The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
DEC 2008, 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: Discovering Your Passion through Humble Practice and Outrageous
Testimonials: Louisiana CPA Society, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)
School of Dentistry, MRA (Maryland Rehabilitation Assn) DORS (Div. of Rehab
Services) Conference, Har Tzeone Senior Center/Jewish Community Center of
Readers: New Stock Market Terms, Men Are Just Happier, The Cracked Pot,
Hallmark Writers Having a Bad Day, Today's Transplants
Offerings: Books, CDs, Training/Marketing Kit: Email
firstname.lastname@example.org or go to
www.stressdoc.com for more info.
Main Essay: Part I -- Expanding the Stress Response through an Organic/Poetic
Mindset: "Fight and Flight” and “Freeze and Flow."
1) Shrink Rap: Discovering Your Passion through Humble Practice and
Outrageous Play. A playful challenge from an audience member helps bring to
life the importance of searching for and developing your passion, whether in the
face of skepticism, long periods of self-doubt and/or having to accept (even
better, learn to play with and laugh at) your own flaws and foibles.
2) Main Essay: Part I -- Expanding the Stress Response through an
Organic/Poetic Mindset: "Fight and Flight” and “Freeze and Flow."
Language clearly makes a difference in our conception of health and specifically
whether our perspective on stress has a balance between the mechanical and the
organic. First, by increasing the stress response from “fight and flight” to
also include “freeze and flow” you expand adaptation possibilities. Second, by
capturing the natural properties of these terms and by allowing them to interact
in space-time, productive and imaginative tension is generated and the final
stress response “f”-word comes into play: “fertility.” And there even may be
“life after deadlines!”
[This is a three-part series. Due to its length, the entire series is an
attachment. Part II is "A Multi-“P” Pathway for Inner and Outer Peace and
Performance Power: Engaging and Transforming Pressure, Practice-Patience,
Possibility and Puzzlement." Building on the paradoxical pair of stress
responses – “fight and flight” and “freeze and flow” -- and the resultant
“Fertility Formula,” Part II provides specific definitions, illustrations and
skills related to Pressure, Practice-Patience, Possibility and Puzzlement.
These “P”s are concepts and tools for turning an expanded stress response
framework into fiery and focused, flexible and fertile adaptation.
Part III is "A Multi-'P' Pathway for Personal Peace and Performance Power:
Defining and Developing Team Partners, Partnerships and Paradoxical
Leadership." Building on the Part II concepts -- Pressure, Practice-Patience,
Possibility and Puzzlement -- Part III analyzes and illustrates the final
"Partnership" piece of the "Multi-'P' Pathway for Personal Peace and Performance
Power" puzzle. Foundational terms "partner" and "partnership" are defined and
the concept of "team partner" is presented. Recognizing the "responsibility"
challenge in effective partnerships becomes the gateway to the "Triple 'A' of
Individual and Organizational Responsibility" -- Authority, Autonomy and
Accountability. And when the Triple "A" is in play there is potential for
"professional empowerment," including encouraging strengths, supporting
vulnerabilities, taking initiative and having all accountable to an ethical and
operational standard. The article closes with a case vignette that illuminates
some psychological and interpersonal dynamics, challenges and motivational tools
for building an authentic and responsible or Triple "A" collection of team
partners. Finally, the analysis clarifies how, paradoxically, a respected
partner: a) by modifying his expectations of the formal leader and b) by
acknowledging vulnerability as well as a need for support, may c) play a
powerful leadership role while strengthening the idea of a mutually responsible
A playful challenge from an audience member helps bring to life the importance
of searching for and developing your passion, whether in the face of skepticism,
long periods of self-doubt and/or having to accept (even better, learn to play
with and laugh at) your own flaws and foibles.
Discovering Your Passion through
Humble Practice and Outrageous Play
Setting the stage for the dramatic close of my Practice Safe Stress program with
the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Dentistry faculty and
staff, I declared, "Find something you love to do, that you are truly passionate
about. Some will find it at work, others will need to explore outside of work.
