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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist (tm)

Sep 2010, 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

Section I:

Stress Doc Q & A:  Seven Highly Effective Habits of Trust-Expanding Organizations

Shrink Rap I:  When Dynamic Business Owners Are Also Dysfunctional-Enabling Spouses:  Key Diagnostic Warning Signs

Testimonials:  Nevada Women, Infants & Children (WIC), 4th Sustainment Brigade
13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, TX, and ASPIRE (Asian Pacific Internal Revenue Employees) National Conference

Readers Submissions:  The Economy Is So Bad that...

Phone Coaching-Consultation-Counseling with the Stress Doc ™

Offerings:  Books, CDs, Training/Marketing Kit:  Email stressdoc@aol.com or go to www.stressdoc.com for more info.


1.  Q & A. "Seven Highly Effective Habits of Trust-Expanding Organizations."  Responding to a query from a WorkforceWeek.com reader, the Stress Doc outlines seven steps for rebuilding organizational trust:
1)  Hold a Focus Group
2)  Acknowledge “Hidden Agendas”
3)  Talk Straight and Ask Good Questions
4)  Don’t Bad Mouth Others Behind Their Back, Especially Folks No Longer in the Company
5)  Don’t Overpromise and Under Deliver; Keep Your Commitments
6)  Create a Learning-Trust Building Culture
7)  Extend Trust

2.  Shrink Rap.  "When Dynamic Business Owners Are Also Dysfunctional-Enabling Spouses:  Key Diagnostic Warning Signs."  Analyzing work with two phone coaching clients -- successful male and female business owners -- the Stress Doc outlines "Common Signs of Cognitive-Emotional-Behavioral Conflict, Codependency and Marital/Family Dysfunction":

Stress Doc Q & A:

Seven Highly Effective Habits of Trust-Expanding Organizations

An HR training analyst recently asked WorkforceWeek.com for some practical steps in helping an organization repair broken trust.  The e-zine passed along the request.  Here’s my reply:

In this time of organizational restructuring, rapid operational-technological change and economic uncertainty rebuilding trust is definitely a challenging and not uncommon task.  However, all levels of management can take the lead in this rebuilding process if they follow some basic principles and key strategic steps.  Much of my thinking has been influenced by The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything, 2006, a book written by Stephen M. R. Covey, the son of the renowned organizational guru and author, Stephen Covey.  In fact, for the son, the foundation of successful leadership is achieving results in a way that inspires trust.  There’s an atmosphere of transparency and two-way communication, and employees believe their talents and efforts are contributing to the present and future success of the company.  A final leadership core practice:  leaders take more than their fair share of blame and give more than their fair share of credit.  Or, as was noted in Speed of Trust:  when things go well look out the window; when things go wrong look in the mirror!

With the above framework, and the assumption that there has been some recent loss of trust, here are “Seven Strategic Steps for Rebuilding Organizational Trust”:

1.  Hold a Focus Group.
  One of the best ways to begin a healing and trust building process is a meeting, or a series of meetings, that allow people to appropriately share their concerns or vent frustrations about people or processes that have contributed to a destabilizing or trust-eroding organizational atmosphere or culture.  Of course, you need a skilled and objective facilitator.  When employees see that management doesn’t get defensive during this exchange and acknowledges broad concerns, participates in a genuine give and take and, in timely fashion, takes meaningful problem-solving steps, trust levels begin to rise.

2.  Acknowledge “Hidden Agendas.”
  When possible, “speak the unspeakable,” that is, bring up the 800 lb. gorilla in the room.  Being transparent doesn’t mean you have to put everything on the table, but certainly share appropriate information about problematic issues or about what is and is not in your immediate control, along with what information you do and don’t have.  (These last two issues are particularly salient when there are rumors about a possible restructuring or downsizing.)

3.  Talk Straight and Ask Good Questions. 
Try to get to the point without too much digression or over-explanation as this diminishes your credibility with an audience.  When possible do some preparation; precision of language commands attention.  If this is an issue, what keeps you from talking straight – fear of consequences or being wrong, fear of hurting others, wanting to be liked, a duplicitous environment, etc.?  Conversely, ask good questions.  The essence of a good question: a) humility:  “I don’t have all the answers” and b) openness:  “I really would like to hear and learn from your point of view.”  Remember, when a person is communicating with high emotion, he or she likely still feels misunderstood.

4.  Don’t Bad Mouth Others Behind Their Back, Especially Folks No Longer in the Company.
 All “behind the back” talk does is fuel employee mistrust:  “What do (or will) people say about me when I’m not around (or when I retire)?”  And if people are talking negatively about a current employee, encourage people to talk directly with the person; offer to mediate (or to find a mediator) when appropriate.

