Up
Feb 11, No 1, Sec 1
Apr 11, No 1, Sec 1
Jun 11, No 1, Sec 1
Jun 11, No 1, Sec 2
Nov 11, Sec 1, Part1
Nov, 11, Sec 1, Part 2

The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

FEB 2011, No. I

Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!

Table of Contents: 

Notes from the Stress Doc ™
Shrink Rap:  Transforming the Conventional into the Creative
Main Essay:  On Becoming a Leading "Word Artist" on Stage and Page: How to ASPIRE-2 - Part I
Testimonials:

Addendum:  From Passionate Process to Poetic and Playful Puzzle – Part III:

The Art of Reviving and Writing “The Reorg Rag” ™
Phone Coaching-Consultation-Counseling with the Stress Doc ™ and Offerings:  Books, CDs, Training/Marketing Kit:  Email stressdoc@aol.com or go to www.stressdoc.com for more info.


Notes from the Stress Doc™:

This edition focuses on creativity and word artistry.  I think you’ll find it engaging and thought-provoking.

Overview:

1. Shrink Rap:  Transforming the Conventional into the Creative.  Examines the power  and possibilities in oppositional thinking.

2. Main Essay:  Powerful essay:  On Becoming a Leading "Word Artist" on Stage and Page: How to ASPIRE-2 -- Part I.  Here's another concept- and performance-based acronym for outlining temperament and tools, techniques and tactics for enhancing imagination along with a capacity for innovation and connection.  (You know I'm a charter member of an original, self-proclaimed AA group -- "Acronyms Anonymous!")  All you have to do is ASPIRE2…

The article is also posted on a Google Blog Site:http://www-stressdoc-com.blogspot.com/2011/02/on-becoming-leading-word-artist-on.html

Shrink Rap:

Transforming the Conventional into the Creative:
Discovering and Designing the "Bright Crystals" of Contradiction


These days everyone wants to be creative, to "think out of the box."  But how do you walk the talk?  As a workshop leader who often tries to give organizations a "Jolt of CPR:  Being Creative, Passionate and Risk-Taking," let me share one concept that just might be an integral component of creative thinking and problem-solving.  On stage, I like to introduce this concept through a thought-provoking and, possibly, unsettling exercise that was inspired by the research of Dr. Albert Rothenberg, as reported in his book The Emerging Goddess:  Creativity in the Sciences and the Arts.  (The title evokes the mythic imagery of Athena, Greek goddess of both war and creativity, being born full-sized from the head of her almighty father, Zeus.)  This Yale Psychiatrist and Cognitive Psychologist found that subjects who responded with more opposites or antonyms in a word association test - e.g., "wet" to the word "dry" or "fast" to the word "slow" - had higher scores on certain creative personality measures than subjects generating mostly synonyms or "original" responses.  (Rothenberg's sample was fairly small and at most his results can be suggestive.  My casual workshop trials indicate that usually less than ten percent of the audience free associate predominantly with antonyms.  Of course, I remind participants that this is only one informal measure of creativity.)  Considering the small or informal sample size, nonetheless, why might there be a correlation between contradictory association and personality differentiation?  To expand your worldview and problem-solving vision, consider these Seven Cognitive Complexity Keys for Transforming the Conventional into the Creative:

a. Challenge the Conventional.  To think oppositionally reveals a willingness to confront the conventional and the accepted or even "the respected authority."  While some view this as defiance, others see a delicious opportunity.  As von Oech wryly noted in his classic on creativity, A Whack On the Side of the Head: "Sacred cows make great steaks."  Or more potently and paradoxically, consider the pioneering 20th century artist, Pablo Picasso's refrain:  "Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction!"  (Guess sometimes to "think out of the box" is not sufficient; to start fresh and be fertile you may have to blow up the sucker, or at least be willing to challenge some traditional or foundational assumptions.)  To seek a higher truth, one may have to look at the oppositional with a more complex, ironical, or even volatile mind's eye and become more comfortable with seeming contradiction.   (Hot ice anyone?)

b. Recognize Yin-Yang Perspective.  This Eastern symbol depicts a complex truth:  that seeming opposites don't necessarily result in division or separation, but potentially flow into each other forming a greater, interconnected whole.  Also, the symbol illustrates how a small circle of contradiction embedded in its opposite (as represented by a small black dot in the largest part of the white flowing amoeba-like space or a small white dot in the largest part of the black flowing amoeba-like space) is seeding the emergence of its counterpoint, that is, the white space ultimately transforms into black space and the black into white.

A Yin-Yang perspective was articulated by the pioneering actor and comedian, Charlie Chaplin, who, for example, believed the "light-hearted" emerged from darkness:  "A 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."  Or consider the poignant observation from the inspiring disability pioneer and world humanist, Helen Keller:  The world is so full of care and sorrow it is a gracious debt we owe one another to discover the bright crystals of delight hidden in somber circumstances and irksome tasks.  Ms. Keller certainly perceives the yin-yang seeding principle.  Finally, what about this seemingly contradictory example:  have you ever had a fair fight with a close friend or partner?  You both express angry feelings; each one says his or her piece without wanting to rub the other's face in the mud.  And lo and behold, once feeling genuinely heard (even without reaching total agreement) the anger begins to subside replaced by a sense of relief, sure, but also some intimacy, perhaps even a little more trust.

c.  Develop Forest and Trees, Tactics and Strategy.  Oppositional thinking is not simply reactive:  by definition it's positioning one concept in juxtaposition or relation to another – such as by quality, e.g., "wet vs. dry," quantity, e.g., "large" vs. "small" or by position, "above vs. below" or "hill vs. valley."  That is, oppositional perspective challenges you to see multiple points of view, including your antagonist's mindset -- which may facilitate understanding and empathy or even give you advantage in terms of short-term tactics and long-term strategy.  Creative problem solving requires definite feel for details (the trees), but you also want a sense of the big picture (the forest).

Grappling with polarity encourages the rejection of simplistic "black or white" and "good or bad" thinking.  A capacity to make discriminations, to see shades of gray (a byproduct perhaps of the tension between forest and tress and other dichotomies) and, especially, examining both sides of an issue is critical for being a guide "on the cutting edge."  (And remember, these days, "If you're not living on the edge you're taking up way too much space.")

d.  Blend the Analytic and the Empathic.  Oppositional processing also means building a mind bridge within, that is, harnessing your masculine and feminine energy, using your head and heart, or according to one neuropsychological researcher, cultivating "bi-hemispheric peace of minds."  Of course, the different sides of the brain-personality are not always in perfect harmony.  On a personal level and in the performance arena, I need time and space for my manic-like, "out there" stage persona.  But I also must have room for being a sometimes melancholy or a frequently introspective and analytically insightful cave dweller.  (Alas, sometimes one soars then crashes or at least burns or runs out of energy before the rejuvenation cycle kicks in.)  But when I have both these energy -- mind and mood -- sources cooking and interacting, when my heated passion is tempered with cool purpose and  hard-earned perspective…then I'm "Touched with Fire" (the title of psychologist and best-selling author, Kay Redfield Jamison's book; its subtitle -- "Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament").

e.  Pay Homage to Janus, F.Scott and A. North.  Many in the arts and sciences have recognized the importance of reconciling seeming opposition to achieve a sense of wholeness or enriched integration, what Albert Rothenberg called "Janusian Thinking."  This cognitive process was named for the dual and opposite profiled, Roman deity, Janus, whose image was often found on gates and doorways.  And appropriately, Janus was the god of "beginnings and endings" and of "leavings and returns."  Consider my Janusian-like linguistic loop of beginnings and separations:  "One must begin to separate…one must be separate to begin."

Moving from the mythic, to the more contemporary, thinkers of all stripes, including Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Alfred North Whitehead and acclaimed 20th century author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, have embraced the latter's ideas about the significance of grappling with opposition:  "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the capacity to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.  For example, one should see things as hopeless yet determined to make them otherwise."  Sounds like another leading edge mantra!

f.  Explore and Express Text and Context.  As a "word artist" -- both on the page and on stage -- the importance of grappling with "text" and "context" is inescapable.  "Text" is the "on its face" data or "utility" of a message while one notion of "context" is the envelope of personal, interpersonal, cultural, historical background or circumstance in which the message is embedded, thereby providing or coloring it's full meaning and significance.  The best communicators understand that, in yin-yang fashion, both text and context along with substance and style and a forest and trees perspective must be accounted for if real meaning is to be gleaned, or if "message sent is to be message received."  Can you relate to this vexing example of one-dimensional information flow:  have you ever received directions for assembling a product with only verbal instructions and no supportive images?  GRRR!

