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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

April 1999, No. 1

Special Announcement: Dear Readers: I need some assistance. Would like to increase the participation in my new Ask the Stress Doc Q & A. Would you submit work-related stress questions to the links below and/or share the links with others who might want to participate? A sample Q & A follows the links. Thanks so much.

For all cyberspace travelers, there's the new Stress Doc Work Stress Q & A -- AOL.COM Washington, DC - Home

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.

Q. I have just received a promotion to "acting" leasing manager with a 60 day trial period. This is stressing me out, everyone at work is happy for me and says I am perfect for the position, and it is what I want...I constantly feel like I am going to mess up! Like after the 60 days are they going to say forget it? I have been doing fine but I felt really stupid when I asked my property manager a question about a new project she gave me. She just re-explained it. Am I trying to act perfect or something? Am I trying too hard? I guess it's the 60 day trial period that is stressing me out. I don't know.

A. First of all, it helps to know that positive change can sometimes be a stressful as negative events, especially if there's an increase in responsibility and not a sufficient increase in a sense of control. And when the change involves a promotion into manager, that is, becoming "an authority figure"...all kinds of old critical voices can get stirred up. Sometimes we fear becoming a judgmental figure of others, as former authorities -- parents, teachers, past bosses, judged and sometimes demeaned us. Or, uncomfortable with anger or conflict, we want people to like us; we don't want to hurt other's feelings. Sometimes a promotion to management creates distance between you and former colleagues. You no longer are seen as a "peer." The final trap is believing that, with a promotion, you really have to know it all. Of course, there is scrutiny with a 60-day trial period. And the fear of being returned to employer as damaged goods. But if you can practice asking questions, soliciting ideas and feedback, especially from supervisees, and not come across as if you have all the answers, you will likely build trust amongst all level of folks in the organization. So try to turn down the volume of the perfectionist voice, accept that there will be good days and not so great ones and, I suspect, you will continue with your learning curve and will come out on top. And, of course...Practice Safe Stress!

Shrink Rap: Back from the lush, lazy, mini sunny sojourn in Coconut Grove, Miami. From the bold and playful art deco buildings to the regal and statuesque blondes...definitely sites for stressed eyes and minds. And Latin rhythms for just about all the other senses! Did do some intense work team facilitation: Consulting with Corporate Coconuts anyone? Actually, the client was a federal agency participating in the followup discussion of a national work satisfaction survey. The folks seemed pretty laid back. The receptionist was in shorts; the manager had his Key West shirt and sandals. Definitely a Club Fed experience ;-)

The work team, a bright articulate group, quickly identified three key areas needing strengthening: a) team communication and coordination, b) training and c) the systematic allocation of what I call Organizational IRAs: Incentives, Rewards and Advancement Opportunities. The most poignant moment occurred when a participant noted that the lack of department social functions was due to the death of a colleague two years earlier. This is a somewhat scattered work team; they don't all work on a daily basis in the same office. The deceased colleague was the much needed and appreciated, if not beloved, social coordinator and psychological glue. And no one had stepped in to feel the void. The group was unfinished emotionally. They were still grieving the loss, though in a subterranean, fairly isolated way. Perhaps the most hopeful outcome occurred when, after some catharsis, a we came up with the idea of an annual memorial picnic in the deceased colleagues honor. Talk about consensus, talk about bonding and morale building. Talk about releasing team energy and spirit!

Oh yes, one more lasting impression, one which I will try to eradicate through extra aerobic exercise: eating that yummy Creme Brulot on the patio-dock outside the Chart House restaurant. Above the horizon, by Biscayne Bay, gazing mindlessly as pink cotton candy transforms into light and gray puffs on an endless canvas. An occasional slow moving boat gently stirring still waters. The blue-black expanse a demarcation line whereby an enlightening day transmutes into the shadow world. And the incessant inner voice, like a hyperactive child, finally quiets. Not asleep, not awake...a momentary serenity mirrors the outer enveloping twilight.

You know what, Creme Brulot, on second thought, I'll let you linger for a while.

Back to the business at hand, though still in a somewhat regressed state, so today's newsletter will focus on parent-child interaction. From a couple of wise Old Rabbi tales (loosely based on real family therapy work of old) to some recent cyber consoling. Enjoy!

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. A perfect follow-up to the tensions in the health field:

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">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> .

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."

The Mastery of Jealousy

Once there was a ten year old Jewish boy, Hershel, who lived in the old country with his mother, father and eight year old sister, Sarah. Sarah did better at school than her brother, and Hershel was always picking on his sister. The parents no longer knew what to do.