5.  Don’t Overpromise and Under Deliver; Keep Your Commitments. 
As I like to say, beware of being motivated by egoals, that is, when your goals are driven less by the needs, demands, resources and challenges of a situation and more by ego and false pride.  Remember, as Covey notes, "when you make a commitment you build hope; when you keep a commitment you build trust!"

6.  Create a Learning-Trust Building Culture. 
In addition to acknowledging a personal mistake in a timely manner, when possible view errors as less a sign of incompetence and more an indicator of inexperience or some immaturity, maybe even boldness.

7.  Extend Trust.
  Design rules and procedures for the overwhelming majority of people you can trust.  Grant trust abundantly to those who’ve earned it; extend conditionally to those earning it, while examining the situation, the risk potential and the credibility – for Covey, the competence and character – of those involved for more opportunities to extend trust.

Hopefully, these principles and strategic practices will rejuvenate a climate of trust in your shop and will help one and all…Practice Safe Stress!

Shrink Rap:

When Dynamic Business Owners Are Also Dysfunctional-Enabling Spouses:
Key Diagnostic Warning Signs

In my work as a phone coach with men and women business owners, I have come across a familiar pattern:  the individual initially requests coaching services to deal with feelings of burnout regarding running the business.  The individual just can't seem to get fired up or he/she is seriously considering selling the business.  However, within a short period of time, the balance of our coaching work begins to shift -- less emphasis on the business as some of the depression begins to lift and energy rebuilds (though business issues continue to be addressed) and more emphasis on family matters.  I'm thinking of two clients -- one male, one female, both in their mid-to-late-forties.  The male client has two boys who are not quite teens, while the female has two sons, in their twenties.  (Of course, having only spoken with the business owners I am not getting a full assessment picture.)

What emerges for both families is the corrosive reality of substance abuse.  Both of the business owners have used and on occasion have abused alcohol; the male business owner has also used and misused recreational drugs.  However, both their spouses have had serious substance abuse issues approaching two decades -- alcohol for the spouse of the woman and alcohol and marijuana for the spouse of the male client.  His wife occasionally goes into the office, though she seems to have a disruptive influence on people and operations when she does.  In fact, she has not really worked in years.  Both spouses do have some strengths, that is, the male holds a steady supervisory job at the US Postal Service; the female spouse is still mostly responsive with her children regarding everyday organization.  And both owners were not aware of the extent to which the substance abuse problem was weighing on their minds and bodies and how this family dysfunction was depleting their energy and spirit for running the business.  Also, the abusing spouses have repeatedly refused to get help for their substance abuse problems.  (Also, both have not as yet followed up on my suggestion of seeing a counselor face-to-face or attending Al-Anon; both have had unsuccessful previous marital therapy experience; presently, they want to continue their phone coaching work with me.)

Both business owners have questioned the viability of their marriage:
a) several years ago, the male abusing spouse had an affair and left the house; when the affair played out and he was having difficulty managing on his own, he asked his wife to allow him to return, which she did.  Alas, not working on the substance abuse/marital dynamics, the marriage is back to its previous problematic state, and
b) the male business owner has made some steps to move out, though he has not truly separated despite currently residing outside the family home.  Not surprisingly, because of his connection and concern for the boys, his own generalized anxiety, his conflicted ties with his wife, and his emotional connection to their house, he is frequently at the family home.

What is apparent and what will be the focus of the first part of this essay are the natural fears and ambivalences around letting go of their familiar yet often painful adaptation patterns.  Both these high achieving individuals -- successful in many ways in one context -- also struggle with codependency issues in another vital realm.  (Not surprisingly, some of the marital co-dependency issues also get played out in their business relationships, though usually with less intensity.)  The second half will enumerate some problem-solving steps to overcome the clutches of co-dependency.

Common Signs of Codependency and Family Dysfunction

Basically a person has a co-dependency problem when, despite not having an active substance abuse issue, he or she either denies the reality or "enables" -- overtly or covertly downplays, chooses to be ignorant of, encourages or accepts -- a partner's substance abuse illness and issues.  Another diagnostic indicator of co-dependency is that the non-abusing or enabling spouse (in our discussion, the respective business owners) despite confidence and competence in business matters, still have emotional and interpersonal communication issues.  Each has low-self-esteem, a sense of unworthiness and feelings of abandonment that can be readily triggered in their interaction with the substance abusing spouse.  And these triggered feelings pollute the clarity of thinking, as well as their communication and conflict problem-solving responses.  The "enabling spouse" will be noted as ES and the "substance abusing spouse" will be SAS.