Of course, accurately receiving a message is only half the battle.  The cutting edge communicator is not simply passionate but also knows how to deliver a message, especially by telling a story.  According to Daniel Pink, in his book, A Whole New Brain, most of our thinking and our knowledge are organized as stories.  Storytelling is the ability to place facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.  A story blends high concept and high touch.  Stories are high concept because they sharpen our understanding of one thing by showing it in the context of something else, a basic tool for understanding.   Of course, when telling stories, especially in our ADHD culture, consider this Shakespearean maxim -- Brevity is the soul of wit.   And I would add, "Wisdom."

Finally, as James Lukaszewski, founder of The Lukaszewski Group Inc., a crisis communication firm, observed in a recent speech:  "Telling stories is far more powerful than all of the studies, analyses, data, and information piled together on any given subject you can name.  Data is debatable; stories permit everyone who hears, sees, or reads to make up their own minds from their own perspectives.  Great leaders tell great stories. Stories help others learn to be leaders…Be a storyteller and you'll become known for being helpful, memorable, and a source of inspiration, insight, as well as self-evident truths."

g.  Generate and Tolerate Thesis-Antithesis Tension.  When trying to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable you may experience what psychiatrist, Richard Rabkin, called a state of "thrustration," which I defined thusly:  "Thrustration occurs when you're torn between thrusting ahead with direct action and frustration as you haven't quite put together the pieces of the puzzle."  Some are not able to tolerate such tension.  A truly classic New Yorker cartoon, playing off the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, forever lampooned the dangers of self-righteous rigidity in the face of seeming contradiction.  A nattily attired, pompous looking publisher standing behind his power desk begins to chastise a humbly dressed, hat in hand Charles Dickens:  "Really, Mr. Dickens…was it the best of times or was it the worst of times?  It could scarcely have been both!"

However, if you can stay with such cognitive tension and confusion, the angst just may fire the right hemisphere of your brain with the potential for sparking metaphorical images and analogies along with surprising and paradoxical visual puns.  The reward may be worth the risk.  Here's a personal illustration of how the tension between thesis and antithesis yielded a creative and integrative "Aha!"  Back in the early '90s, I wound up writing some rap-like lyrics for a black beauty contest theme song.  (Don't ask.  I had periodically tried my hand at poetry, including a bluesy number called "The Burnout Boogie."  Email stressdoc@aol.com for any and all.)  One morning, shortly after my noble, beauty contest effort, I awoke chastising myself:  I was a university professor, a psychotherapist (thesis)…What was I doing trying to write rap lyrics (antithesis)?  A blazing flash scattered my sleepy haze.  As the mist lifted, there…a mystical (if not hysterical) conceptual vision; a catalyst for my pioneering efforts in the realm of psychologically humorous rap music.  I was no longer just playing in a field of dreams:  "If you write and "Shrink Rap" ™ it…they will come" (creative synthesis).  Clearly, my goal in life has a paradoxical bent:  to be a wise man and a wise guy.  Again, a pretty good recipe for a cutting edge thinker, leader and budding "psychohumorist" ™!

Closing Summary

A conceptual framework for turning on your creative brain has been outlined.  Seven paradoxical, mind-expanding tools were illustrated:
a. Challenge the Conventional,
b. Recognize Yin-Yang Perspective,
c. Develop Forest and Trees, Tactics and Strategy,
d. Blend the Analytic and the Empathic
e. Pay Homage to Janus, F. Scott and A. North,
f.  Explore and Express Text and Context, and
g. Generate and Tolerate Thesis-Antithesis Tension.

So learn to discover and design "bright crystals" of contradiction.  You will transform conventional cognition and communication into imaginative, insightful and multifaceted understanding and adaptation - the hallmarks of creative connection.  And as illustrated, this connection manifests in domains ranging from achievement to affiliation:  1) the intrapersonal realm of mind-mood/mania-melancholia/heated passion-cool purpose interplay, "bihemispheric peace of minds" along with the synthesizing "Aha!" experience and 2) in the interpersonal realm of empathy, integration and emotional intelligence.  Complex concepts to keep us evolving and to enable one and all to…Practice Safe Stress!

Main Essay:

On Becoming a Leading "Word Artist" on Stage and Page:
How to ASPIRE-2 -- Part I


As a speaker, writer and leader I'm always looking to follow in the mind-prints of, or at least understand and hopefully emulate, Nobel-prize winning scientist, Albert Szent Gyorgyi's "elegantly simple" words:  "Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought!"  With originality as frame, form and function, what are the key skills and strategies for exploring new performance possibilities, generating potent ideas, inspiring others and strengthening creative output as a word artist - whether on the stage or the page?  Actually, I've come up with another concept- and performance-based acronym for outlining temperament and tools, techniques and tactics for enhancing imagination along with a capacity for innovation and connection.  (You know I'm a charter member of an original, self-proclaimed AA group -- "Acronyms Anonymous!")  All you have to do is ASPIRE2…

A = Aggressive and Accessible

Aggressive. 
For me, performance aggression is "characterized by or exhibiting determination, energy, and initiative."  (Definitions throughout are from the Encarta Dictionary.) You want to challenge the status quo comfortable and the tried and tired conventional.  Harnessing performance aggression:
¢  Focuses energy and attention
¢  Ignites mind-body chemistry
¢  Fires passion and defuses pain
¢  Sharpens purposeful thinking
¢  Heightens drive and discipline
¢  Breaks chains of habit
¢  Strengthens commitment, courage and creativity
 
1.  Athlete's and Artist's Perspective.  To play at their best, professional athletes often emphasize two words:  to be "aggressive" and "focused."  Performance aggression doesn't just get you out of the box; it helps you risk confronting b.s. ("be safe") messages while motivating the building of new frameworks and methods.  As the artistic genius, Pablo Picasso, observed, "Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction."  And destruction first and foremost means breaking down the self-righteous and rigid, fearful and frigid boxes and closets which limit the mind's ability to ignore, explore and soar.

2.  Danger and Opportunity of Trailblazing.  Not surprisingly, trailblazing fire can leave scars, alienate colleagues and may lead to professional ostracism.  And perhaps the most daunting dynamic for the "iconoclast", that is, the "destroyer of icons," is the "daily reckoning with a high likelihood of failure."  (Gregory Berns, Iconoclast:  A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently, 2010, Harvard Business School).   At the same time, consider this life lesson from the Civil Rights Pioneer, Rosa Parks:  "I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear."  (Of course, a big challenge too is learning to turn down the all-consuming fire when no longer on or into your platform or battlefield.)

Accessible.  Being "accessible" means: 1) "easy to enter or reach physically; 2) able to be appreciated or understood without specialist knowledge; and 3) able to be obtained, used, or experienced without difficulty."  And synonyms from Roget's Thesaurus include approachable, welcoming, and open.

1.  Challenge of Public Presentation.  As a word artist, especially when presenting to a live audience, a key performance challenge involves distilling complex material into concrete and discrete ideas and images with substance and style, so people can: 1) sustain their sense of attention and anticipation (e.g., I like being "edgy," having people on the edge of their seats wondering what this "psychohumorist" ™ is going to do or say next), 2) enter your conceptual and "hands on" world, and 3) quickly grasp and begin to apply the core informational-skill elements.  Discarding the interesting but not essential is especially vital in a hyperactive, "do more with less," TNT -- "Time, Numbers & Task"-driven -- world.

2.  Being Open to Diversity and Conflict.  Conversely, as someone attempting to generate new perspectives and approaches I need to welcome surprising and contrary ideas, tools and critical feedback (not that the old ego doesn't occasionally resist or take a hit).  In fact, research on problem solving shows that diverse groups tend to engage in creative idea generation more often than homogeneous ones.  The former team has to work harder, that is, it must transform misunderstanding and conflict into positive energy-more authentic exchange thereby removing the abc's of boxed in thinking -- assumptions, blinders, and conventions.   As John Dewy, pragmatic philosopher and "Father of American Public Education," observed:  Conflict is the gadfly of thought.  It stirs us to observation and memory.  It shocks us out of sleep-like passivity.  It instigates to invention and sets us at noting and contriving.  Conflict is the sine qua non of reflection and ingenuity.

3.  Embracing Error and Variation.  By understanding, working with and blending divergent perspectives you often fuel a novel solution.  And akin to engaging with diversity, there's another aspect of accessibility especially vital for uncommon performance:  acknowledging one's own errors, emotionally soaking in the pain, analyzing mistakes, and then getting back in the saddle to explore and consolidate new learning.  As Adam Gopnick noted in Angels and Ages:  A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln and Modern TimesRepetition is the law of nature but variation (as in biological mutation or error-inducing adaptation) is the rule of life.

