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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

February 1999, No. 3

Special Announcement: Well folks, there's a new "P"-word in my life. A recent email from the liaison at Digital City-Washington, the base for my weekly online support group -- "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" -- confirmed this. (Email if you'd like a chat link. Alas, only for AOL-types.) The "subject" line: "Stress Doc Goes Portal." As a former stress and violence prevention consultant with the US Postal Service, I definitely knew "Going Postal." But "Portal"?…

Well "portal" is the "buzz" (buzz being the lasting, immeasurable contribution to my vocabulary from the trip to the '99 Sundance Film Festival). Portals are the new multi-features, multi-service gateways to the World Wide Web. They provide access to entertainment, news, to people and chats and, of course, to the "S"-word -- SHOPPING! For me, "portals" have an Emerald City quality. Of course, instead of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion you're just traveling with a mouse. You click and follow the virtual yellow brick road until you find a wizard (beware those chameleon-like, smoke-and-mirrors lizard wizards) your witch (remember, s/he can be a good or bad witch) or those "just gotta have them" sparkling "ruby reds" in the cybermall.

When America Online bought and merged with Netscape recently, this allowed AOL in tandem with the various Digital Cities to develop web-based content on Netscape's Netcenter, for example. And the value-added, if not, revolutionary step is we now have AOL-generated links that can be shared and operated by any Internet user.

The AOL/Berlin Walls are slowly but steadily coming down. Simultaneously, with all the collaborations in the Internet and telecommunications industries…well, you don't just "Go Portal" one time. No, in the crazy, totally out of proportion, exponential world of virtual reality, the Stress Doc is now portalized FIVE TIMES! Are we talking email overload here? Why do I think there may be a fine line between "Going Portal" and "Going Postal"?

Anyway, here are links to five portals in which under the main screen heading, "People," you will find the "Stress Doc." This link then takes you to a new feature: "Ask the Stress Doc." I'll be answering work-related stress questions. So feel free to challenge me with those unbearable bosses, gossipy colleagues, a downsizing from hell and "damned if I do, damned if I don't; damned if I stay, damned if I leave" career transition or exit-stential dilemmas. (Okay, don't groan too loud.) Here are the links. Please share them with all your AOL and Internet friends and family:

<A HREF="http://digitalcity.aol.com/washington/stressdoc/">AOL.COM: Washington, DC - Ask the Stress Doc</A> (to my new Q & A column) and <A HREF="http://digitalcity.aol.com/washington/main.dci">AOL.COM: Washington, DC - Home</A> (On the Home Page, look under "PEOPLE")

And the Ask the Stress Doc links/screens are visible on 5 portals: 1. AOL.COM (which you see above) 2. <A HREF="http://compuserve.digitalcity.com/washington//main.dci">Compuserve </A> 3. <A HREF="http://home.digitalcity.com/washington//main.dci">Digital City</A> 4. <A HREF="http://mci.digitalcity.com/washington//main.dci">MCI</A> 5. <A HREF="http://netscape.digitalcity.com/washington//main.dci">Netscape</A> Netcenter

So this is my exciting heartfelt news for Valentine's Day. And I want to thank all of you for helping me share my thoughts and emotions on managing stress and living on the edge in our absurdist online and offline worlds. Hopefully, some understanding, compassion and laughter are gifts we can all partake in this special day.

Actually, a neat "Lady" gave me a valentine the other day. The publisher of "LadyIsREAL" reprinted my Valentine classic in her popular ezine. (Email LadyIsREAL@aol.com to subscribe.) Her brashness and compassion, sensitivity and "tell it like it is" style is a breath of fresh air in cyberspace. And she's created a vast and very loyal following. Anyway, I will reprint her reprint. And next time, "Codpendency, Commitment Phobia and 'The Intimate FOE': Part II." (If you missed Part I, just email stressdoc@aol.com .) So warm wishes, hugs and good adventures to all this Valentines. And, of course…Practice Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin "The Stress Doc"

Dear Readers. By popular demand, here is your gumbo of the sublime, the spicy and the ridiculous: a tasty mix of my writings along with humor jokes, lists and other sparkling entities that have descended from cyberspace.

