The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
June 1999, No. 2
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:
To Fling or Not to Fling Shrink Rap: The Stress Doc Takes a Needed Incubation Vacation
Main Essay: Readers Respond to Teens' Plight Re: Being Sexual Reader's Submission: You
Know When You're Old and Jewish Grammar Rules
News Flash: Alas, only for AOL members, stop by my online "Shrink
Rap and Group Chat," Tuesdays, 9-10:45pm EST:Washington LIVE CHAT . 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.
Special Announcement: For all cyberspace travelers, there's the new Ask the
Stress Doc Q & A -- Love and Relationships ...Check it out; send in your Qs.
Also, Ask the Stress Doc
Work Stress Q & A Also, check the Doc's Work Stress Q
& A archive.
To Fling or Not to Fling?
Q. I am sexually attracted to a man at work and am married. I have acted on this, but
A. I'll presume that you want my opinion on whether you should continue this workplace
dalliance. Alas, sexual attraction in the workplace is readily combustible and often hard
to resist or effciently extinguish once the fires start raging. Based on my work over the
years as a therapist and consultant, let me highlight a few givens: 1) these trysts,
especially when prolonged, rarely stay, neat, sweet and discrete, 2) the married partner,
despite assurances to the contrary, rarely leaves his or her spouse (for a variety of
reasons, from the psychological to the financial), 3) guilt eventually becomes a
disruptive third party making the rendezvous increasingly conflicted; neither lover is
absolutely immune, whether married or single, and 4) the married member is often acting
out his or her anger toward the spouse with an affair; usually it's better to confront the
problems in your marriage, decide if you can or cannot make the marriage work and start
over, sadder and wiser, in your marriage or on your own (if it's meant to be with your
paramour, it will be).
Two examples come to mind. The first, a year long affair between a working-class bank
teller and a bank executive. The teller had left her and his kids because of his emotional
neglect. The two separated but did not divorce. The executive continued to live with his
wife. This relationship provided the teller a little tenderness which had been lacking
much of her life. Eventually, missing the connection with his children, some improved
communication with her husband, and having healed some childhood and marital wounds with
the affair, the teller and her husband reunited. The affair ended without significant
On the other hand, is a cautionary cybertale of two married couples. Our protagonists
are a man and a woman, both in their 40s, both unhappy in their respective marriages. They
meet on the Internet and soon progress to real life trysts during the man's business
travels. The woman's husband eventually senses a problem. He acknowledges that his
insensitive and selfish ways have catalyzed his wife's wandering. When he starts showing
her more attentiveness and caring, the wife feels obligated to try to work things out with
her husband. She fairly abruptly breaks off the extramarital liaison. How di I know?
Because the father of the man calls in a most anxious state. His son is near suicidal; the
father pleads for me to intervene.
So...have I provided sufficient advice? Just remember...Practice Safe Stress!
Shrink Rap: Well the brain strain definitely hit this past weekend. Actually, it had
been building over the last few months: an increasingly paced mental treadmill of writing
articles, answering email, workshops, out of state consultations (the travel was a relief,
the regret was playing catch upon return), online chat groups, a few therapy
Stress Doc heal thyself!
So why do I allow this runaway stress? Ah, once a depressive Type A trying to erase a
core sense of not being good enough...When you are egoal-driven, the bar of success,
fantasized achievement or glory always gets raised just a little bit higher than your
grasp. So these periodic micro burnouts help keep the grandiosity in check. The process
becomes a retreat providing quiet reflection, humility, perspective and, even, biochemical
readjustment. Sometimes I learn to scale back on the self-imposed demands and
expectations. Mark, remember "The Basic Law of Safe Stress": Do know your limits
and don't limit your "No"s!
So for father's day weekend I Amtraked up to the family haven in Queens, NYC. Upon my
evening arrival, mom, bless her heart, made a chicken sandwich with her cranberry and
fruit mold special on real rye bread. Yum! Only topped by Sunday evening's homemade
chicken soup with a potato knish. Talk about returning to one's cultural and culinary
roots. Regression in the service of a weary and hungry ego!
After about ten hours of sleep, and a garlic bagel, lox and low-fat cream cheese with
tomato slices Saturday breakfast, I was definitely ready for a little tennis with my old
man. Considering he's had a fairly traumatic year, a significant stroke and several mini
strokes, that he can still move at all on a tennis court is pretty mind boggling and
inspiring. Most impressive was how this classic aggressive, impatient Type A ex-salesman
has begun to accept his condition. The mini-strokes finally made him realize he can't do
heavy lifting, must rest between even moderately strenuous activities and (the biggest
challenge) he has to avoid stressful encounters with people.
