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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

December 1999, No. 1, Sect. 1

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

Table of Contents

Announcements: AOL Chat Group and Q & A Links/Archives Q & A: "Frightsizing," Overload and the Real Source of Workplace Anger Shrink Rap: Virtuality vs. Reality and the "Call of the Wild" Readers' Submissions: The Price of Brains and a Daughter's Reflections on the Death of a Father Sect 2: Main Essay: Learning to Play with Y2K: Workplace Survival Guide

News Flash: Alas, only for AOL members, stop by my online "Shrink Rap (TM) and Group Chat," Tuesdays, 9-10:45pm EST.  Chat with the Stress Doc: It's a dynamic, lively, at times witty and always warm, thoughtful and supportive problem-solving group. We raise questions and share our ideas, hopes and experiences with each other.

Announcements: 1) For all cyberspace travelers, there's the new Ask the Stress Doc Q & A -- Work Stress Digital City - Washington, DC - Ask the Stres... and Love and Relationships Digital City - Washington, DC - Relations . Also, check the Doc's Q & A Archives: Stress Doc's Q&A and Q&A: Love and Relationships .

Ask the Stress Doc: AOL/Digital City--Washington, DC Work Stress

1) "Frightsizing," Overload and the Real Source of Workplace Anger

Q. Doc, I am a network administrator (female in a male-dominant field) in a large fortune 500 company. This position is highly demanding and I have been in it for over 5 years. I have been the sole support and have asked (demanded) additional help. In the meantime the company has announced that they are frightsizing and laying off 4000 employees. I was promised that we would get help and I did. The sister of the RVP (Regional Vice President) is transferring to our dept. so she can live close to the RVP (actually with her). I'm glad to have the help, but am angry that it is not an employee who was losing a job. Now I finally have help so I have time to focus on my own personal development, but I'm angry that the position was filled with a person who wasn't losing their job. I can't vent...I don't want my temper discussed over the RVP's kitchen table. Any tips...or should I just finish my e-commerce course and get the heck out of there? (With a smile on my face of course!)

A. Corporate "frightsizing" (glad you liked the Stress Docism ;-) certainly stirs that Pandora's Box with anger, if not fury, being two emotions roaring out of the box. First, there's doing more with less in a "lean-and-MEAN" environment. Then, the loss of valued colleagues and friends is usually not offset by those "good riddance" managers and employees. And wondering if and when the ax will strike again keeps many on the edge. Or as a survivor of a downsizing bemoaned: "I once had a career path. Then this boulder fell from the sky and crushed it!" Feelings of betrayal and abandonment often fuel the fury.

Maybe more than just outrage over sisterly nepotism is at work. For in today's global, often cutthroat competition economy loyalty is a decidedly endangered species. So when individual favoritism and family patronage so glaringly surfaces...seeing red, if not blinding rage, is not so surprising. (Though perhaps management thought it was appeasing two birds with one placement.)

Also, seems you've been cutting edge for a while -- both as a female in a mostly male world and for years doing "more with less." (Btw, how long did it take management to respond to your initial request for help?)

After years of insufficient support perhaps you are a bit burned out, not just burned up? Over time, justified anger can morph into "cynicism and callousness," the third phase of my burnout model. (Email stressdoc@aol.com for "The Four Stages of Burnout" and "Escaping Black Hole Burnout.") Be aware, some folks would say, "Just be grateful you got an assistant." Alas, it's true, many survivors of a downsizing never do.

Still, you certainly deserve some strategic recommendations:

1. Discretion Is the Better Part of Ventilation. I agree, at this juncture, keep the frustration to yourself. Or, if you have a trustworthy colleague or mentor, perhaps unload with them. I'm assuming this situation is not stirring up any family of origin sibling rivalry issues, with you being the stepchild in the threesome with RVR and sister. If it is hitting some old, unfinished family dynamic hot buttons then some short-term counseling might be useful. Does it feel safe to use your company's Employee Assistance Program?

2. Join or Form a Women's Group. A popular gender-based support system in the Federal Government is Women In Management. I suspect this collective was initiated when female managers were a distinct minority. Is this a possibility in your company? If not, there are outside IT or business associations for women that will provide invaluable support and resources for dealing with reorganizational hurdles. In addition, these forums often generate networking and career advancement opportunities.

3. Schooling, Schooling, Schooling. Glad to say, again, you are ahead of the curve. Years back, I was a reorganizational change consultant during the major restructuring of the US Postal Service under Surgeon General, Carvin Marvin Runyon. One thing was clear: those who anticipated the downsizing process by upgrading skills before and during the transitional tempest did best -- whether staying or leaving the USPS.