News Flash: Alas, only for AOL members, stop by my online "Shrink Rap and Group Chat," Tuesdays, 9-10:30pm EST: <A HREF="aol://4344:2993.chat.31195386.586807274">Clickhere: Washington LIVE CHAT</A> . 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.

For more articles on a variety of psychology topics, try these links: www.stressdoc.com or <A HREF="www.stressdoc.com">STRESSDOC HOMEPAGE</A> and on AOL, Keyword: Stress Doc or <A HREF="aol://4344:972.doc.1264535.556723207"> The Stress Doc @ Online Psych</A> . And here's an AOL link with series of articles on burnout, downsizing, layoffs and career transition, <A HREF="aol://4344:972.docwork.1255066.562088752">The Stress Doc Interview @ Online Psych</A> . I've also started a bulletin board on my website - www.stressdoc.com . I encourage you to start a group dialogue. And, of course, I will stick my two cents in as well.

If you know others who would like to receive "The Stress Doc Newsletter," please pass their names along. (AOL subscription link <A HREF="aol://1391:43-61027">form driven mail</A> .) And, if you wish not to receive the newsletter, just email me with, "unsubscribe."

REAL Valentine's Day 1999 The Stress Doc's Take on This Holiday

LadyIsREAL@aol.com

Note : if you are forwarding this, please forward intact. Thank you! The Lady τΏ~ Note from The Lady : Long ago, I coined the phrase, "online you fall in love from the inside out", having spent countless hours online with The Man BEFORE we took the next step, which was meeting in person. I even sent him a questionaire with 52 questions BEFORE I agreed to make that step. I've always advocated practicing "safe online skills" for security reasons, but I've also encouraged people, once they know for sure in their heart, that the next step is a safe one and the right one, to take the risk and try. You never know when the next online friend could become your offline partner.... miracles do happen and they happen every day online (we're a good example of that each day). The Stress Doc explores this in much greater detail from both aspects ~~ the good and the bad. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have. And I encourage you to directly subscribe to his ezine... it has always made me think, if nothing else. Remember, everyone has stress ~~ but it's how you handle the stress that affects the outcome of it's affects on you! The Lady τΏ~ <A HREF="http://members.aol.com/LadyisREAL/REALLYreal.html">Yep, We're 'REAL' </A> <A HREF="http://members.aol.com/LadyisREAL/index.html">LadyisREAL's Home Page</A>

Stress Doc Valentine

In honor of Valentine's, I shall address a simple, yet provocative question: Can you have real love on-line?

Ground Rules: I will respond to this question as if the parties have never met in person, perhaps have talked on the phone, but their primary mode of communication are emails and IMs. And the issue is whether true intimate romantic love can evolve primarily online.

Far be it from me to speak about what another person feels for a cyber partner. I certainly don't appreciate being told what I'm feeling or what I should feel; that awareness can only truly come from the individual. And I know there are readers out there who started a cybercorrespondence, met their soul mate and are now blissfully happy. (When did or does the honeymoon begin? In virtual or actual time? Hey, why not a second honeymoon? Now be honest, you lucky creatures, in which time zone or reality - virtual-actual - was the lovemaking best?) OK, so I'm envious. But how often does this happen?

Beauty and the Beast

Based on personal and professional experience, if you have two people who can give good email or chat, it lubricates the virtual love flow. But is this "true" love? Most of us have a need to love and be loved on an intimate mind- body, playful and emotional, if not spiritual, level. Because online corresponding can actually meet some of these powerful needs, there can be a blur between a virtual and a genuine love relationship. And this often brings out both the beauty and the beast side of cyberromance and cyberotica. (Author's note: I'm so proud of this sematic invention.)