S = Symbol and Synthesis

Symbol. 
One powerful wordsmith tool is thinking symbolically.  A "symbol" is: 1) something that stands for or represents something else, especially an object representing an abstraction"; and 2) in "psychoanalysis an object or act that represents an impulse or wish in the unconscious mind that has been repressed."
For example, in my lyric "The Reorg Rag" ™ (email stressdoc@aol.com for a copy), I likened a reorganizing or Reduction in Force (RIF) environment to another uncertain, high stakes ambiance:  Work's now a casino, a high tech RIF RAFFle. Casino and high tech RIF RAFFle are symbols that capture the abstract, waiting on the edge, often "out of control," "wing and a prayer" quality of today's workplace, one that can feel like a winners vs. losers (RIF RAFF) gambling environment.

1.  Abstraction, Analogy and Accessibility.  And whether representing an intangible abstract idea or an intuitive unconscious impulse (e.g. my "Reorg Rag" symbol for transforming from a "Raggedy Ann" victim into a vital individual no longer repressing smoldering anger -- "bring out your Inner Rambo or Rambette"), analogy is a dynamic cognitive-emotive tool for "comparing two things that are similar in some way, often used to help explain something or make it easier to understand."  Analogy facilitates accessibility!

Synthesis.  Another potent cognitive tool is "synthesis -- the process of combining different ideas, influences, or objects into a new and unified whole."  Synonyms include mixture, fusion, amalgamation, combination, and blend.  Synthesis is often generated by the tension between contradictory points of view -- thesis and antithesis.  If you can stay with and cogitate upon this tension and confusion, the reward may be worth the risk.  The angst just may fire the right hemisphere of your brain with the potential for sparking metaphorical images and analogies along with surprising and paradoxical visual puns, and even yield a dynamic concept that pulls it all together.

1.  A Personal Aha!  Here's a personal illustration of how the tension between seemingly opposing propositions generated a creative and integrative "Aha!"  Back in the early '90s, I wound up writing some rap-like lyrics for a black beauty contest theme song.  (Don't ask.  I had periodically tried my hand at poetry, including a bluesy number called "The Burnout Boogie."  One morning, shortly after my noble, beauty contest effort, I awoke chastising myself:  I was a university professor, a psychotherapist (thesis)…What was I doing trying to write rap lyrics (antithesis)?  A blazing flash scattered my sleepy haze.  As the mist lifted, there…a mystical (if not hysterical) conceptual vision; a catalyst for my pioneering efforts in the realm of psychologically humorous rap music.  I was no longer just playing in a field of dreams:  "If you write and "Shrink Rap" ™ it…they will come" (creative synthesis).  And over the next twelve months I began to pen a series of rap lyrics.  Email stressdoc@aol.com for any and all.)  Clearly, my goal in life has a paradoxical bent:  to be a wise man and a wise guy.  Again, a pretty good recipe for a cutting edge thinker, leader and budding "psychohumorist" ™!

P = Poignant and Playful

Poignant. 
The word "poignant" has two distinct yet interconnected meanings: "1) causing a sharp sense of sadness, pity, or regret, or even physical pain; and 2) sharply perceptive - particularly penetrating and effective or relevant."  A moving link between these two definitions has been found and forged by Kay Redfield Jamison, Johns Hopkins Psychologist and noted author of Touched with Fire:  Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament.  In her psycho-historical study, Jamison noted that creative writers and painters often cycle emotionally.  Surely, intense labile moods can be disruptive, as her title indicates.  However, profound sadness, melancholy and grief may also compel these individuals to observe the deep and dark complexities, the highs and lows of human nature, and to reflect upon the subtle gray shades of life with greater sensitivity and vision.

1.  Poignant and Powerful Poetic Passages.  Consider my poetic passages on the rejuvenating powers of grief as semantic bridges for the above "poignant" variations:  Whether the loss is a key person, a desired position or a powerful illusion, each deserves the respect of a mourning.  The pit in the stomach, the clenched fists and quivering jaw, the anguished sobs prove catalytic in time.  In mystical fashion, like spring upon winter, the seeds of dissolution bear fruitful renewal.

And how does the spiritual both come down to earth and soar anew?  How about this haiku-like text?
For the Phoenix to rise from the ashes
One must know the pain
To transform the fire to burning desire!


2.  Painting Poignant Pictures and Provocative Possibilities.  As a writer and performance artist, I frequently try to capture people's attention by painting "poignant" pictures and rhythmic narratives infused with both common pain and compelling paradox.  Simultaneously, I hope to penetrate and illustrate critical forces shaping the human psyche, interpersonal relating and social culture.  The synonyms of "poignant" -- moving, emotional, touching, distressing, sad, tender and affecting -- are a wordsmith's means and ends.   And when an idea or image is both painful (or evokes piercing memories) and moves us to see and feel more deeply or broadly, including a horizon of unimagined possibilities and pathways, this poignant presentation is "provocative," as in its French derivation, provocare:  to arouse one's curiosity, to stimulate or challenge, to move to action.

3.  Semantically Connecting with Passion.  And the final "p"-word at the emotional and semantic, word and performance artistic interface of "pain and poignancy," "perceptivity and provocation" is passion.  Upon hearing the word "passion," the immediate association is typically "intense or overpowering emotion such as love, joy, hatred, or anger."  However, one provocative "s"-word for passion is frequently overlooked.  For example, when I ask audiences to free associate to the word "passion," not surprisingly the "s"-word comes up…"soap opera."  No, it's "sex," of course.  Though in Washington, DC the favorite "s"-word for passion is "Senator."  Or it used to be…but then Bill Clinton ruined my joke. ;-)  Actually, the surprising "s"-word for passion is neither sex, nor soaps, nor Senator…it's "suffering" as in the Passion Play, the sufferings of Jesus Christ from the Last Supper until his crucifixion, or more generically the sufferings of a martyr.  (Imagine, all this time I never knew my Jewish mother was such a passionate woman.)

4.  Poignant-Passion-Play.  Hopefully, my brief discourse on pain, poignancy and literal biblical "passion," reveals Charlie Chaplin's paradoxical truth about the relationship between comedy and tragedy:  The paradoxical thing about making comedy is that it is precisely the tragic which arouses the funny.  We have to laugh due to our hopelessness in the face of natural forces and in order not to go crazy.

In fact, for me it is the tension between such performance artist concepts of "comic and tragic," "poignant and playful" that ultimately fires vital - head-, heart- and soul-driven - (as opposed to rigid, obsessive, or megalomaniacal) passion.  And when trying to capture or inspire, poignancy and passion are powerful soul mates.  As Francois La Rouchefoucald, the 17th century French classical writer, observed (quoted in Kay Redfield Jamison's Exuberance:  The Passion For Life, Random House, 2004), "Passions are the only orators which always persuade.  They are like an act of nature, the rules of which are infallible; and the simplest man who has some passion persuades better than the most eloquent who has none."  Jamison, meanwhile, underscores a dynamic commander's ability to use passion to connect to a people's suffering, to unite a divided or dispirited group, organization or nation:  "In times of adversity, inspired leadership offers energy and hope where little or none exist, gives a belief in the future to those who have lost it, and provides a unifying spirit to a splintered populace."

Or to quote a salesman's more pedestrian motto:  "Logic tells and passion sells."  And I believe lower case "poignant-passion-play" compels.  Remember, people are more open to a serious message when it's gift-wrapped with humor.

Playful.  A dictionary definition of "playful" likely conforms to popular understanding:  "fond of having fun and playing games with others; said or done in a teasing way or in fun"; as would synonyms such as "good-humored, light-hearted, good-natured, mischievous and lively."  However, I hadn't realized how many common expressions begin with or involve the word "play" once you take the term out of its dictionary box.  Nor could I imagine how the varieties of expressions with their different connotations speak to the skills and strategies of the versatile leader and performer.  Consider these examples:  "play upon" (words or another's emotions), "plays a role" or "role-play," and "play it by ear" (that is, having a capacity for improvisation or, for example, by truly listening to collective needs and interests as your project or program unfolds).  While a dynamic leader, artist or educator wants to give "full play" to his or her mind and emotions, a savvy leader, often knowingly and for strategic advantage, will "play the fool."  I especially like this usage -- "play a trick on."  Based on my experience, being "mischievous" or a tad "devilish" -- two of Roget's synonyms for "playful" -- can be very engaging qualities.  Many people embrace or long to act out their impish, slightly naughty or roguish inner child (e.g., think adult Halloween costumes).  Or admire or envy, if only secretly, those who do.  And finally, a personal favorite, the "play of light and shadow" definitely reflects my double-edged nature and on the edge, ever-changing world filled and fraught with both mirth and melancholy along with uncertain shadings and shadows.

