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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

July 1999, No. 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: When a Doctor/Boss Can't Heal Thyself Shrink Rap: Turning On the Creative Change Dynamic Main Essay: Follow the Yellowstone Road: From Fear to Flow Reader's Submission: His Moans, Her Moans... and "The Love Trade"

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. (Most likely I'll be out of the cyberloop on Tuesday, July 13th. See you on the 20th.)

Special Announcement: For all cyberspace travelers, there's the new Ask the Stress Doc Q & A -- Love and Relationships Digital City - Washington, DC - Love   ...Check it out; send in your Qs.

** 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.

Ask the Stress Doc Q & A/Digital City--Washington Work Stress

When a Doctor/Boss Can't Heal Thyself

Q. Here Is a work related problem not too many people have. The Doctor I work for cannot handle his money. We have it so that the office manager has to sign every check that the business pays and "I'm his nurse" have to sign and pay all his personal bills. But he still gets a check from a surgery center and his wife works. So with all his bills paid he is still running into financial problems all the time. He never sees his paycheck from the office. It goes directly into an account with both our names on it. We have a hard time getting him to work the hours he should to increase business revenue. He is a poor employee but since he is the boss and our only Doctor we can't fire him...lol. The office manager and I stress ALL the time trying to pay everything but he won't cooperate by spending more hours at work. He will even lie and tell us he is in surgery when we have caught him at home. Being the kind of people we are we worry much more the he and they are not our personal bills.

A. When I hear about an individual -- employee or boss -- being that irresponsible and dysfunctional I have to suspect some emotionaland/or medical condition. Frankly, i wonder if this doctor is covering up major burnout, depression or, perhaps, a drinking or drug problem. Having your livelihood dependent on his medical practice seems a rather risky scenario. Also, by signing and covering for him instead of helping, in the long run, you are ennabling his escapist behavior and dysfunction. I also wonder why his wife is tolerating his behavior. If you have a relationship with his wife, perhaps suggest she consult with a therapist trained in depression/substance abuse counseling. This professional would help you all engage in an "intervention" with your boss. An intervention gathers significant people in the life of the dysfunctional/abusing individual. You affirm your caring and concern while firmly sharing how much the problematic behavior is disruptive for your life as well as destructive to the individual. Hopefully, he will consider a consult to get help with his abuse and likely need for inpatient detox and counseling.

(Ed Note. I received an email back. The intervention was successful. The doctor acknowledged his drinking problem and began to seek help.)

Shrink Rap: While writing about one escapade, I'm preparing for the next work/vacation combo. First, it's off to California to do a "Mastering Stress, Loss and Change" workshop for 20 managers of a founding Silicon Valley Information Technology company. Like many IT companies, in this global, "future shock" economy wrestling with difficult yet necessary operational change, anticipating the next learning curve and staying cutting edge is critical for remaining competitive. In addition to wanting help for "lean-and-mean" burnout, the division seems to understand that you just can't force feed rapid change -- new technology procedures, outsourcing operations, personnel fluctuation and redeployment -- upon employees, supervisors and managers. People must grapple and grieve "The Four 'F's of Loss and Change": 1) loss of the familiar, 2) loss of a predictable future, 3) loss of face and 4) the challenge of regaining a new and productive focus.

The provocative questions are: What happens if you provide professionals cognitive-emotional and communicational skills for confronting change and engaging with grief, along with strategies for maximizing energy and problem-solving flexibility in times of crisis? With such tools, will you enable a team to embrace more quickly the transitional, if not quixotic environment? Will this new dynamic allow them to generate and design creative figures (products, processes and policies) from this fluid and fertile ground?

And a key bridge between turbulent transition and a creative change dynamic is the stage of "incubation vacation." A time to let go mentally and to spiritually meander, to say with a touch of bravado: "I don't know where I'm going...I just think I know how to get there." And, hopefully, in this vulnerable, detached yet receptive state, one may hear new notes, new chords, new lines both within and without. Individuals and organizations can discover a group synergy, if not a harmony, by feeding off, bouncing off, challenging, constructively fighting, competing, supporting and collaborating with each other.

Of course, this incubation vacation, where "a time for waste is not a waste of time," not only allows for wandering but also for discovery, new connection, enables one to hatch a new perspective. And, with luck and grace, that's what I'm in the middle of right now. Below, the first part of a very recent short but magical sojourn through two national parks. And after the West Coast workshop, onto Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies. Hopefully, with more stories and insights from a world that so often speaks to the soul.

It's another "Stress Brake" travelogue with the Stress Doc, but first one must journey back ten years in time. The Doc retraces the Yellowstone path once taken with a provocative former flame. Now solo travel encourages resurrection and healing, taking chances, making choices and absorbing oneself in the magical moment. Bon voyage!

Follow the Yellowstone Road Fearful Past, Racing Present and Future Flow

Who says you can't go home again? Or at least revisit the place you vacationed ten years before. Back then, I was a pretty codependent traveler, my sense of self and latent depression precariously tied to a woman who was to disentangle and split shortly after our return home. (A woman who was as bountiful as she was memorable. I've written about her before in a wickedly witty vignette called, "His Moans, Her Moans, Hormones," and in my country codependency lyric - forgive the redundancy - "The Love Trade." I'll place these in the second half, ezine/readers' section.)

Am I the only one for whom vacations with a partner can be troublesome? Ideally, as they say in the bayou, it should be, "Laissez les bon temps roulez." But just because there are no habitual distractions, because you've stripped yourself of the daily routine and responsibilities armor, you're confronted by an emotional nakedness. The depth and intimacy, or lack thereof, is staring you in the face and boring into your heart and soul. And you're coming up empty. And even a vacation escapade as wondrous as Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks can't transfer compensatory energy and excitement to your motel room: pillows are mute and sheets remain properly tucked under the corners.