And I believe you get the most mood elevation and sense of meaning when it's an
activity that allows for genuine self-expression and that challenges you to keep
practicing in order to develop your skills." I then asked the audience a
rhetorical question: "Can you tell I enjoy being up here?" Why do I enjoy it
so? Sure I love the attention, and I love being center stage. You know the old
adage: 'Vanity thy name is Gorkin!'" After the laughter subsided, I explained
the real reason: "I can bring more of myself as a speaker than just about
anything else I do. With years of practice -- stumbling, falling yet getting up
again and again -- I can be serious and silly, thoughtful and emotional,
aggressive or poetic, larger than life or even an 'orchestra leader,' helping
others bring out their best music. And I can be outrageous."
Now I immediately shifted into walking my "passionate" and "outrageous" talk, by
putting on my Blues Brothers hat and black sunglasses and taking out a black
tambourine, thereby revealing a secret identity: "I'm pioneering the field of
psychologically humorous rap music and as a therapist calling it, of course,
'Shrink Rap' ™ Productions." Predictably, there's an audible groan from the
audience. And my response: "Groan now. We'll see who has the last groan."
(However, in my defense, years back, an African American friend upon hearing the
lyrics said, "Oh, so you're into 'Aristocratic Rap.'")
I then explain that this is my Charlie Chaplin Maneuver. (Alas, after I'm
through you may need the Heimlich Maneuver.) The pioneering comedic film genius
observed that, "The paradoxical thing about making comedy is that it is
precisely the tragic which arouses the funny. We have to laugh due to our
helplessness in the face of natural forces and in order not to go crazy."
Naturally, I note that what the audience is "about to see and hear will give new
meaning to the word 'tragic.' And as for not going 'crazy,' it's way too late
for that. So buckle up your straightjackets…It's the 'Stress Doc's Stress
Rap.'" And not only am I belting out the words but I'm prancing around the room
while banging on the tambourine. Here are some sample lyrics:
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!...
Well the boss makes demands but gives little control
So you prey on chocolate and wish life were dull.
But office's desk's a mess, often skipping meals
Inside your car looks like a pocketbook on wheels!
[Email email@example.com for the
At the onset of my "performance," people seem embarrassed for me; some are just
sitting there wide-eyed with their mouths agape. (Clearly I'm perpetuating a
stereotype, notwithstanding Elvis Presley, John Travolta and Justin Timberlake:
the rhythmically-challenged status of the white male!) However, my bravery if
not my witticisms win them over. Often the group begins clapping their hands to
my self-styled beat. Once the lyrics are completed the room erupts in
applause. After waving off the feedback, my immediate response: "I've been
doing this long enough…I know when an audience is applauding out of relief!"
And then, "All this shows after twenty years off and on of all kinds of therapy
– from Jungian analysis to primal scream – I have one singular accomplishment.
Just one: Absolutely no appropriate sense of shame!"
Finally, as the laughter subsides, a woman in the audience ventures a comment,
likely on other's minds: "Don't quit your day job!"
And my rejoinder is fairly predictable: "It's too late…This is my day job!"
But then I seize the moment: "You know I'm just up here having a ball. I'm not
worried about what others are thinking, or whether they are judging me. I'm
just doing it cause I love doing it. And I do feel good about the quality of my
We had come full circle: Finding your passion and doing what you love to do.
First, I underscored the real satisfaction in being able to laugh at my own
flaws and foibles, especially when vividly recalling the many years being much
more self-conscious and less self-assured as a speaker. Of course, it wasn't
easy overcoming my self-consciousness rapping in public. More to the point, "it
took awhile to feel comfortable making a fool of myself." There was at least as
much blood, sweat and tears as there was joy while winding along the path of
mastery as a speaker and "Shrink Rapper." However, it was definitely worth it.
As the psychiatrist Ernst Kris observed: "What was once feared as is now
mastered is laughed at." (And as the Stress Doc inverted: "What was once
feared as is now laughed at is no longer a master!")
Now, with extensive practice and with the initial encouragement from those early
audiences, I'm just fulfilling my destiny: "Have Stress? Will Travel: A Smart
Mouth for Hire!" Obviously, my goal in life: "Being both a wise man and
a wise guy!"