Hershel's parents finally decided to have a family meeting with the wise old Rabbi. Near the end of the meeting, Hershel, wanting attention, interrupted his sister and declared, "I'm a lefty and lefties are special." The Rabbi studied Hershel, then asked if Hershel would list for homework all the ways he picks on his sister. At the next family gathering, after reading Hershel's extensive list, the Rabbi took the boy aside and said, "Hershel, lefties are different. But do you know which boys are truly special? Those who are ambidextrous." Hershel was confused, and the sage continued. "Hershel, my father was ambidextrous. He wrote with his right hand and played the violin with his left."

The Sage, now, hardly had to ask if Hershel wanted to be ambidextrous. The Rabbi said, "Hershel, it's your tough lefty side that picks on Sarah. How could you be ambidextrous, or do 'right' by your sister?" After some confusion, Hershel asked, "You mean be nice to her?" The Rabbi assured him not every time, but after he acted tough or lefty with Sarah he needed to do the opposite."

After reviewing some right-minded strategies, they agreed to keep their plan a secret. A few days later, Hershel's mother visited the Rabbi and exclaimed, "I don't know what you said to Hershel, but he's sure behaving differently."

In the impasse of jealousy, the Rabbi found Hershel's passion for recognition and mastery. To be ambidextrous - now that was "truly special" and really worth fighting for!

Birds of a Feather

One day a mother named Sarah brought her eight year old son Joshua to the "The Wise Old Rabbi." Joshua, short and overweight, was being harassed by his classmates. Sarah, overprotective, ordered her son not to fight back and Joshua quietly obeyed. Joshua and Sarah were especially upset when the classmates called him a "big butterball turkey."

After talking with Joshua, the Rabbi asked Sarah about her life. She told him that Joshua's father had died of influenza some years before and, that she, a seamstress, often felt fearful and lonely. Rachel became defensive when telling the Rabbi about a doctor who said she, not Joshua, was the real problem. Sarah made a point of telling the Rabbi that she never returned to the doctor.

The Rabbi knew he would have to make an ally of Sarah to help the family and to avoid the doctor's fate. The old sage, in his wisdom, initially said, "Mother of Joshua. No one knows your child like you. To help him, I need your learned counsel. And you've already given me an idea when you said the boy likes to draw."

The Rabbi instructed Joshua and Sara to draw and sew an overstuffed butterball turkey costume that Joshua would wear at school during the Fall (Halloween-like) festival. Sarah initially objected, believing the students would ridicule her son. She then had to admit this was happening anyway. With encouragement, Joshua also agreed. And after a couple of days in costume, Joshua's classmates were no longer taunting him.

Joshua had wisely faced the birdcalls. By being a "big butterball turkey," Joshua had proved, especially to himself, that he wasn't just a little kosher chicken!

Just remember...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. Here's an exchange with a parent which illustrates the importance of letting go and reaching out.

Hi Mark

Not trying to be too familiar by using your first name. I've written twice from Omaha, Ne. Your opinion please. My 15 year old daughter is very bothered by her short stature. She is just under five feet tall. We have had a bone study done that shows her bone age is equal to her chronological age. She hates being short and complains that people treat her like a baby, boys don't like her because she is short, it's embarrasing etc. etc. I am only 5 ft. tall myself and her dad is 5' 10' so..... Anyway what would you say to her if she told you this?? Obviously this is affecting her self-esteem. I remember disliking being short too, but can't remember when I finally adopted the philosophy of " those are the cards I've been dealt." I still wish I were taller but don't dwell on it. I know this is just a part of her self esteem and that height alone doesn't account for low self esteem. Anyway if you have some thoughts and the time I'd like to hear from you.

My Reply: I wouldn't push her too hard to get over it at this point. Maybe just be a good ear. You might find out that there are other things bothering her that are being covered up by the height issue. Would she be willing to talk with a counselor at school or privately. Sometimes kids don't want to confide too much in their folks when they are also trying, however ambivalently, to emancipate.

Maybe say, "Gee, I wish I had had a counselor to talk with when I felt pretty lousy about my height." I suspect, with a few sessions, she just might be less bummed out. Good luck.

Hi Mark! Thanks for the prompt reply. You're a genius, but then again you probably already know that. (No, my ego can never get enough stroking ;-). Ha! M. is now seeing a counselor who has his Ph.D. He was the pshychologist at the middle school where I teach, but has since retired and gone into private practice. At a hundred dollars a pop I don't blame him; much more lucrative than teaching. :) Just kidding! She relates well to him and talks freely so ..... I'm kind of hyperactive (the EAP counselor prefers to call me energetic) so I think I'll try to just hold back like you said and let this work itself out. I signed on to your chat last night so now I have an idea of how it works. As my daughter would say, "you rock". Talk to you later.

I knew one day all those rocks in my head would be of some use!

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