The beauty side: it is safe. There's a distance that encourages a certain level of intimacy. It's often easier to be more open more quickly with our emotions, share secrets, be playfully seductive or bold and brazen, even have time to be more clever, than we might initially face-to-face. And what might scare someone off if shared in reality, the computer screen may help filter out some of the raw intensity. And if you are feeling encroached upon, you can always assume a secret screen name or use the IM block. (Of course, staying offline for awhile, or getting a real life, is clearly not an option! Also, let me just say, you folks who define couple intimacy as swinging in a chat room...you are out of my range of experience and expertise. But, hey, send in your stories. I can be as voyeuristic as the next reader.)

Email and chatting also facilitate a back and forth that allows each of us to discover important things about the other, the groundwork for a truly close friendship - what both parties like and dislike, how we think and express ourselves in words and images, our personal and family history, our weird indiosyncracies, etc. As an example of the latter (if you are a bit squeamish, you may want to scroll down now), I used to add protein to my diet by putting some tuna fish in my morning oatmeal. A former girl friend eventually shamed me out of my "barf special," as she affectionately called it. (Now this wasn't a virtual relationship. Would she have discovered my nutritional neurosis if it were?)

The Enticingly Dark Side

And maybe this gets to the beastly side of cyberrelating. Real love probably means embracing each others' flaws and foibles (though now I can accept that my oatmeal deviancy exceeded tolerable limits) as much as it involves finding the sympatico soul mate. Sometimes we can never know how much a person will drive us nuts until we live with them. Or, conversely, long distance relationships allow us to savor all the warm and exciting parts, without having to confront the mundane. Without considerable face-to-face time, we often don't experience as honestly or deeply the kinds of fears. frustrations, dissatisfactions or passive and active power struggles that only get stirred by in person, day-to-day relating.

It's all those luscious and lustful components - the coy or bold foreplay along with the witty cyberotica that, when combined with the mixed blessing of ongoing virtual communication ...this is why cyberromance can be soooo compelling. This volatile mix, over time (and sometimes shorter than longer) can easily give rise to a condition I call ROMANTASY: that seductive, heady and potentially all-consuming blend of intense ROMANCE and FANTASY. It's easy to idealize our partner or the uniqueness of the connection. And we are particularly susceptible to codependent fantasy when profoundly lonely, dissatisfied with one's self-worth or life or when grappling with an unrecognized underlying depression.

When Beauty Is the Beast

On the other hand, a state of heartthrobbing anxiety and romantasy - from trying to grasp an ideal illusion or the pursuit of an elusive spirit - can be the passionate wellspring for the outpouring of one's creative energy. (May I digress. Speaking of "love," passion is an interesting term. Let's play an association game. What's the first thought that comes to mind when you read "passion"? Let's cut to the chase. The "s"-word, right? Surprisingly, if you have a good dictionary it may not be "sex." [Of course, here in Washington, DC, we know what the "s"-word for passion is...well, or what it used to be -- "Senator." Then bill clinton went and ruined my joke!] Actually, my preferred, dictionary "s"-word for passion is neither "sex" nor "Senator' but "suffering," as in "The Passion Play": the sufferings of Jesus or, more generically, the sufferings of a martyr. Hmm. Imagine all this time I never knew my Jewish mother was such a passionate woman!)

Let me illustrate this highly charged blend of pleasure and pain. Here's a slightly manic-inspired lyric that I penned some years ago in the throes and throbs of an inviting yet elusive, obsessive and maddening virtual romantic fantasy. While the relationship is history, this personal expression provides an enduring reality for a once vital yet, ultimately, mercurial romantasy. It's called:

Cool Moon Cat

She's a moonlight cat A cool crescent cat Slow dancing in the shadows Of your mind, just like that.

She's a moonlight cat Oh a bewitching cat Crystal eyes mesmerize In the night so black.

Cat, cat Whomever you may be Touch my soul With some lunacy.

Moon cat Whomever you may be Touch my soul With some lunacy.

She's a wicked cat A slyly, smiley cat So beware...heads and hearts Of a vanishing act.

She's a wicked cat Such a devilish cat Purrs of silk conjure heaven Course she's above all that.

Cat, cat Whomever you may be Beam up my soul To the contrary.