Hopefully, this vignette will inspire a search for your passion and a commitment
to purposeful -- humbling and playful, if not outrageous -- practice. And with
a bit of luck, these words just may encourage one and all to…Practice Safe
1) Louisiana CPA Society/Government Accounting and
Auditing Annual Conference
[Keynote/Luncheon Speaker for 200]
Dec 20, 2008
I am writing to tell you how much everyone appreciated and enjoyed your Keynote
Presentation during the luncheon at the Louisiana Government Accounting and
CPAs can be a tough audience. However, your message was beneficial and a hit on
several levels. Not only did you impart to the 200 CPAs in attendance valuable
tips on how to practice "safe stress," but you also provided useful pointers on
improving interpersonal relationships at home and work.
Your talk produced pendulum type swings in the audience mood ranging from --
listening intently for your valuable information to rollicking laughter at your
clever witticisms that drove home your point.
Anthony J. Stoltz, CPA
[CPA Society Board Member]
3008 20th Street, Suite J
Metairie, LA 70002
2) Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Dentistry
["Managing Transitional Stress and Building Team Cooperation through Humor";
Closing presentation for 100 staff and faculty]
Dec 18, 2008
Thank you for your exuberant presentation on Monday during our staff development
day for the VCU School of Dentistry on December 15, 2008. Your ability to
engage everyone and make it fun was remarkable. We have received so many
positive comments and feedback from the attendees. Our goals for the future are
much clearer now as we continue to build a new culture and go from good to
My very best to you in your future endeavors; you have an enormous amount of
energy and optimism that many organizations will benefit from.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
VCU School of Dentistry
Office of the Executive Associate Dean
521 N. 11th Street, P.O. Box 980566
Richmond, Virginia 23298
(804) 828-4913 (FAX)firstname.lastname@example.org
3) MRA (Maryland Rehabilitation Assn) DORS (Div. of Rehab Services) Conference
["Transforming Change and Conflict into Passion Power" workshop for 40
Dec 18, 2008
Good afternoon Mark, Just wanted to let you know that the audience was thrilled
with your presentation at our annual training conference in Ocean City. Your
presentations always generate a lot of energy and enthusiasm and spark and
renew a sense of “I can do that” around the water cooler. We look forward to
having you again at future conferences and workshops. Thanks for a great
Melissa C. Pemberton,M.A.Ed.,CRC
Division of Rehabilitation Services
Staff Specialist, Human Resource Development
2301 Argonne Drive
Baltimore, Maryland email@example.com
4) Har Tzeone Senior Center/
Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington
Subject: Thank you, Mark!
Thank you so much for your outstanding inspirational presentation to the Har
Tzeon-Agudath Achim senior citizens. You energized the group with your upbeat
delivery and engaged them with meaningful exercises. To quote one senior:
"Mark was right on the money. He made us laugh and made us look at ourselves."
As the "Stress Doc" you delivered your Rx through humor, wit and personal
example. Good medicine, indeed!
Thank you again for a very worthwhile program. We look forward to your return
Satellite Program Director
Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington
Subj: New Stock Market Terms
CEO --Chief Embezzlement Officer.
CFO-- Corporate Fraud Officer.
BULL MARKET -- A random market movement causing an investor to mistake
himself for a financial genius.
BEAR MARKET -- A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the
wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.
VALUE INVESTING -- The art of buying low and selling lower.
P/E RATIO -- The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market
BROKER -- What my broker has made me.
STANDARD & POOR -- Your life in a nutshell.
STOCK ANALYST -- Idiot who just downgraded your stock.
STOCK SPLIT -- When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally
FINANCIAL PLANNER- A guy whose phone has been disconnected..
MARKET CORRECTION -- The day after you buy stocks.
CASH FLOW-- The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.
YAHOO-- What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per
WINDOWS -- What you jump out of when you're the sucker who bought Yahoo @
$240 per share.
INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR -- Past year investor who's now locked up in a
PROFIT -- An archaic word no longer in use.
Subj: Men Are Just Happier
If Laura, Kate and Sarah go out for lunch, they will call each other Laura, Kate
If Matt, Dave and Bill go out, they will affectionately refer to each other as
Fat Boy, Godzilla and Four-eyes.