Of course, after tennis, he seemed headed for a confrontation with a fellow senior
whose car was partially blocking an entranceway to the parking area behind the building.
With his perceptual field mildly impaired, dad wasn't sure he could clear the other car.
When the guy impatiently told him, "You got plenty of room," testy words were
exchanged. My father even mentioned his visual impairment. This other character snaps back
with a sneer, "Well maybe you shouldn't be driving." Oh, oh
here comes the
blowup. (This reflexive assumption was also based on my roots.) In years past, dad would
have jumped out of the car and been in the guy's face. Now he mumbled, "You
asshole," negotiated the squeeze and drove on. I agreed: "The guy wasn't worth
one degree of raised blood pressure."
Then I went from family drama to dramatic musical, with a stop in between at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nothing like gazing at Cezanne's and Van Gogh's (especially
while having time over the weekend to read about the latter) to ebb and flow between the
serene and the passionate. More psychic rejuvenation! (One of these days I'm going to get
back into painting. I just loved applying oils on a virginal canvas. I still like applying
those oils; just haven't found many virgins
No, I'm just being a smart mouth ;-)
Oh yes, the musical. My folks convinced me the Broadway show to see was the bawdy
revival of "Cabaret." And despite knowing the performance was "sold
out," I trekked from W. 81st through Central Park, on a glorious cool blue sky summer
day, to the theatre on 54th between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. Started an "if
someone doesn't show, ha, ha, fat chance" ticket line in the lobby. Well the muses
were with me. A woman on a senior center theatre excursion had an extra ticket. The price
was HIGH, but we quickly negotiated a 40% discount. Incredulously, I was literally front
row; two feet from the stage. Boy did I enjoy the view when the Kit Kat Girls, dressed in
alluring, 30s, Berlin cabaret costumes started flirting with front row patrons. (Where
were those oils when I needed them, damn.) So this brief incubation vacation stimulated
all kinds of hormones and juices.
And, hopefully, this will be a double-barreled wellspring rejuvenation process. Work
will take me to the wilds of Wyoming this week. Well first to the Weather Service Office
in Cheyenne. Then, with 3 ½ days between the next consulting gig, I'll explore the Wind
River Mountain Range and Shoshone National Forest. (A few hundred miles southeast of the
Grand Tetons.) Who says urban and wilderness are inextricably opposed? Both worlds will be
Practice Safe Stress!
In response to emails from female adolescents asking whether they should have sex with
their boyfriends, in the JUN, No. 1 newsletter, I shared my "if you have to ask you
should probably wait" approach. I also asked readers for their thoughts on the
subject, and several were up for the existential challenge. And here are the
thought-provoking and heartfelt responses. Enjoy!
Hey Mark! Glad to hear from you again, guess it's only been a month, but it felt like 4
weeks to me!!! :) LOL So much has been going on, thought you might be interested...also
wanted to give you some feedback for the lovelorn. Let's start with that: My thoughts
mirror your's in most ways, re: possible deadly consequences of unfettered sexual activity
these days; sex opens Pandora's box of emotions in women very easily and frequently, from
my perceptions not as frequently for males, but also I think you guys have been trained to
hide the feelings or retreat from or deny the feelings when they do raise their hairy
heads, that my perception may be totally off, and your emotions get involved just as
easily as mine do....ANYWAY, back to topic: feelings of self-doubt, loneliness, rejection,
and family of origin issues all tend to pop right out of that box quicker that you can say
"LOVEHATESEX!" and vulnerable folks (male, female, young, old, makes no
difference) can find themselves sucked into a whirlwind of an intense relationship, get
married, and find out they have nothing in common but the flesh...Then there's the divorce
and the kids, (if there are offspring) are the ones who really bear the brunt of mom and
dad's unbridled lust...I have a friend who got married after only knowing his bride for 10
days! 15 very unhappy years later, they're looking at the divorce process. Why? "We
really didn't know each other. Had nothing in common, couldn't talk over conflicts, even
the sexual attraction quit after a few years." SO, my advice to my clients
(adolescents and their parents) has always been: Wait and see...if it's really love,
waiting for the sex only makes it better in the end." Adults: "How closely
connected to your groin is your heart? If the answer is pretty close, then you're risking
a broken heart just for the satisfaction of some pretty turned on nerve endings!" Try
connecting heart to brain before heart to groin, and a true and lasting relationship may
be the result, or it may not...Instead, the result may be a parting of the ways, with less
pain for anybody... RE: is it ever possible to have sex without getting the emotions
involved? Personally, I can answer yes, to that one, simply because, after surviving
incest for 10 years, promiscuity for another 5, monogamy for 15, divorce, and celibacy,
there does exist within my self, the capability of disengaging heart from groin.