Moon cat Whomever you may be Beam up my soul To the contrary.

She's a royal cat A disloyal cat Sprawled upon the sun throne Till she wants to be scratched.

She's a royal cat Princess purple cat No shrinking violet It's her way and that's that!

Cat, cat Whomever you may be Embrace our souls Whatever destiny.

Moon cat Whomever you may be Embrace our souls Whatever destiny.

© Mark Gorkin 1993 Shrink Rap Productions

In closing, while I've tried to bring a light dose of reality to "love on- line," hey, it's still a virtual universe. We must not forget the most wonderous aspect of AOL and the internet: there's a whole wide world waiting to be explored. It's the new wild frontier. True love didn't pan out, this time? No problem...Search the profiles. Crusie a chat room. Your soul mate is out there waiting. The internet makes everything possible. "Go web, young cyberite." Remember: "Hype, if not hope, springs eternal!"

Well, I've given the question of "true love" online my best shot. Now I'd like to hear from all of you. What are your thoughts and feelings, what's been your experience with real love or romantasy in cyberspace? For you, is love online possible, impossible or "all in your head"? And, of course, no matter what your position in the virtual, actual, philosophical, ethical or biblical sense, just remember...Practice Safe Stress!

Until next time, of course...Practice Safe Stress!

The Stress Doc Ezine The Higher Power of Humor Section...

The second section will consist primarily of humor material that filters down from cyberspace. Today we have a submissions from two online friend. The first, from Barb, a delightful interview with Barara WaWa on the art of relationships. The second, from Sue, on kids' take on "love and marriage." Enjoy!

The Barbara Walters Interview By: SeaofStars

The following is an excerpt from a Barbara Walters Special with SeaOfStars... the interview took place in cyber space on the center of a rainbow beneath seas of blue gently raining down sparkles.... which ruined Barbara Walters' hair and upset NBC to the point where they banned SeaOfStars from every appearing on NBC or any of its affiliates again in this lifetime... ABC however is attempting to locate this ethereal lady for a future made-for- television movie.....

Walters: So, Ms. SeaOfStars, I understand you're an expert at relationships. When did you develop this interest in such a fascinating subject?

SeaOfStars: Well Barbara, it all began in first grade with David Coope. What a stud muffin.

Walters: David Coope. Yes. You were infatuated?

SeaOfStars: Oh no. Not infatuated. Head-over-Oreo-cookies in love was more like it. <deep sigh> He was the first pre-man I ever kissed while still drinking milk.

Walters: You were in first grade and you kissed a boy????

SeaOfStars: Not a boy...a pre-man, and yes I kissed him.... on the playground....on the lips.... a long, impassioned, want-the-cookie-crumbs, melt-in-the-mouth kiss, and I had to stay after school for it too. It wasn't exactly the way I envisioned the world viewing a love of a lifetime. The principal called my mother too. Did I mention my mother never wore slacks? Anyway, my mother called his mother. His mother thought it was cute; my mother thought it was not cute. So to put my mother's mind to rest, I brought home Jimmy Reid.

Walters: You dumped David Coope for Jimmy Reid?

SeaOfStars: Oh my no. I just substituted. This would be the first in a long line of substitutions. Years later I found myself in the possession of three high school rings. It would have been ok until they all showed up one day while I was washing my mother's car.

Walters: Yes, yes, but did you ever have a long-lasting meaningful relationship?

SeaOfStars: Of course I have!! It was with a hot fudge sundae. Couldn't get enough of it. Wanted to spend all my time with the one who brought comfort and smiles on my worst days. He would melt before my very eyes. And the nights.... oooooo Barbara, the nights.... dripped with ectasy, topped my day with a cherry red fire, days oozing in warmth as I watched the exterior coating melt and mix with erotic pleasure with the heavenly substance within, and my tongue explored every orifice of its being.... oh yes... the nights.... <deep deep deep deep deep sigh>

Walters: Ms. Stars!!!!... Ms. Stars!!!!.... Helllooooooo!!!!!