When the bill arrives, Matt, Dave and Bill will each throw in $20, even though
it's only for $32.50. None of them will have anything smaller and none will
actually admit they want change back.
When the girls get their bill, out come the pocket calculators.
A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs.
A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn't need but it's on sale.
A man has six items in his bathroom: toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving cream,
razor, a bar of soap, and a towel
The average number of items in the typical woman's bathroom is 337. A man would
not be able to identify more than 20 of these items.
A woman has the last word in any argument.
Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.
A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.
A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.
A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
A successful woman is one who can find such a man.
A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.
A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, but she does.
A woman will dress up to go shopping, water the plants, empty the trash, answer
the phone, read a book, and get the mail.
A man will dress up for weddings and funerals.
Men wake up as good-looking as they went to bed.
Women somehow deteriorate during the night.
Ah, children. A woman knows all about her children. She knows about dentist
appointments and romances, best friends, favourite foods, secret fears and hopes
A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
A married man should forget his mistakes. There's no use in two people
remembering the same thing.
Subj: The Cracked Pot
An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole
which she carried across her neck.
One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always
delivered a full portion of water..
At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot
arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one
and a half pots of water.
Of course , the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.
But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that
it could only do half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman
one day by the stream. 'I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side
causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.'
The old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the
path, but not on the other pot's side?'
'That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds
on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.'
'For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the
Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace
Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have
that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.
You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in
SO, to all of my crackpot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the
flowers on your side of the path!
Don't forget the Cracked Pot that sent it to you.
Subj: What happens when Hallmark writers are having a bad day....
My tire was thumping.
I thought it was flat
When I looked at the tire...
I noticed your cat.
Heard your wife left you,
How upset you must be.
But don't fret about it...
She moved in with me.
Looking back over the years
that we've been together,
I can't help but wonder...
Was it the drinkin?'
What the Hell was I thinkin?'
Congratulations on your wedding day!
Too bad no one likes your husband.
How could two people as beautiful as you
Have such an ugly baby?
I've always wanted to have
someone to hold,
someone to love.
After having met you ..
I've changed my mind.
I must admit, you brought Religion into my life.
I never believed in Hell until I met you.
As the days go by, I think of how lucky I am....
That you're not here to ruin it for me.
Congratulations on your promotion.
Before you go...
Would you like to take this knife out of my back?
You'll probably need it again.
Happy birthday! You look great for your age.
When we were together,
you always said you'd die for me.
Now that we've broken up,
I think it's time you kept your promise.
We have been friends for a very long time ...
let's say we stop?
I'm so miserable without you
it's almost like you're here.
Congratulations on your new bundle of joy.
Did you ever find out who the father was?
Your friends and I wanted to do
something special for your birthday.
So we're having you put to sleep.
So your daughter's a hooker, and it spoiled your day.
Look at the bright side,
it's really good pay ther,
Subj: Today's Transplants
An Israeli doctor says, "Medicine in my country is so advanced that we can take
a kidney out of one man, put it in another, and have him looking for work in
A German doctor says, "That is nothing; we can take a lung out of one person,
put it in another, and have him looking for work in four weeks."
The Russian doctor says, "In my country, medicine is so advanced that we can
take half a heart out of one person, put it in another, and have them both
looking for work in two weeks."
An American Texan doctor, not to be outdone, says, "You guys are way behind. We
recently took a man with no brains out of Texas put him in the White House for
eight years, and now half the country is looking for work."
Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social
Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker and "Motivational Humorist"
known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN speaking and workshop
programs. In addition, the "Doc" is a team building and organizational
development consultant for a variety of govt. agencies, corporations and
non-profits and is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™. Mark is an Adjunct
Professor, No. VA (NOVA) Community College and currently he is leading "Stress,
Team Building and Humor" programs for the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry
Divisions, Ft. Hood, Texas. A former Stress and Conflict Consultant for the US
Postal Service, the Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and
of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online
"HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com -- called a "workplace resource" by
National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress"
programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org or
call 301-946-0865. And to view web video highlights of a Stress Doc
Keynote, go to
(c) Mark Gorkin 2008
Shrink Rap™ Productions