1.  Functions of Play.  More than just being a light-hearted pursuit, play has been one of the greatest enterprises for exploring, socializing, bonding and unifying throughout the evolutionary history of the animal kingdom.  Play has many functions:
a) gives individuals an opportunity to learn group norms and boundaries,
b) allows for innovatively expanding and challenging roles, rules and procedures,
c) encourages skill development, the exercise of the imagination, and the forging of unexpected - paradoxical as well as analogical - cognitive contrasts and connections; as the great American humorist, Mark Twain, playfully yet perceptively observed:  "Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation."  (So opposites may well attract; how well and for how long…and whether there will be any brainchildren, now that's another matter.)  When it comes to double-edged wit, there's often a fine line (and letter) between wordplay and swordplay ;-),
d) may be a learning laboratory for maturation and creativity in the realms of work, friendship and love,
e) frequently builds a sense of individual and group identity and short- and long-term camaraderie as well as fostering trust and teamwork, and
f) play infused with laughter is an especially effective stress reliever and social harmonizer.  As Dr. David Fry, noted humorist scholar, observed:  Laughing with gusto is like turning your body into a big vibrator, giving vital organs a brief but hardy internal massage!

Of course, play can also turn into an aggressive "winner takes all" or "win at any cost" pursuit or obsession (think steroid use in a variety of athletic arenas).  Now the "playground" starts morphing into a "battleground."

2.  Characteristics of a "Poignant-Passion-Play" Leader.  A "Poignant-Passion-Play" leader has a sense of play that doesn't lose sight of her and other's humanity.  She has a compassionate understanding of perplexing and incongruous human nature and of our being all too imperfect and inconsistent creatures.  And a sense of absurdity that comes out to play and laugh even in the face of pain, stress or danger can help people accept flaws and foibles while affirming both their vulnerable and vital natures.  Playful surprise may even gently cajole others to move beyond an abc -- "assumptions, blinders and conventions" -- comfort zone, and bridge differences while exploring common emotional-cultural connections.  As psychiatrist Ernst Kris noted, "What was once feared and is now mastered is laughed at."  And as the Stress Doc inverted, "What was once feared and is now laughed at is no longer a master!"

And Part II defines and explores the final three letters of ASPIRE2 - "I = Imagery and Irony, R = Risk-Taking and Rhythm 'n Rhyme, and E = Expressive and Excellence."  Until then…Practice Safe Stress!

Testimonials:

DC (District of Columbia) Water/Corporate HQs

[One-day "Bridging Generational Communication" workshop for Managers and Employees]

Feb 17, 2011


Hi Doc Mark!  It was great taking the Bridging Generational Communication class at DC Water today.  Thanks for all of your professional insight.  I look fwd to practicing my knowledge.  Please do sign me up for your emails and take a look at this article that I read today.  Hope you are able to go into the school systems to help relieve some of their stress!

Tameca Miles

tameca.miles@dcwater.com (E) | (202) 787-2179 (P) | (202) 787-2191 (F)


Readers' Submissions:


Subject:  US Hospitals on the Internet
From:  aubrey@educationfacts.org

Hi there!

My name is Aubrey and I just wanted to provide a little bit of feedback on your site http://www.stressdoc.com/ . I don't know if you're the right person to contact but I wanted you to know that as someone putting together some resources for my students, your page was really helpful. Thanks!

I also wanted to suggest another addition for your resource list: http://i.nursegroups.com/nursing-article/united-states-hospitals-internet.html . One of my colleagues suggested it to me and I thought it would make a nice addition to your page for you and your web visitors!

Cheers!
Aubrey Jensen
------------

Dear Mark,  Hope this email finds you well. My name is Roxanne and I manage content for Nursingschools.net. Just wanted to express my sincere interest in “Stress Doc: Notes from a Motivational Psychohumorist”. It's not often that one comes across a site that is so well-written and creatively expressed.

Since we write in a similar niche, thought you might want to share a recent article of ours, "50 Natural Antidepressants to Beat the Winter Blues", with your readers. Here's the link: (http://www.nursingschools.net/blog/2011/02/50-natural-antidepressants-to-beat-the-winter-blues/).

Roxanne McAnn

------------------------------

Having trouble viewing this email? Click here

Sign-up for the Sex In Our Cities Fantasy Cruise!

Are you tired of the snow and cold weather? Are you looking for a romantic getaway for two? Or for a reason to vacation with all your closest friends? Sign up for the Sex In Our Cities Fantasy Cruise! This Carnival Cruise sails March 1 through March 6 from Charleston, South Carolina to Freeport and Nassau in the Bahamas.

It is the perfect gift for yourself and a friend, or as a getaway for you and your partner!
There will also be Continuing Education Classes for nurses!

Cost for Interior Rooms: $487.14 per person
Cost for Ocean View Rooms: $582.14 per person

To reserve your spot on the Fantasy Cruise contact:
Julie Scott
Sharon Carr Travel
16800 Dallas Parkway, Ste. 160
Dallas, TX 75248
(972) 233-3300

Additional Information
To listen to live episodes of Sex In Our Cities as well as past, archived episodes, click HERE.

Dona's Information
For more information from Dona such as tips for managing stress, facts about adrenal fatigue, and to sign-up for her newsletter, visit her WEBSITE.

Dona Caine Francis | 123 Forum Dr | Mooresville | NC | 28117
-------------------------------------

Subj:  Sayings of the Jewish Buddhist
From:  Pcorell@hopsteiner.com
 
If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?

Be here now.  Be someplace else later.  Is that so complicated?

Drink tea and nourish life; with the first sip, joy; with the second sip, satisfaction; with the third sip, peace; with the fourth, a Danish

Wherever you go, there you are.  Your luggage is another story.

Accept misfortune as a blessing.  Do not wish for perfect health, or a life without problems.  What would you talk about?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single "Oy Vey"

There is no escaping karma.  In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited.  And whose fault was that?

Zen is not easy.  It takes effort to attain nothingness.  And then what do you have?  Bupkis.

The Tao does not speak.  The Tao does not blame.  The Tao does not take sides.  The Tao has no expectations.  The Tao demands nothing of others.  The Tao is not Jewish.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.

Let your mind be as a floating cloud.  Let your stillness be as a wooded glen.  And sit up straight.  You'll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.

Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.  Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.  Each blossom has ten thousand petals.  You might want to see a specialist.

Be aware of your body.  Be aware of your perceptions. Keep in mind that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.

The Torah says, “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  The Buddha says, “There is no self”.  So, maybe we're off the hook!

Chop Wood, Carry Water! Oy, it's the help's day off!



Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker as well as "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations.  In addition, the "Doc" is a team building and organizational development consultant.  He is providing "Stress and Communication, as well as Managing Change, Leadership and Team Building" programs for the 1st Cavalry Division and 13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, Texas and for Army Community Services and Family Advocacy Programs at Ft. Meade, MD and Ft. Belvoir, VA and Andrews Air Force Base/Behavioral Medicine Services.  Mark has also had a rotation as Military & Family Life Consultant (MFLC) at Ft. Campbell, KY.  A former Stress and Violence Prevention 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  2011
Shrink Rap™ Productions

 

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW
The Stress Doc ™
Acclaimed Keynote Speaker and Motivational Humorist
Author of Practice Safe Stress, The Four Faces of Anger
and The Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc

301-875-2567
www.stressdoc.com
stressdoc@aol.com

ADDENDUM

From Passionate Process to Poetic and Playful Puzzle – Part I:

The Art of Reviving and Writing “The Reorg Rag” ™

As I open this essay, please forgive an immodest turn.  Upon reading or hearing one of my edgy or catchy phrasings, for example, the title of my book, Practice Safe Stress, or a motivational mantra, such as, “Do know your limits and don’t limit your ‘No’s,” I often receive some verbal or nonverbal sign of appreciation.   This may then be followed by, “How did you come up with that?” or “Is that just how your mind works?”  In my estimation, imaginative phrases, concepts or creative pieces are less the product of spontaneous combustion and more a journey-like process of swirling cogitation and personal passion within some informational or cultural context.  That is, something has aroused my mind, heart and spirit and the ignition has caught my attention though, with hindsight, I may already have been subconsciously percolating and chewing on a related or background issue.  The initial bubbling, boiling, gnashing and colliding of impressions and images, notions and emotions constitute the search for neuronal connections and novel associations.  As a “Motivational Psychohumorist” ™ (and I’ll let you decide where the emphasis on the second word should go), I subscribe to the bond between wit and originality noted by the great American writer and humorist, Mark Twain. According to Twain, “Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation.”  Of course, the preceding conceptual courtship and subsequent union have been known to be drawn out and edgy if not stormy.  However, alongside the state of confusion, seeming contradiction and challenge is a sense of intuition:  that the proverbial blood, sweat and tears, i.e., the risk of jumping into this mental cacophony will, over time, be worth the reward – the joy (and relief) of discovering unexpected relations or diverse perspectives and designing an uncommon and meaningful harmony.  And audience affirmation helps keep the virtuous cycle going.