Unfortunately, I also understand the reasons for this and the unhealthy aspect of it....so
don't get involved sexually now, like i would have in my youth. Instead, I'm hoping that
someday I may be able to engage heart and soul with someone I love and re-discover what it
really means "to make love." OK, there's my thoughts on the topic of love and
sex for this month, probably more than you wanted to know... If you recall my brief
letters to you in the past couple months, I quit my job as Internal Program Coordinator
for a child placement agency after (once again) working for 50+ hours a week for rotten
pay, in a critical, demanding and often hostile environment, to figure out how I could
manage to make enough money to live on without killing myself. April was a pretty rough
month, no income and only outgo...tried to work a couple relatively brainless jobs, and
was told i couldn't do x fast enough, or y good enough....Spent most of May looking for a
place to live for myself and 16 year old son (house I rented was being sold, and wanted to
find cheaper place, anyway). Finally found residence, and have been concentrating on the
vocational piece for the last three weeks. Got registered with local Voc-Rehab office to
check out possibility of re-training, career assessment, and/or the necessity of utilizing
physical aids to do the work (like voice-operated keyboard, cane, wheelchair, glasses,
etc) due to the physical problems I have that continue to worsen with age....The last two
weeks have been positive and fruitful, and I continue to be hit upside the head with
creative ideas for income generation that the Web promises...so, I am able to think there
might be some light at the end of this tunnel, if I can just hold out long enough not to
give in to the first agency that says, "Yes! We'd love you to work for us! Of course,
it will entail: being on call 24/7, or working 55 hours a week, or taking paperwork home
with you on the weekends..." Which is why I ended up working full-time the last two
times I went through something like this process in the past...(My pattern, since I
graduated from DU and got divorced, has been to work myself to death, often carrying two
full-time jobs, or one incredibley demanding job, for about 2 to 2 1/2 years until I wind
up with pneumonia for 3-4 months, then quitting...) SO, I really want to stick to my guns
this time and not fall for the lure of "a stable income..."AND, if I keep
following my creative instinct down this variety of new paths, I think I will actually be
able to carry it off this time. Your trials and tribs, with successful results in the long
run, have helped to keep me thinking and feeling positive. :) SO, thanks for the new
article, keep them coming, and maybe someday you'll see me online with a site for PTSD
survivors...or driving a taxi from DIA to the 'burbs three times a week? LOL Lark MD
I have an opinion on the sex thing too....much to say there but I will sum it up by
saying that I agree 1000% with you on the "if you've stopped to ask the question then
you're probably better off waiting"....I think this sounds better than
"...you're probably not ready" Suffice it to say that I was one of the
"looking for love in all the wrong places trying to find something to fill the space
that daddy left when he left" girls. I did an ok job of getting through it but
probably suffered more heartache than I should have.
Mark, it was good to see your sermon cautioning the wary (young?) women
about embarking on premature sexual adventures. I heartily endorse your wisdom. I would
add a few points.
Casual sex may be possible and is certainly the norm projected via the Hollywood
type media but for those of us living in the REAL world
I doubt it.
Igniting the sexual fires before making a more objective assessment of the soundness or
otherwise of a relationship (and you give some excellent indications of the means to doing
this) can be a precursor to embarking on an unsatisfactory long-term relationship
(marriage?) having come to believe that, This is the one, because strong
romantic feelings are generated. (I sometimes wonder to what degree the divorce statistics
attest to the folly of confusing romantic love with real commitment to a genuine
relationship based on more solid grounds. The emotion of being in love is extremely
powerful capable of making the sky seem more blue, the world a friendlier place,
and your stature several feet taller. However, it does not last. Like all powerful
emotional states (grief, anger, etc), it changes over time, and will fade once tempered by
reality and time.) Does the couple share important values, and do they have a common
sense of direction in important areas like career paths, family aspirations,
lifestyle, etc? It is extremely difficult to be objective once the hormones become
rampant, and good sex does not a good relationship mean! This is to say nothing of the
potential harm to any children born to such relationships. The advice to seek external and
objective counsel is especially apt at this point.