Here are "Common Signs of Cognitive-Emotional-Behavioral Conflict, Codependency and Marital/Family Dysfunction" as displayed in our two individual-family scenarios:

1.  Power of Early Memories:  Objectively Assessing Old Times.  When assessing the state of their marriage, both business owners tend to focus on the "good times," even though such good times have rarely been seen for ten years or more.  In particular, the female business owner believes these memories are all she has.  Letting go precipitates a feeling of anxious emptiness.

2.  Power of Recent Memories:  Honestly Facing the Pain in the Present.  It's hard to acknowledge how difficult, how little emotional-romantic-intimate connection there has been for many years.  To acknowledge this means coming face-to-face with the feeling that these last number of years "have been a waste."

3.  House vs. Spouse.  In the past ten years or so, each seems to have had more of a connection with their house, the design, the furnishing, the upkeep, the pool, etc., than with their spouse.  While the house early on was a place for bonding and partnering, now it's an arena for divisiveness or separateness, e.g., sleeping in separate rooms.  One business owner feels she does most of the upkeep; the other feels his wife is letting the house go to seed.  Not surprisingly, the fear of losing or having to sell the house weighs heavily on the business owner when contemplating leaving the marriage.

4.  Minimizing the Impact of Substance Abuse.  Spouses who are in long term relationships with a SAS often minimize the impact of the dysfunctional behavior, not just for themselves but also for the children.  Such labels for "Adult Children of Alcoholics" include the "Over-responsible One," the Acting Out/Defiant One" and the "Invisible One."  And these children often are susceptible to substance abuse problems themselves.

5.  The ES Needs the Approval of the SAS.  The painful irony is the business owners are looking for approval from a spouse who is described as being "cold" or "disinterested."  Both of the business owners can't believe how unfeeling their SAS can be.  (And both do not fully understand how the SAS' illness contributes to their emotional detachment, disregard or unresponsiveness.)  The male business owner, in particular, feels that after a contentious or unresponsive sit down with his spouse, his self esteem goes through the floor.  A therapist once suggested that he felt like an "impostor."  My take is that this man in the business realm does have real strengths and positive self-regard.  However, a pattern of being overly dependent on his mother's judgments and now on his wife's reactions (or lack thereof) in the heat of marital battle or "be-little" trumps whatever solid adult self-feeling he has.

6.  Dysfunctional Support Systems.  Whether it's the male SAS' drinking buddies at the neighborhood bar or the female SAS' friends and family members who drink/smoke with her in the house or during social outings, both of these troubled spouses have support systems that feed their substance abuse denial.

Part II will provide key steps for grappling with enabling tendencies and how to restore energy and a positive focus to your life even when still living with a substance abusing spouse.  Until then…Practice Safe Stress!


1) Nevada Women, Infants & Children (WIC)
["Creatively Managing Stress and Conflict & Building Team Cooperation Through Humor" Programs for Las Vegas (160 attendees) and Reno (80), NV Regions]

Sep 3, 2010

Hello Mr. Gorkin,

Once again, if I haven’t already said so, thank you kindly for coming to train the Nevada WIC program. Your presentation was in fact as engaging, interactive and insightful as you led me to believe upon our initial conversation. Staff left your session ‘pumped’ and ready to take what they learned back to their workplace. Working within the WIC program at the local level can be very taxing for staff, and we were glad that you were able to give them the tools that they needed to handle workplace stress effectively!


Key James
Health Program Specialist I

Nevada State WIC
3811 W. Charleston Blvd. Ste. 205
Las Vegas, NV 89102
702-486-8103 (Ph)


2) 4th Sustainment Brigade
13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, TX

[Predeployment Offsite for 100 Officers, Senior Sergeants and Spouses]

Aug 21, 2010


It was good to hear from you. Work has been chaotic given that I was only in the office one of the last 10 days before we came to the offsite. Your presentation was excellent. I was taking copious notes. We have a program within the brigade geared at enhancing junior leadership comminication skills in caring for soldiers and helping soldiers increase life skills in five areas of their lives: personal, professional, relational, spiritual, and financial. Part of that program is using thought provoking quotes to help leaders present some thought worthy ideas and to encourage soldiers to consider their possibilities. As we continue to write the material, I hope to be able to incorporate some of the things you put out in your class.