The latest imaginative arena-adventure involved writing a dark yet witty and wicked lyric about being caught in the web of workplace change in today’s uncertain and unstable climate – from reorganizations and downsizings to regime transfers and mergers.  Let me outline the social-psychological musings, interactions and working processes of a mind in creative heat, one skewering both convention and dysfunction, and also looking to construct unusual or unexpected yet pointed analogies and meaningful connections.  While the gestation and actual birth seemed only weeks in the making, the genesis involves a previous Stress Doc ™ lyric also written during a period of economic trouble (the early 1990s recession).  So an outdated yet relevant verse has been lying fallow.  Or perhaps more accurately, a template has been in dynamic hibernation for over a decade-and-a-half, just waiting for the right moment – the confluence of head and heart, gut and soul along with past, present and future experience and perspective – to emerge from the shadows of the creative closet.

Two final motivating thoughts:  1) that the developmental analysis of the lyric’s birth stimulates and supports your own creative undertakings and 2) that this contemporary poetic message can lighten and enlighten our hearts and minds as well as raise the spirit during troubling times.  Hopefully, “The Reorg Rag” ™ brings to life the words and wisdom of the pioneering visionary, Helen Keller:

The world is so full of care and sorrow; it is a gracious debt we owe one another to
discover the bright crystals of delight hidden in somber circumstances and irksome tasks.

First, here’s the brightly dark and daring ditty:

The Reorg Rag (with apologies to no one)

By Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™

stressdoc@aol.com; www.stressdoc.com

It can't happen here, I have too much to do…
Who took my desk and chair, my computer, too?
They can't replace me – the Branch Techno-file
What do you mean I'm still in denial?

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Why does it feel I've been fragged?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Maybe I'm just on a jag.
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
I'm still on the Reorg Rag!



Rejoice, you're employed…so they've frozen your pay
And put on your backs the recovery.
Two free weeks furlough to re-"leave" your stress
What a friend you have in the 112th Congress!

Work's now a casino, a high tech RIF** RAFFle:
When will we know?  Why does management waffle?
Buddha-Computah…who's pink slipping away?
Here's your ticket to ride; uh, shopping's good in Bombay.

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Why do I just want to gag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Whatever happened to my swag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
I'm still on the Reorg Rag!



You'll "Do more with less," when "There's no 'I' in team"
So "Dress for Success," then become "lean-and-Mean."
Keep reading those posters, your glass is half full
Though, beware "going postal" in the face of this bull.

Ignore the slacker; just take up his load
Put in for a transfer; oops, no off ramp for this road.
The boss is a bully; the "Old Boys" turn an eye
You're getting an ulcer – such a "nice gal or guy."


Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Why has life become a drag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Should I raise that white flag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
I'm still on the Reorg Rag!



Now you've had enough, playing Raggedy Ann
Start calling their bluff; draw a line in the sand.
You are a survivor; just never forget
To bring out your "Inner Rambo or Rambette!"

So "Do know your limits; don't limit your 'No's"
There's life beyond widgets; you've taken their blows.
Break away from the mob, you've surpassed your quota
And have won your job…but now in North Dakota!

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Once again in a trick bag.
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Back into the old gulag
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
I'm still on the Reorg Rag
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Forever on the Reorg Rag!



**RIF = Reduction In Force

© Mark Gorkin  2010
Shrink Rap ™ Productions
---------------------------

Now here’s “A Step-by-Step Developmental Analysis of the Creation of ‘The Reorg Rag’”:

1.   Embrace the Compelling Process and Challenging Puzzle.  This creative process, like many others, was triggered by an emotionally charged event or experience, more specifically, facilitating workshops with employees in organizations anticipating or undergoing tumultuous transition.  And it helps if the experience was extra-ordinary; four highly charged workshops with three groups in four days qualify.  The atmosphere with one group, in particular, was pretty electric; they had experienced multiple Reduction In Force (RIF) cuts.  (That's not just downsizing or "rightsizing"…That's downright "Frightsizing!")  According to Gregory Berns, author of Iconoclast:  A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently, "To see things differently than other people the most effective solution is to bombard the brain with things it has never encountered before.  Novelty releases the perceptual process from the shackles of past experience and forces the brain to make new judgments."  (Alas, sometimes overdosing on "novelty" leaves the mind-body oscillating between burning out and burning up.)

For me, the above experience while hardly novel was still uncommon.  In such circumstances, five things frequently happen:  a) the absorption of a good deal of intense energy and emotion, b) a reliving of and reflecting upon similar life experiences and/or emotions both during and after the program.  For example, the acclaimed 20th century English author, John Fowles, calls emotional memories his “electric current”; he needs to be plugged into this power source for his creative juices to flow, c) an enhanced sense of empathy (including a heightened concern about any injustice along with compassionate anger) for all caught in the proverbial web, d) an obsessive-like need to find a touch of the humorous or some absurdity in the serious or in tragedy; such a discovery not only heightens personal meaning but, even if only in retrospect, helps me feel I've defeated another of my daemons, akin to those depression-inducing “dementors” from the world of Harry Potter – the dark, swirling furies that suck the life and soul out of their targets and the surrounding environs, and e) the intention to provide concepts, tools and skills to help participants, 1) better understand their personal-situational dilemma, 2) be less fearful of and more objective about the prevailing authority-power structure, and 3) become more effective “transitional stress-crisis” problem solvers.

Sometimes, though, a sixth phase occurs:  I attempt to transform the uncommon experience, energy, emotion and empathy into a written framework – either essay or poetry – for designing and integrating the above “e”-pieces into a puzzle of my own creation.  However, this decision is rarely a casual one.  As noted in a previous article, “Creative Risk-Taking:  The Art of Designing Disorder,” my mantra for imaginative or innovative start-up is:  “Aware-ily Jump in Over Your Head.”  And I suppose one way of trying to manage the angst is to look at myself and the experience through a humorous frame, especially by tweaking the old ego and laughing at my own (okay, and others’) flaws and foibles.   As the psychiatrist and student of humor, Ernst Kris, observed:  “What was once feared and is now mastered, is laughed at.”  And as the Stress Doc inverted:  “What was once feared and is now laughed at is no longer a master!”  So “The Reorg Rag” is a product of transforming a passionate process into a poetic and playful puzzle.  And Part II will proceed with more of the pieces and the process.  Until then…Practice Safe Stress!

From Passionate Process to Poetic and Playful Puzzle – Part II:

The Art of Reviving and Writing “The Reorg Rag” ™

The latest imaginative arena-adventure involved writing a dark yet witty and wicked lyric about being caught in the web of workplace change in today's uncertain and unstable climate – from reorganizations and downsizings to regime transfers and mergers. The immediate trigger was working with several organizations in varying stages of reorganization and disorganization.  “The Reorg Rag” is a product of transforming a passionate process into a poetic and playful puzzle.  Let me continue to outline the social-psychological musings, interactions and working associations of a mind in creative heat, one skewering both convention and dysfunction, while also looking to construct unusual or unexpected yet pointed analogies and meaningful connections.

Here are “Part II Pieces and Processes”: 

2.  Take Time for the Pain and the Brain.  Sometimes a creative chef needs to turn a lemon into lemonade.  My speaking and training work slows during the holiday season; in addition, I needed to slow down in anticipation of some surgery.  The solution:  head for my Cleveland Cocoon and be with my girlfriend for a month.  (Of course, I regretted not being able to help shovel all that “lake effect” snow.)  Writing, especially of the thoughtful, clear, concise, compelling and cutting edgy variety usually requires some creative “space-time.”  Facing fewer day-to-day demands and distractions facilitate mental musings and meanderings.  (It better have this generative effect; alas, nagging [insert parental or religious preference here] guilt and youthful underachievement means always having to justify your existence.)  For example, when things are quiet, maybe even a bit boring, consider diving into your imagination or reflecting on what may be percolating (uneasily or dreamily) in your subconscious to overcome a sense of inertia and to design a surprising focus or novel project. 