I wouldn't be surprised if you'll be approaching that seven year itch period pretty soon. (Research shows it affects managers not just marriages.) With your e-commerce course and solid computer skills, you owe it to yourself to test the job market. I bet you'll find plenty of interest, and would interview with a big (and genuine) smile.

So grieve the loss of comrades, company loyalty and fairness. Rechannel your anger into ongoing professional development and career/job exploration. And if the RVR is surprised by your determination and daring, just let her know you...Practice Safe Stress! 

Shrink Rap™: Virtuality vs. Reality and the "Call of the Wild"

While enamored, no make that in awe of virtual reality, alas, I also see its limitations. This is especially so in the realm of long-distance relating mixed with periodic live intense encounters. Continuous emailing and IMing may create the appearance of two people tossing threads of personal history and intimacy back and forth, mutually spinning a wondrous web of simpatico and soulful connection. But, the fragility of the weave is exposed when face to face: basic personality differences once muted by the lesser gravity of cyberspace now bump and grate; or an all too real, too complex problem intrudes, like a virulent virus with destructive dimensions and scope beyond one or both parties' technical, psychological and communicational resources. And the across the great relationship divide prayer shawl, tenuously grasped at the tips of our lovers most fervent imaginings begins to inexorably unravel. Reality bytes!

One can only ponder the hopeful words of the Nobel Prize-winning French author and philosopher, Albert Camus:

Once we have accepted the fact of loss we understand that the loved one obstructed a whole corner of the possible pure now as a sky washed by rain.

Actually, one can also look back, not just in anger or sadness, but in laughter at other complexly triangulated romances. Let me drift back in "Big Easy" time to a memory captured years ago in an abbreviated, somewhat expurgated (and just slightly exaggerated) comedy routine. It's about the first time seriously dating a woman with a child. We were taking things fairly slow at first. I was in the final stages of getting over a past relationship and Georgia was getting over a history of TMJ stress: Too Many Jerks!

Now it turns out, Georgia, an artist, was a rather passionate woman despite her "Waspish" upbringing. I guess it was those Wyoming roots. For example, one day catching me eyeing her voluptuous figure she slyly retorted, "I brought the Grand Tetons down with me!"

Georgia's passionate nature was not just visual, but also vocal. And, as I was to discover, her "Ooohs" and "Ahhhs" and "Oh, baby" babies…this mountain gal brought a new dimension to "The Sound of Music."

Sounds great, huh? Just remember, there's not just excitement but also danger in, "The Call of the Wild." Well, finally, it's our opening night. As our rhythm picks up so do her mating calls. (Not to mention the ancient box spring chorus.) Considering Georgia hasn't made love in two years, I guess you can imagine we've got a Wagnerian opera in the making. And the climax is taking about as long.

But, I'm keeping it together. We're building to a crescendo, just about ready to…when there's a cry from the audience: "Ma, are you okay?" Actually, it's Georgia's daughter who, last we knew, was in the room down the hall.

Talk about a cold shower. Georgia calls out and tries to reassure her daughter, encouraging her to go back to sleep. Hah! Could you go back to sleep if you thought Attila the Hun was sacking and pillaging your mother? You could? Hmmm. Are you into some weird matricidal fantasy? Hey, it's okay. I understand. Remember, I'm Jewish.

And speaking of matricide, I really wanted to kill Georgia's damn old mattress. Those box springs make almost as much noise as she does.

Well, at this point I've pretty much lost it, in just about every way imaginable. And, of course, the Jewish guilt kicks in. I scared the kid silly. I've embarrassed the mother. Now I'll probably have to pay for the kid's therapy for the next couple of years. Well, at least she won't have to waste time and money trying to dredge up unconscious Oedipal fears. And too, Georgia and I did learn a vital lesson - no more overly dramatic performances. We committed to "Practicing Safe Sex" through bondage. I started throwing Georgia off the bed and taping her mouth before beginning the final act!

And one more unforgettable moment in the "Call of the Wild" adventures with Georgia. Enjoy!

His Moans, Her Moans, Hormones

As mentioned, my mountain lady, Georgia, was quite an aroused and vocal lover. And despite our inaugural traumatic episode described above, things were going pretty well. However, Georgia was Christian and I'm Jewish. Initally, when Georgia was calling out rapturously, "Oh God. Oh God"...I was still with her. But when she started crying out "Oh Jesus"... I started feeling a little strange. Perhaps I was fortunate. Imagine how I would have felt if Georgia was Catholic and calling out "Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph." (Actually, that would have been more familiar. I've known a few Jewish women that psychologically bring their whole family to bed with them.)

