. Last year towards Christmas I couldnít stop crying for a
week (or a least it seemed that way). The psychologist I was seeing at the time
was fairly dismissive about my attempts at building a research career in
education, having failed to find a teaching job. Anyway, Iím starting back at
uni this week studying Chinese, autism and theology, as well as trying to
recover my health. It seems like a disparate collection of interests, but to me
the fundamental connection is to do with how the mind processes learning and
experience, dare I say it even spiritual experience. Crossing the boundaries
between these different areas is taking me into a completely different
relationship to the wall I keep hitting, which comes back to the division of
mind and matter in Western thought. My commitment this year is to do this in a
way which gives me freedom of movement and rest, and hopefully some kind of
balance with family life, which is almost unbearably difficult at this point. No
wonder the psychologist couldnít keep up.
Iíve also decided to give myself a year to explore the question of
anti-depressants with my doctor. Iíve seen my brother become increasingly
distant and disconnected over the last three years under psychiatric care for
depression. Itís my belief that our tendency towards depression is due to
unresolved grief over our parentsí deaths because of the culture of denial
around death within both my parentsí families. If there is a genetic reality to
this as well I may be convinced to try anti-depressants at some point. At the
moment Iím going to throw this question out to the universe and give myself some
time for the lifestyle changes to have some effect. I may get back to you on
this later in the year as you seem pretty knowledgeable on this score.
Thanks again, I donít get to put this all together very often; itís a joy
talking to you,
P.S. I havenít had much success with Western medicine, but my experience with my
shiatsu practitioner is exactly what you were talking about with finding a
combination of the analyst couch and the massage table, so I guess Iíve been
pretty lucky there.
Subj: Supreme Court Give's Gore's Oscar to Bush
Stunning Reversal for Former Veep
Just days after former Vice President Al Gore received an Academy Award for his
global warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," the United States Supreme
Court handed Mr. Gore a stunning reversal, stripping him of his Oscar and
awarding it to President George W. Bush instead.
For Mr. Gore, who basked in the adulation of his Hollywood audience Sunday
night, the high court's decision to give his Oscar to President Bush was a cruel
twist of fate, to say the least.
But in a 5-4 decision handed down Tuesday morning, the justices made it clear
that they had taken the unprecedented step of stripping Mr. Gore of his Oscar
because President Bush deserved it more.
"It is true that Al Gore has done a lot of talking about global warming," wrote
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority. "But President Bush has
actually helped create global warming."
In another setback for the former vice president, a group of scientists meeting
in Oslo, Norway today said that Mr. Gore was growing at an unsustainable rate.
and in other news ...
In Florida, while walking to attend a news conference, Kathleen Harris tripped,
fell, and broke her hair.
"The polar ice caps may be shrinking, but Al Gore is clearly expanding," said
Dr. Hiroshi Kyosuke of the University of Tokyo. The scientists concluded that if
Mr. Gore continues to expand at his current rate, he could cause the earth to
spin off its axis by 2010, sending it hurtling into the sun. "Here's an
inconvenient truth," Dr. Kyosuke added. "Al's got to stay away from those carbs."
Elsewhere, after foreigners received a record number of Academy Award
nominations, CNN anchor Lou Dobbs proposed building a 12-foot high fence around
the Kodak Theater.
Subj: 60 Minutes Correspondent Andy Rooney (CBS) on Women Over 40
As I grow in age, I value women over 40 most of all. Here are just a few reasons
A woman over 40 will never wake you in the middle of the night and ask, "What
are you thinking?" She doesn't care what you think. If a woman over 40 doesn't
want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She does
something she wants to do, and it's usually more interesting. Women over 40 are
dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the
middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't
hesitate to shoot you if they think they can get away with it. Older women are
generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be
unappreciated. Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your
sins to a woman over 40. Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 40 is
far sexier than her younger counterpart. Older women are forthright and honest.
They'll tell you right off if you are a jerk if you are acting like one You
don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her. Yes, we praise women over 40
for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. For every
stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 40, there is a bald, paunchy relic
in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress. Ladies,
I apologize. For all those men who say, "Why buy the cow when you can get the
milk for free?", here's an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against
marriage. Why? Because women realize it's not worth buying an entire pig just to
get a little sausage!
Andy Rooney is a really smart guy!
Subj: Airline Cabin Announcement
A plane was taking off from Kennedy Airport . After it reached a comfortable
cruising altitude, the captain made an announcement over the intercom, "Ladies
and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293,
nonstop from New York to Los Angeles . The weather ahead is good and, therefore,
we should have a smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and relax... OH, MY
GOD!" Silence followed, and after a few minutes, the captain came back on the
intercom and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier.
While I was talking to you, the flight attendant accidentally spilled a cup of
hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants!" A passenger in
Coach yelled, "That's nothing You should see the back of mine
Park Multiservice Senior Center
[Program on Senior Romance; 40 attendees]
Subject: From Holiday Park!
Hey Mark :)
WOW! That was wild the other day! You certainly had everyone talking -- to
each other, to you and even to themselves I think -- and it was so nice to see
and hear the communication between all of our seniors and their great
interaction with you. I think some very valuable information and insights were
brought up during this program -- didn't you?
Mark, it is always so wonderful having you at Holiday Park. The level of
enthusiasm in our center is raised to such a high level and it's so much fun to
be part of it. Once again, I wish to thank you on behalf of everyone here, for
being such a positive influence and spending time with us. It's also nice to
know there's plenty to look forward to even after the next ten years pass!!
I look forward to seeing you again for future programs. Thanks again and take
Programs in Feb and Mar 2007; Testimonials upon request
1. Practice Safe Stress Workshop for Federally Employed Women/Federal Triangle
2. Practice Safe Stress in Times of (Career) Change Workshop, US State
Dept./Foreign Service Institute/Career Transition Center; 1.5 hours
3. Practice Safe Stress Workshop for Federally Employed Women/Patent &
Trademark Office; 45 minutes
4. Money & Stress Workshop, Prince Georges, County MD Chamber of Commerce;
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ô, 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" ô running his weekly "Shrink Rap ô 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 ô -- 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,
call or email the "Stress Doc": 301-946-0865 or firstname.lastname@example.org . And to
view web video highlights of a Stress Doc Keynote, go to
(c) Mark Gorkin 2007
Shrink Rap Productions