3.  Go Back to the Future.  While writing my three-part essay on “The Stress Doc’s ‘Top Ten Commandments’ for Transforming Reorganizational Crisis,” I associated to an earlier lyric, “The Reorg Rag” ™, also written during a tumultuous time – the early to mid-‘90s recession.  I could hardly remember the lines.  Over the years, while occasionally thinking about the song – the original was recorded in a studio with a colleague who wrote the accompanying music – I had not recited the lyrics in well over a decade.  Hmmm…was a 21st century upgrade possible?  Was I ready to get into “Shrink Rap” ™ mode?  In addition to the challenge of mental metamorphosis – shifting my writer’s mindset and design structure from prose to poetry – I couldn’t seem to locate my cassette recording or find an electronic copy of the original lyric.  Tension was building.  Was I prepared to confront the “Intimate FOE:  Fear of Exposure”?

4.  Thrive on “Thrustration” and Come Alive with Conflict.  A phrase coined by psychiatrist Richard Rabkin, thrustration basically involves being torn between direct action and frustration as you haven’t quite figured out the pieces of the puzzle or, in this instance, feeling ambivalent about jumping into a puzzle-building process.  However, there’s mind expanding opportunity in perplexing danger.  The agitated state of thrustration fires up different sides of your brain, especially the non-logical and visual, spontaneous and holistic right hemisphere.  For John Dewey, 19th century pragmatic philosopher and “Father of Public Education,” thrustration and conflict are on the same mind-challenging evolutionary tree:  “Conflict is the gadfly of thought.  It stirs us to observation and memory.  It shocks us out of sheep-like passivity.  It instigates to invention and sets us at noting and contriving.  Conflict is the sine qua non of reflection and ingenuity.”

Or, for a more down to earth perspective, especially of inner discord, consider this Stress Doc radio essay intro penned years ago called “PCMS”:  “Do you have periods when you’re irritable and sullen – you just want to be left alone.  Your mind seems trapped in a brain tunnel – underground urges race back and forth.  And then, you’re struck by unpredictable “hot flashes.”  It may not be the time of your life, or the time of the month.  It may be what I call PCMS:  the Pre-Creative Mental Syndrome – and it’s not for women only!” ;-)

And an advantage of the latter passage is that it not only captures the productively disruptive power of “thrustration” (the quick answer or fix doesn’t cut it) but it also touches on the process of “incubation.”

5.  Encourage both Short-Term Incubation and Long-Term Hibernation.

a. Incubation.  What’s often needed to transform the tension of thrustration into new perspective generation is allowing for incubation.  Stop trying to solve the problem through logic and willpower.  Let go or break away if you want to achieve a breakthrough – go for a walk, work in your garden, sleep on a problem, etc.  And repeat the ebb and flow as necessary.  Provide the “space-time” for ideas and images to percolate up from your subconscious or to seek out other information that helps find, design and/or connect critical puzzle pieces.  When successful, incubation is a short-term process that inspires an “Aha” realization.  As I like to say:  “Take an “incubation vacation to hatch a new perspective

b. Hibernation.  In contrast, Steven Johnson, in his new book, Where Good Ideas Come From:  The Natural History of Innovation, (Riverhead Group/Penguin Books, 2010), says that major idea generation often subscribes to a long-term time frame, what he calls the “Slow Hunch.”  In a decades-long problem solving framework an unresolved issue mostly resides at the margins of awareness.  However, when sufficiently stirred from slumber, this vague yet vexing notion, in ghost-like fashion, may make a Halloween appearance or two, partake briefly in the activities of your core consciousness, and then return to the shadows of your mind.  This hibernation and peek-a-boo process may go on for years.  But “then one day, those vague intuitions (about an original solution) that have been lingering in the shadows…are transformed into something more substantial:  sometimes jolted out of some newly discovered trove of information, or by another hunch lingering in another mind, or by an internal association that finally completes the thought” (WGICF).  Johnson provides a process metaphor more biological than psychological or spiritual:  “Sustaining the slow hunch is less a matter of perspiration than cultivation.  You give the hunch enough nourishment to keep it growing, and plant it in fertile soil, where its roots can make new connections.  And then you give it time to bloom.”  By definition, such a process involves more than a “flash.”   For me, the extended hibernation, shorter incubation and new (sudden) bloom all help illuminate the oft-quoted definition of creativity penned by Nobel Prize-winning physicist and chemist, Albert Szent Gyorgyi:  Seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.

Not surprisingly, I was intrigued by this "Slow Hunch" perspective as the original, relevant yet outdated "Reorg Rag" verse had been lying fallow.  Or perhaps more accurately, a template had been in dynamic hibernation for over a decade-and-a-half, just waiting for the right moment – the confluence of head and heart, gut and soul along with past, present and future experience and perspective – to emerge from the shadows of the creative closet.  And the combination of recent turbulent reorg workshops, my subsequent essays on “Transforming Reorganizational Crisis,” free associating to the old “Rag” and the challenge of updating the original became a tempest, breaking open the cerebral closet and creating a climate for mental meandering and the perfect poetic storm.

6.  Shift the Cognitive Structure, Substance and Style:  A Prose to Poetry Process

This hibernating hunch allows current work to draw on ideas from the intuitions or unfinished projects at the margins, helping facilitate new problem solving connections.  As Johnson observes, “It is not so much thinking out of the box, as it is allowing the mind to move through multiple boxes.  The movement from box to box forces the mind to approach intellectual roadblocks from new angles, or to borrow tools from one discipline to solve problems in another…Evolutionary biologists have a word for this kind of borrowing – exaptation.  An organism develops a trait optimized for a specific use, but then the trait gets hijacked for a completely different function.”  Consider this example:  eons ago, the primary role of bird feathers’ was temperature regulation.  However, some evolutionary periods later, birds made an adaptive “leap.”  Those feathers morphed into a structural component of flight, controlling the airflow over the wing, allowing early birds to glide.

Johnson also provides a human example of this movement among different conceptual frames and functions to solve a seemingly disparate problem – Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1440. 

Trained as a goldsmith and interested in words, “an important part of Guttenberg’s genius, then, lay not in conceiving an entirely new technology from scratch, but instead from borrowing a mature technology from an entirely different field, (the screw press in Rhineland wine-making culture), and putting it to work to solve an unrelated problem…He concocted new uses for an old technology.  He took a machine designed to get people drunk and turned it into an engine for mass communication.”

Let’s return to the making of “The Reorg Rag.”  After absorbing ideas and emotions from workshop participants, writing the “Reorganization Crisis” essays, and then recalling the opening line of the original “Rag” lyric, I shifted my writer’s mindset and design structure from the prose box to the poetry ones.  For me, this alteration is a mental metamorphosis, one loosely analogous to “exaptation.”  While relying on the same basic wellspring of ideas and emotions, I am processing and transforming the information (workshops and interventions both present and past) through different frames and filters (cognitive boxes):

a) sounds and images

b) rhythms and rhymes

c) contrast and (seeming) contradiction

d) metaphors and analogies

e) ironies and punchlines

f) personal experience and pop culture references/context

And the framed and filtered hue and cry, and laughter, is intensified by a concentrated lyrical structure and content.  To enhance and exaggerate the above cognitive categories, try subscribing to (and expanding upon) a Shakespearean admonition:  Brevity (and clarity) is the soul (and heart) of wit (and wisdom)!  For example, as will be demonstrated below, each line of “The Reorg Rag” has no more than thirteen syllables, around six in each phrase.  Remember my mantra…verse is terse.  The challenge is manifold:  rapidly establishing a pulsating rhythm and persuasive visuals (worth many many words) while also setting up deserving targets and then skewering with quick punchlines.  And effective poetry, like good art in general, is open to myriad interpretations.

Let’s see how these categories play out in a couple of “Reorg Rag” stanzas:

Lyric                                                                           Analysis                                                 

Work's now a casino, a high tech RIF** RAFFle:                    

casino and high tech RIF RAFFle as metaphor

When will we know?  Why does management waffle?

RAFFle and waffle as rhyme; pithy, pertinent and poignant questions

The Computer decides who's pink slipping away…                

Computer and pink slipping away as visual & e-motional image having workplace impact; "slip sliding away" as pop culture/Simon & Garfunkel reference

Here's your ticket to ride; uh, shopping's good in Bombay…

ticket to ride both metaphor and pop culture/Beatles reference; “shopping…Bombay” as ironic punchline and international context

Now you've had enough, playing Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann as metaphor and word play on “Reorg Rag”

Start calling their bluff; draw a line in the sand.

“draw…sand” as visual e-motional metaphor; sand as beach visual connecting to next line, especially “survivor”

You are a survivor; just never forget

“survivor” as pop culture ref. to TV show

To bring out your "Inner Rambo or Rambette!"

“Inner Rambo” as pop ref. and ironic contrast with “inner child”

 [See “From Passionate Process to Poetic and Playful Puzzle – Part I” for entire “Reorg Rag” lyric.]