As I transition and get settled in my new job sometine in the next week or maybe month -- it is the army, you know -- I will keep in mind our conversation about working with the chaplains.

take care,

Jerry Sieg

Cell (907) 360-4317
Gov't. Cell (254) 630-3580

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. -- Confucius

3) ASPIRE (Asian Pacific Internal Revenue Employees) National Conference -- Chicago
  [1.25 hr "Inspiring Leadership-Partnership with a Jolt of CPR -- Creativity, Passion & Risk-Taking" and "Practice Safe Stress" Programs]

Aug 6, 2010

Hi Mark,

Sorry for responding to you this late.  Your workshops were awesome, we enjoyed them very much.  To let you know that the conference committee is still working hard in collecting the online feedback/evaluation from the attendees.  Once it is completed which might be in early September, I'll forward the result to you as the inclusion of the testimony you had requested.  I hope this would be ok with you.  Thanks and have a great weekend.

Best Regards,

Minah B. Goertler
Internal Revenue Agent - Badge # 04-80850

Team 1176 - LMSB HMT - Heavy Manufacturing
N14W24200 Tower Place #202  MS: 4213WKW
Waukesha, WI 53188

Ofc: 262-513-3473

Reader Submissions:

Subj:  The Economy Is So Bad that...
From: MDodick@aol.com

I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

I ordered a burger at McDonald's and the kid behind the counter asked, "Can you afford fries with that?"

CEO's are now playing miniature golf.

If the bank returns your check marked  "Insufficient Funds," you call them and ask if they meant you or them .

Hot Wheels and Matchbox stocks are trading higher than GM.

A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.

Dick Cheney took his stockbroker hunting.

Motel Six won't leave the light on anymore.

The Mafia is laying off judges.

Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.
Congress says they are looking into this Bernard Madoff scandal. Oh Great!!  The guy who made $50 Billion disappear is being investigated by the people who made $1.5 Trillion disappear !

And, finally...

I was so depressed last night thinking about the economy, wars, jobs, my savings, Social Security, retirement funds, etc., I called the Suicide Lifeline. I got a call center in Pakistan, and when I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited, and asked if I could drive a truck!

Phone Coaching-Consultation-Counseling with the Stress Doc ™

The recent success of the Busy Women's Retreat has generated a request for phone coaching-consultation-counseling services; I am working with two clients and am ready to expand my availability. (See testimonials below.)  My expertise is based on years of experience as a therapist and OD/team building and critical incident consultant. My coaching is distinctly insightful and uncommonly empowering.  Of course, I continue to do unique keynote speaking and workshop programs as a "Motivational Humorist." 
In general, sessions will be for 30 or 60 minutes.  Fees to be determined.  Feel free to pass the announcement on to friends, family and colleagues.  For more info:

301-875-2567 or

Here is a recent coaching testimonial from a woman on the West Coast.  (I'm on the East Coast.):

Date: 10/30/2007
From: Stuntsista

Hi Mark,

What growth has occurred since our work several weeks back.  I am most certain you were a gift to me during those months of coaching together.  As I remember, the most memorable character trait to me is your ability to blend courage and personal understanding; as one who has experienced suffering and risen to overcome.  Only one who has experienced the depth, could so acutely and masterfully, handle the heart of one suffering, to guide, to point out, to encourage voice to feelings.  Mark, Thank you, for your accurate assessment, time and again.  I am grateful beyond words.  I appreciate your flexibility in time zones and the presence with which you showed up is just solid.  I enjoyed your humor that you inflected with such appropriateness.  It means so much to have had you 'in my corner' through such an ordeal I found myself in.

My health has turned for the best and I deeply believe it has all to do with my state of mind.  As Victor Frankl observed over 40 years ago:  "Those who know how close the connection is between the state of mind of a man -- his courage and hope, or there lack of -- and the state of immunity of his body will understand that the sudden loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect." 
I am well.  I have had several courageous conversations.  There is movement.  Don't be surprised if our paths cross again ~ smile. 
Most Sincerely,
Terri Cadiente A.C.C.
Associate Certified Coach, Speaker, Stunt woman

Strength And Grace Inc.
25050 Avenue Kearney Suite #109
Valencia, CA 91355
Office: 661.294.7841
Mobile: 818.489.4842www.StrengthAndGraceInc.com

~to inspire courage, provoke action and live from a heart at choice ~my life purpose

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a one-of-a-kind "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst."  The "Doc" is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN speaking and workshop programs.  The "Stress Doc" is also a team building and organizational development consultant for a variety of govt. agencies, corporations and non-profits.  And he is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™.  Mark is an Adjunct Professor at Northern VA (NOVA) Community College and currently he is leading "Stress, Team Building and Humor" programs for the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions and Brigades, at Ft. Hood, Texas and Ft. Leonard Wood, MO.  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 stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-875-2567.

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2010

Shrink Rap™ Productions