Sex is a very intimate affair and tends to become confused with another kind of
intimacy intimacy of spirit. One of the paradoxes of sex is that its a
physical act that attempts to transcend the ultimate isolation of the human spirit by our
physical being. I think we all have a longing to merge with someone else: to
know and be known. During sex, we can sometimes believe we are achieving this but
release brings us back to the reality of our isolation (especially when his release
doesnt coincide with hers!) If even one of the partners makes this confusion, (and
the arenas of foreplay and afterglow are prime time for a feeling of spiritual intimacy
that does not sustain the test of time,) then casual sex becomes a guarantee of hurt and
damage. True intimacy of spirit CAN be serendipitous, but is more likely to result from a
more committed process of spending time, going through the valleys as well as the peaks,
and working through the issues.
Finally, ask what kind of relationship you want. Do you want simply to use one another
for sexual release in the context of a short-term temporary relationship? Are you prepared
for someone else to use you in this fashion? Or are you in search of something deeper and
more lasting? Ask the hard questions of yourself and your potential partner. If you both
are looking for the long haul, then sex can wait for a time while you assess whether the
relationship really has the basis to go the distance.
The Stress Doc Ezine The Higher Power of Humor Section...
The second section will consist primarily of material -- humor and otherwise -- that
filters down from cyberspace. The first is from a cyberpal on those endearing signs of
aging. The second is from a N'Awlins buddy. Her list really captures my neurotic roots.
You Know Your Old When From: Miss Pastel
* You start complaining that 'They're building car seats too darn low!'
* Your ears perk up when a LAXATIVE COMMERCIAL comes on TV.
* You call the place you keep leftovers the 'ICEBOX'.
* No matter where you sit, no matter where you are, there's always a draft on YOU!
* You complain that the cleaners have started to shrink your clothes.
* You wonder why everyone else is starting to MUMBLE.
* Lawn care has become a pretty BIG part of your life.
* Your underwear starts creeping up on you... AND YOU ENJOY IT!h
* You start videotaping DAYTIME game shows.
* When you do the HOKEY POKEY and you 'put your left hip out' ...IT STAYS OUT!
* One of the throw pillows on your bed is a HOT WATER BOTTLE.
* You think of a 'quickie' as napping at a traffic light.
* You sit down to breakfast and hear 'Snap, Crackle, and Pop'... and you haven't even
poured milk on your cereal yet.
* You get up to change the TV channel and decide as long as you're up, you might as
well go to bed.
Jewish Grammar Rules From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phrase statements as questions. Instead of telling Ida she looks gorgeous, ask her,
...."How stunning do you have to look?"
2. Instead of answering questions definitely, answer with another question. When
someone asks how you feel, answer, "How should I feel?"
3. Whenever possible, end questions with "or what?" This allows the other
person to interject another question: "Has she grown up, or what?"; "Can
you remember when she was just a baby, or what?" (About now, a spontaneous rendition
of "Sunrise, Sunset" should be expected.)
4. Begin questions with "What?" Example: "What, my cooking is not good
enough for you?"
5. Drop last word in sentence (which is typically a direct or indirect object):
"What, do you want to get killed going alone? Harry will go with" (drop
6. Move subject to end of sentences: "Is SHE getting heavy, that Esther?"
7. Use "that" as a modifier to infer contempt: "Is Esther still dating
that Norman fellow?"
8. Use "lovely" to describe actions taken by someone else that the listener
should have done too: "We got a lovely note from the Goldman's for hosting the
Seder." (Translation: "What, you didn't eat and drink too, at my Seder?...You
slob, you didn't send a Thank You note.")
Vocabulary ~~~~~~~~~ Just as the Eskimos have 27 words for snow, Jews have 31 words for
neurotic. Only those fluent in Hebonics will sense when to call someone mashugana,
ts'mished, furdrehet, hot nisht ein kaup, or vaist nisht vus vus ehr reht..... Here are a
few words to get you started.
1. "Sch--", as a prefix to anything, suggests disapproval: "Cadillac
schmadillac, you're suddenly too good for the Lincoln?"
2. Learning to pronounce "sch" properly is the first step in speaking
Hebonics like a real Jew. Nothing makes us giggle harder than the sound of Gentiles say,
"It's not raining, just spritzing." It's the same "ssshhh" sound as
the prompt to be quiet.
3. Schmuck--Most commonly used as "jerk", but can also be used as a
"sucker," as in , "Why am I always the schmuck who gets left with the
4. Schmoe--See schmuck.
5. Schmata--Rag (ugly dress), as in, "Why does she wear those schmatas, that
6. Schmaltz--Literally means chicken fat, but when used in conversation it's sappy or
corny. "The movie was OK, but why such a schmaltzy ending?"
So 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
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