Perhaps it’s transparent…my goal in life – to be a “wise man and wise guy!”  What can you expect from a psychohumorist ™?

Actually, you can expect a concluding Part III essay that provides more strategies, skills and steps for transforming a passionate process into a poetic and playful puzzle.  Until then…Practice Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker as well as "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations.  In addition, the "Doc" is a team building and organizational development consultant.  He is providing "Stress and Communication, as well as Managing Change, Leadership and Team Building" programs for the 1st Cavalry Division and 13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, Texas and for Army Community Services and Family Advocacy Programs at Ft. Meade, MD and Ft. Belvoir, VA.  Mark has also had a rotation as Military & Family Life Consultant (MFLC) at Ft. Campbell, KY.  A former Stress and Violence Prevention 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.

From Passionate Process to Poetic and Playful Puzzle – Part III:

The Art of Reviving and Writing “The Reorg Rag” ™

The latest imaginative arena-adventure involved writing a dark yet witty and wicked lyric about being caught in the web of workplace change in today's uncertain and unstable climate – from reorganizations and downsizings to regime transfers and mergers. The immediate trigger was working with several organizations in varying stages of reorganization and disorganization.  “The Reorg Rag” is a product of transforming a passionate process and a long-lingering lyric into a poetic and playful puzzle.  Here are the transformative strategies and steps from Parts I & II:

1.   Embrace the Compelling Process and Challenging Puzzle

2.  Take Time for the Pain and the Brain

3.  Go Back to the Future

4.  Thrive on "Thrustration" and Come Alive with Conflict

5.  Encourage both Short-Term Incubation and Long-Term Hibernation

6.  Shift the Cognitive Structure, Substance and Style:  A Prose to Poetry Process

[Email stressdoc@aol.com if you need Part I or II.]

Let me continue to outline and analyze the social-psychological musings, interactions and working associations of a mind in creative heat.  The objective of “The Reorg Rag” is to skewer both convention and dysfunction, while also constructing unusual or unexpected yet pointed analogies along with clever and comedic connections.  The final six points (#7–12) capture key conceptual elements of the big picture framework as well as strategic steps for going with the creative ebb and flow, the frustration and forward progress in sharing, rethinking and reaching meaningful closure.  Here are “Part III Pieces and Processes”:

7.  Engage the (Inter)-Personal, Cultural and Universal, the Paradoxical and Analogical.  As much as possible, the foundation of a Stress Doc creative puzzle has two domains with accompanying dimensional dynamics.  Definitions for these domains and dimensions primarily come from Dictionary.com:

A.  Two Domains.

a) “Contextual” domain, that is, the set of circumstances, facts, choice of words or images, etc., that surround or are relevant to a particular event, situation, culture, communication, etc.; for me, this is the “e-ther” or sphere of exploration-emotional environment-expectation-empathy – the (inter)personal, cultural and the universal dimensions that influence meaning or effect, e.g., generational differences, that is, historical-cultural markers affecting values and motivational meaning among Traditionals, Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials

b) “Cognitive” domain, that is, the mental process of knowing, including awareness, perception, relating, reasoning, and judgment; this is the sphere of information processing design – and regarding creative expression, specifically, the cognitive dynamics of paradox and analogy.

1.  Three Contextual Dimensions

a. “(Inter)-Personal”:  1) personal – of, pertaining to, or coming as from a particular person; individual; private: a personal opinion, 2) interpersonal of or pertaining to the relations between persons; existing or occurring between persons in an encounter,

b. “Cultural”:  the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture; Anthropologythe sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another, including organizational culture,

c. “Universal”:  a trait, characteristic, or property, as distinguished from a particular individual or event, that can be possessed in common, as the care of a mother for her young; of, pertaining to, or characteristic of all or the whole; universal experience; or applicable everywhere or in all cases; general: a universal cure.

2.  Two Cognitive Dynamics

a. “Paradoxical”:  a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth, e.g., hot ice; any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature, e.g., passive-aggressive personality; an opinion, statement or action contrary to commonly accepted opinion or practice, e.g., the following observation by the pioneering actor/comedian, Charlie Chaplin, on the value of the comic and its ironic relation to the tragic:  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.

e. “Analogical”:  a similarity, resemblance or corresponding relationship between like features of two things (many times obvious, sometimes seemingly obscure), on which a comparison may be based: the analogy between the heart and a pump; Logic:  a form of reasoning in which one thing is inferred to be similar to another thing in a certain respect, on the basis of the known similarity between the things in other respects.

And these two domains yield Six Frames of Contextual-Cognitive Design:

SIX FRAMES of CONTEXTUAL-COGNITIVE DESIGN

                                                                                                            COGNITIVE DYNAMICS            

 

                                                                                        Paradoxical               Analogical                           

 

 

       (Inter)Personal

 

 

(Inter)Pers.-Paradoxical

 

(Inter)Pers.-Analogical

 

        CONTEXTUAL

        DIMENSIONS

 

            Cultural

 

Cultural-Paradoxical

 

Cultural-Analogical

 

 

           Universal

 

 

Universal-Paradoxical

 

Universal-Analogical

 

Now let’s see how “The Reorg Rag” stanzas depict these “Six Frames of Contextual-Cognitive Design”:

Lyric                                                                               Analysis

1) (Inter)Personal-Paradoxical

It can't happen here, I have too much to do…
Who took my desk and chair, my computer, too?
They can't replace me – the Branch Techno-file
What do you mean I'm still in denial?

Opening stanza sets the stage for the self-defeating expectations and Catch-22-like binds that constrict or threaten many employees in today’s volatile or uncertain workplace.

2) Cultural-Paradoxical

Rejoice, you're employed…so they've frozen your pay
And put on your backs the recovery.
Two free weeks furlough to re-"leave" your stress
What a friend you have in the 112th Congress!

 

This stanza especially captures today’s financial Catch-22 atmosphere in many government agencies; also notes some cynicism – “leave” as a “stress reliever” and, finally, the irony of the 112th, the “representatives of the people,” as oppressor.

3) Universal-Analogical (& Paradoxical)

Work's now a casino, a high tech RIF** RAFFle:
When will we know?  Why does management waffle?
Buddha-Computah…who's pink slipping away?
Here's your ticket to ride; uh, shopping's good in Bombay.

 

The casino and RIF (Reduction in Force) RAFFle are apt analogies for the “on the edge” uncertainty in many organizations.  While the paradoxical, all-knowing, mind, job and culture-shaping “Buddha-Computah” determines who wins or loses, who remains or is let go.  And you quietly fade out as your job (with or without you) goes overseas.  Both Bombay and Buddha capture the globalization and Asia-fication of today’s world.

 

4) Universal-Paradoxical

You'll "Do more with less," when "There's no 'I' in team"
So "Dress for Success," then become "lean-and-Mean."
Keep reading those posters, your glass is half full
Though, beware "going postal" in the face of this bull.

You may be on the existential edge…still, just think positive.  Again, irony runs rampant by contradictorily juxtaposing those omnipresent “success motivation” corporate poster messages along with an optimism brimming cliché.  And the ultimate irony, a steady diet of those positive posters/messages just may have you “going postal.”

5) (Inter)Personal-Paradoxical

Ignore the slacker; just take up his load
Put in for a transfer; oops, no off ramp for this road.
The boss is a bully; the "Old Boys" turn an eye
You're getting an ulcer – such a "nice gal or guy.”

 

The first two lines are steeped with frustrating, “no win or no exit” irony, as is the closing line, which basically captures the impact of chronic stress and “sympathetically” claims:  “Nice guys/gals finish last.”

6) (Inter)Personal-Analogical

Now you've had enough, playing Raggedy Ann
Start calling their bluff; draw a line in the sand.
You are a survivor; just never forget
To bring out your "Inner Rambo or Rambette!"

Raggedy Ann is a metaphor for personal passivity and for challenging more assertive action – such as drawing a line in the sand.  And this daring beach image connects to the next line – the general notion and TV show image re: being a “Survivor.”  And voila…the metaphorical transformation from rag doll to Rambette!

 

7) Cultural-Analogical

So "Do know your limits; don't limit your 'No's"
There's life beyond widgets; you've taken their blows.
Break away from the mob, you've surpassed your quota
And have won your job…but now in North Dakota!

 

Now comes some Rambo-like philosophy and self-affirmation.  Yet, a closing irony:  you’ve “done the right thing,” as well as your own thing, and you’re a winner…but once again you’re caught in a final Organizational-Career Catch-22 dilemma:  to move or not to move to the Dakota “badlands.”