Anyway, I'm trying to be broad-minded, but with wave after wave of "Oh Jesus...Ohhh Jesus," I'm becoming more uncomfortable. And, of course, I'm also getting perturbed because, hey, I'm doing all the work and he's getting all the credit.

So after about the sixteenth "Ohh Jesus," I decide to get Georgia's attention by slowing down the action. When she finally opens her eyes, I say, "Georgia, let's be fair. How about an 'Oh Moses' every once in awhile!"

Needless to say, we both lost it simultaneously. ;-)

Give the gift of tolerance this holiday season and, of course, Practice Safe Stress!

Reader's "Higher Power of Humor" Section

The Price of Brains From: CJK2345

The patient's family gathered to hear what the specialists had to say. "Things don't look good. The only chance is a brain transplant. This is an experimental procedure. It might work, but the bad news is that brains are very expensive, and you will have to pay the costs yourselves." "Well, how much does a brain cost?" asked the relations. "For a male brain, $500,000. For a female brain, $200,000." Some of the younger male relatives tried to look shocked, but the men nodded in understanding, and a few actually smirked. Then the patient's daughter asked, "Why the difference in price between male brains and female brains?" "A standard pricing practice," said the head of the team. "Women's brains have to be marked down because they've been used."

(Editor's Note: My immediate reply: Very funny, very funny!. I prefer to consider my brain virginal! ;-)

(A poignant letter from a reader responding to my NOV 1999, No. 1 Q & A column on "Avoiding Burnout in an Abusive Relationship.")

Hi, Mark,

I saved this clipping from one of your newsletters..(see below). I wanted to take the time to read it..and copied it ..and saved it for now...a moment when I can't sleep...It is almost 2am...my Dad died last night..and I guess this is a perfect time as I reminisce about our father/daughter relationship together....which was not too bad...but the verbally & emotionally abusive relationship followed my own choices in my personal life...with careers and love relationships. This is not the first time that I look into this introspectively... but once again it comes up in my life....and definitley relates to the distant men that I have chosen. Now, I understand even more, the "reasons" why I DID choose these types of men. and at the same time I now understand my Dad, his background, and how his "ways" were his expession of How Love was taught to him. Sad as it is, but since he didn't heal that part in his own life, he projected his controlling ways onto others. Now, I see it as him really PROTECTING himself...from accepting Love and Being responsible for His own Healing and BEING Loving. There is alot that takes place in that process as I have begun understand for myself.

The work, though, I know is mine, even though in my past I have "expected" him or others TO BE THE "ONES" WHO "NEED" THE WORK...and I ,.......thinking that if I could show my Love for them, the men in my life.....they in turn would LOVE me back!!!! It didn't happen that way..instead, .I would be the one they would leave after I helped them, whether in their careers or personal life. I can now laugh at how absurd this was for me to think this...BUT the realization is one thing .....and ...choosing to respond differently when I recognize this in a man that I am attracted to is another....I know this has NOTHING to do with another, but everything to do with MY HEALING ..My Relationship... partly with the first man in my life...MY Dad...But, ....Ultimitaley, to heal myself with myself,........ not with my Dad..or another!

I have found that I will "project" those unhealed areas within me, expecting a partner to give it to me.....when I really need to Be Still and look at that desire..really, the pain.. within me. It is a process. I know that as I choose differently..open to sharing myself.. in and with..... healthier, closer moments with another I will experience closeness and intimacy. I do know, too, that I cannot teach Love to another, because everyone has to do their own work to heal themselves. For how can I expect another to Love me when it is not possible for them in the 1st place..!

My past expectations of someone loving me used to be ..."What I could DO for them" By Being a "perfect" Partner ...or by by over-working to create a dream with another...but yet forgeting the most important step....and that is sharing "Who I am" ....And whether or not there is a compatible "match" and a common sharing of a loving relationship. Much was often left unsaid, unspoken or emotionally projected and distorted.

Anyway, reading this letter from one of your readers and also your comments I find my self closer to this healing process and also know I am on the right track to Healing Myself which makes a differece in my choices. I have been following your suggested 4 steps for over 4 years now and I know it makes a difference.

Thanks again for clarity on this subject and it helped me to further heal...and revisit this process of healing. : )

Seek the Higher Power of Humor: May the Farce Be with You!

 (c) Mark Gorkin 1999 Shrink Rap™ Productions