SeaOfStars: Oh. Sorry Barbara. I was just lost in a memory. Now, you were saying?

Walters: I don't think a hot fudge sundae counts as a relationship. Tell me about another relationship that was very meaningful in your life.

SeaOfStars: Sure. Well, there was this extremely well built, strong, wild, free-thinking, perfect specimen of flesh and blood. Oh Barbara, he was incredible. <another deep sigh followed by a wistful smile>... and he was always so happy to see me. He'd run towards me as I ran toward him.... my hands would reach for his back which he pushed hard against my touch.... and he never wanted me to leave him.... a relationship like that of no other... his eyes would never veer towards another... he didn't notice other women around us.... his entire body, mind, soul were all directed toward me.

Walters: And did you marry him?

SeaOfStars: Marry him????? Good heavens, no!!! You can't marry a wart hog in a zoo!!!!

Walters: A what???

SeaOfStars: Barbara, it was the wart hog at the Alamogordo, New Mexico zoo. We spent many meaningful hours together over four years... <deep sigh>

Walters: Ms. Sea, you're suppose to be an expert on relationships, not on hot fudge sundaes and wart hogs!!!

SeaOfStars: Well, Barbara, there are many types of relationships in this world of ours, and you must keep yourself open to all of them. Why just the other day I had a wonderful two hour relationship with my Christmas Cactus... in fact it was sooooooo good, that it began to blossom when I.......

Walters: Yes, well, ok.... time's up.... thank you for....

SeaOfStars: Barbara, I believe my relationship record exceeds yours and is historically much more successful... and to be perfectly honest, I prefer the company of the wart hog to most men I've been with.... and the hot fudge sundaes have provided much more comfort and understanding... and.....

Walters: Give me that microphone!!!!!!

SeaOfStars: ...and one more thing you over-paid, pompous, self-centered.....

Walters: <screaming>... cut!!! CUT!!!!

Kids on Love and Marriage From: SWells1835

Questions about love, marriage and sex were posed to kids ages 5 to 10. Their answers below are enlightening:

WHAT IS THE PROPER AGE TO GET MARRIED?? "Eighty-four! Because at that age, you don't have to work anymore, and you can spend all your time loving each other in your bedroom." (Judy, 8) "Once I'm done with kindergarten, I'm going to find me a wife!" (Tom, 5)

WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE?? "On the first date, they just tell each other lies, and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date." (Mike, 10)

WHEN IS IT OKAY TO KISS SOMEONE?? "You should never kiss a girl unless you have enough bucks to buy her a big ring and her own VCR, 'cause she'll want to have videos of the wedding." (Jim, 10) "Never kiss in front of other people. It's a big embarrassing thing if anybody sees you. But if nobody sees you, I might be willing to try it with a handsome boy, but just for a few hours." (Kally, 9)

THE GREAT DEBATE: IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED?? "It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need somebody to clean up after them!" (Lynette, 9) "It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I'm just a kid. I don't need that kind of trouble." (Kenny, 7)

Seek the higher power of humor...May the Farce Be with You!

And, of course...Practice Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, the Stress Doc, a psychotherapist and nationally recognized speaker, trainer, consultant and author, is also known as AOL's and the internet's "Online Psychohumorist" ™. Check out his USA Today Online "Hot Site" website - www.stressdoc.com  and his page on AOL/Online Psych, Keyword: Stress Doc

** Join the Doc's "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" on AOL/Digital City, Tuesdays, 9-10:30pm EDT (AOL Members Only) -- Dig City Promo - Stress Doc.

** The Stress Doc's Work Stress Q&A  -- Ask the Stress Doc  is now featured on five Portals to the Web, including

  1. Netscape Netcenter  
  2. Compuserve
  3. Digital City
  4. MCI
  5. AOL.COM Washington, DC - Home

All five portal links can be shared with and are operational for both users of AOL and the Internet.

** For his free newsletter, Notes from the Online Psychohumorist ™ or for info on the Stress Doc's Online Coaching program, email Stress Doc@aol.com