8.  Capture the Processes of Grief and of Tragedy-Comedy.  A universal dynamic of human existence involves change and loss, separation and letting go…along with transition, the psychological response to change, that is, essential components of the grief process.  And the process of grief inspired rebirth has fueled personal motivation and haiku-like mantras.  To wit:

For the Phoenix to rise from the ashes
One must know the pain…
To transform the fire to burning desire!

In the “The Reorg Rag” the refrains in particular capture the emotional-existential-transitional stages of the grief process.  However, reflecting the ironic, if not cynical, spirit of the times and the song, there’s no feel good, final heroic triumph of individual over system.  Let me illustrate with the entire opening and closing refrains along with pertinent refrain lines, both depicting successive stages/components of grief:

a) Shock and Denial

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Why does it feel I've been fragged?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Maybe I'm just on a jag.
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
I'm still on the Reorg Rag!

b) Revulsion and Self-Doubt

Why do I just want to gag?
Whatever happened to my swag?

c) Depression and Contemplating Defeat

Why has life become a drag?
Should I raise that white flag?

d) Deception and Resignation

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Once again in a trick bag.
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Back into the old gulag
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
I'm still on the Reorg Rag
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Forever on the Reorg Rag!

[You may recall, our protagonist has won his job, but to keep it s/he must move to N. Dakota.  Also note the divergent meanings of the word, “resignation,” a component of the final grief stage:  to be resigned to, that is, to reluctantly go along with, or to submit one’s “resignation.”]

Still, there’s irony and absurdity as well as pointed and, hopefully, healing humor throughout the lyric.  (For example, see the above cells, 4) Universal-Paradoxical” and 3) Universal-Analogical.)  For as the pioneering comedic genius, Charlie Chaplin, wisely observed:  A paradoxical thing is that in making comedy, the tragic is precisely that 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.

While for Freud, a noted student of humor and wit, the capacity for mature humor – by which he meant internalizing the parental encouragement of our efforts and the gentle tolerance of our failures – is perhaps the greatest gift parental figures can bestow upon a child (or a “psychohumorist” ™ upon a reader or listener.)  To paraphrase Freud, the basic message of this highest defense mechanism in the face of danger is:  What this crazy world amounts to is child’s play…the very thing to jest about!

Finally, in step with Freud, fellow psychiatrist/analyst, Ernst Kris noted:  "What was once feared and is now mastered is laughed at."   And the Stress Doc could not resist inverting Kris’ wise words:  "What was once feared and is now laughed at is no longer a master."  Hopefully, “The Reorg Rag” captures all of the above “from tragedy to comedy and mastery” healing humor perspectives.

9.  Be Open to Diverse Input.  As noted in Part I, the initial exploratory energy for “The Reorg Rag” was sparked by leading successive intense workshops with organizations in the throes of transition.  However, a month before, the government association, Federally Employed Women (FEW), had asked me to do a webinar on post-holiday transitional stress, especially in light of the adversarial posturing between Congress and federal employees.  (I wrote the “Rag” Christmas week; the FEW webinar was scheduled for Jan 2011, subsequently postponed to March.  Email for more info.)  While I was sketching out some early lyrics, I asked a colleague and FEW Communications Officer to highlight the proposed stress-inducing financial and job status threats.  She did, and I was able to take her raw data and turn it into an edgy, pointed and powerful stanza:

Rejoice, you're employed…so they've frozen your pay
And put on your backs the recovery.
Two free weeks furlough to re-"leave" your stress
What a friend you have in the 112th Congress!

This stanza boosted my confidence that there really was some meaning and merit to this latest iteration of “The Reorg Rag.”  (As noted before, the early ‘90s recession had also prompted a “Reorg Rag” verse, though it is mostly long forgotten; I still have not been able to put my hands on the lyric.  Now I was attempting to update and upgrade my previous effort.)

10.  Go with the Restless Flow.  That night I slept fitfully and, in approach-avoidance fashion, finally decided at 3am to hit the computer.  The machine and I warmed-up together.  Now the juices were flowing.  I worked till six, and came up with a completed first draft, including the best order of the various refrains.  I was ready to risk exposing my baby.

11.  Confront the Intimate FOE:  Fear of Exposure.  On Christmas Day, after volunteering in the morning at a homeless shelter, my girlfriend and I attended a Christmas Party.  Before the party got too crowded, I screwed up my courage and read “The Reorg Rag” to about eight folks.  The enthusiastic response and especially the group laughter at the appropriate punchlines, had me thinking my puzzle quest was over.  But once again I learned not to accept premature closure.

I decided to ask a late arriving guest, an individual from the media industry, to read the lyric.  He immediately associated to the impact automation is having in his work world – many staff/technicians are being replaced by computers/robots.  The feedback helped me realize key issues were missing. 

12.  Jump into the “Liquid Network” and Swim with the Scientists.  The party was turning into a “Liquid Network.”  Steven Johnson, in his new book, Where Good Ideas Come From:  The Natural History of Innovation, (Riverhead Group/Penguin Books, 2010), says that a major force for idea generation is an environment where good ideas can spill over from mind to mind.  Johnson cites a model based on an analogy between states of matter and states of mind developed by computer scientist, Christopher Langston:  “Innovative systems have a tendency to gravitate toward the ‘edge of chaos’:  the fertile zone between too much order (the ‘solid state’ of matter; patterns have stability but are incapable of change) and too much anarchy (the ‘gaseous state’; new configurations possible but are incapable of lasting).  However, a “liquid environment,” that flowing, transitional space between solid and gas, “(is) better able to explore the adjacent possible.  New configurations can emerge through random connections formed between molecules, but the system isn’t so wildly unstable that it instantly destroys its new creations.”

And with respect to “liquid networks” and meaningful connection, Johnson makes another vital point:  the isolated “Eureka” moment is rare.  In a study of scientists, the most salient ideas emerged during informal gatherings where colleagues shared their latest undertakings.  The ground zero of innovation was not the microscope.  It was the conference table. Of course, once you’ve been given a jump start…what do you do with it?

13.  Revisit and Rewire, Rework and Relief.  Another semi-restless night’s sleep…and upon awakening the conceptual gaps were obvious – automation and globalization – and their contribution to an angst-ridden work environment.  And, according to Johnson, I now demonstrated “plasticity” by adopting new configurations without tearing up the existing structure.  (My lyric wasn't all gaseous; maybe just a little hot air! ;-)  But it also wasn't so “solid.”  My neural network wasn't rigidly stable or defended.  A network loaded with neurons-information but incapable of forming new patterns (or making new neural connections), is “dense”…by definition, “incapable of change, incapable of probing at the edges of the adjacent possible.”

And in fairly short order I penned most of the following; the paradoxical “Buddha-Computah” only recently replacing the phrase, “The computer decides” while transforming “who’s pink slipping away” into a question:

Work's now a casino, a high tech RIF** RAFFle:
When will we know?  Why does management waffle?
Buddha-Computah…who's pink slipping away?
Here's your ticket to ride; uh, shopping's good in Bombay.

I had earlier thought about using the line, “The Wizard decides who’s pink slipping away,” with an obvious reference to The Wizard of Oz.  It just didn’t grab me; however, “Buddah-Computah” most certainly did.

So closure has finally been attained.  “The Reorg Rag” is a creative process and product in which I take pride.  Here are the transformative strategies and steps from Parts I–III:

1.    Embrace the Compelling Process and Challenging Puzzle

2.    Take Time for the Pain and the Brain

3.    Go Back to the Future

4.    Thrive on "Thrustration" and Come Alive with Conflict

5.    Encourage both Short-Term Incubation and Long-Term Hibernation

6.    Shift the Cognitive Structure, Substance and Style:  A Prose to Poetry Process

7.    Engage the (Inter)-Personal, Cultural and Universal, the Paradoxical and Analogical

8.    Capture the Processes of Grief and of Tragedy-Comedy

9.    Be Open to Diverse Input

10.  Go with the Restless Flow

11.  Confront the Intimate FOE:  Fear of Exposure

12.  Jump into the “Liquid Network” and Swim with the Scientists

13.  Revisit and Rewire, Rework and Relief

Hopefully, these words will fire your creative spirit and help one and all…Practice Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker as well as "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations.  In addition, the "Doc" is a team building and organizational development consultant.  He is providing "Stress and Communication, as well as Managing Change, Leadership and Team Building" programs for the 1st Cavalry Division and 13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, Texas and for Army Community Services and Family Advocacy Programs at Ft. Meade, MD and Ft. Belvoir, VA and Andrews Air Force Base/Behavioral Medicine Services.  Mark has also had a rotation as Military & Family Life Consultant (MFLC) at Ft. Campbell, KY.  A former Stress and Violence Prevention 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.