Actually, this was my partner's chance to go home again; G. was born just outside the parks. She hadn't been home in twenty years. The trip had symbolic meaning for me as well, related to the early, lusty stages of our romance and her bawdy and bountiful ways. The first night of knowing one another in the biblical sense, while taking off her tee shirt, G. must have seen my eyes widen. Without missing a beat, she declared: "I brought the Grand Tetons down with me!" I've been a mountain man ever since. ;-)

So with this historical, if not hysterical, baggage my recent solo return to these parks was a chance to rewrite, if not relive, history. And in 2 ˝ days, I made the most of it.

Go with the Flow

One thing this vacation affirmed: trust my instincts. Having finished the consulting work in Cheyenne, WY in the early afternoon, I was planning to drive about 2/3 of the way to Yellowstone to a town called Lander. The town is nestled just outside the Wind River Mountain Range and the Shoshone National Forest. I had decided against going to the national parks because of the distance and because I was due in Indiana for my next consultation in 3 ˝ days. So I made reservations in town for one night and then two nights in a rustic B & B just outside of Lander.

Thank goodness for those 75mph speed limits on the interstates in Wyoming. As an aside, I can see why there are avid auto racing fans: the on the edge thrill of speed along with one point focus. All the stressors and hassles become blurred into oblivion: schedule pressures, elusive book publishers, uncertain speaking contracts and income sources, challenging writer's deadlines (can there be life after deadlines?), a father's tenuous post-stroke/post-cancer recovery, mysteriously disappearing women, etc., all fade from my stress radar screen. Now there's nothing but a compelling, undifferentiated gestalt: the wheel-the road-the flying scenery-the blast of wind on arm and face-the next car to pass-the POWER! And then off the interstate, on the two lanes, there's the challenge of passing with the possibility of oncoming traffic. Invariably, teeth clench and the heart pounds when over the horizon there's a car or truck coming at you and you haven't quite passed the vehicle on your right. (And, hopefully, you only have one to pass.)

While I was only averaging between 85 and 90mph, still it's fascinating how intense motion, like emotion, can be addictive -- the adrenaline high, the natural, if not so legal, speed. As with the abuse of emotions and substances, often one has to keep upping the dosage to get that pure, non-habituated rush. See, Washingtonians, there are some benefits to the Beltway. Here, we're just addicted to power; certainly not speed in the Congress!)

Anyway…making it to Lander in four hours, with a couple of hours of daylight in front of me, I cancelled the in town reservation (and lost my deposit). I then called ahead for reservations in a little stopgap mountain town named Dubois, about ninety miles down the road. I was going where my heart desired: to Yellowstone and the Tetons.

My gut also told me not to push straight through to the great parks. I knew the upcoming scenery deserved my peak perceptual capacities. It's similar to writing. Often times I will lay down my pen though I can still squeeze out a few more paragraphs. Better to sleep than strain. Better to greet mighty Mother Nature with fresh eyes and mind. So I grabbed some grub from the Cowboy Café, jumped into my bed in a small wood-paneled motel room that had an ersatz cabin feel. Despite a Christmas eve-like excitement and impatience, I crashed. Must have been all that intense team consultant and high speed focus. I awoke just as the sun, surrounded by a grayish-pink celestial veil, was peeking over the foothills.

Not so Mellow Yellow

The looming, snow-covered piebald behemoths - brown and white (okay, a loose metaphor, sometimes forest green, as well) - signal the presence of the Rocky Mountains. I've decided to save and savor the Tetons. So it's north on 89, along the blue-green shoreline of Jackson Lake with those not so distant spell-binding jagged peaks making the drive just a bit risky. Who can keep eyes strictly on this road? (A more "adult' co-pilot was probably needed to rein in my visual hunger; but this trip it's dinner for one.)

Once inside Yellowstone, I followed the Northeast route toward the Canyon area and Artist and Inspiration Points. G., the aforementioned partner, a visual artist, had made this our first stop. But now road construction meant two-way traffic was confined to one lane. And one lane had to wait and wait as the construction vehicles and opposite traffic moved through. (Exiting the park, the wait was twenty minutes.) At this point, serenity had not enveloped me. I had driven too long and too fast to just sit. So I promptly did a 180 out of the line and headed in a clockwise direction for the Old Faithful Inn. And like a charm, just as I pulled into the parking lot, with hundreds of the faithful gathered around, the geyser or hot water spring, progressively pulsating and building up to its emission...full blast eruption of water and steam, reaching known heights as high as 180 feet.

On my previous Yellowstone adventure, G. and I had stayed one night at the Old Faithful Inn. It was as I remembered. The most incredible man-made wooden structure I've ever witnessed. Deeply hued tree trunks of varying lengths and widths abound as beams, railings and pillars in a wonder of architectural configurations. The inside feels like a towering, intricately and ingeniously layered maze. And my most vivid memory of our Old Faithful stay…You'd think with all that above mentioned pulsating phallic imagery it would be obvious what was most memorable. But, alas, no. It was this: late afternoon, a ruggedly good-looking cowboy/entertainer in colorful western shirt, bandana, leather pants with chaps, boots, is leaning on a rail two or three stories above the lobby. And he's singing the score of Oklahoma; one of the albums my folks repeatedly played as I was growing up. I still get goose bumps thinking of that.

A Grand Time: From the Mystical to the Magical

Onto the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Let's get one thing straight - this is no Grand Canyon. That is, the view from the rim of the real Grand Canyon is so vast, so far beyond visual comprehension and verbal description…I was immediately humbled into an incredulous state and a reverential silence. (Though a memorable depiction of that initial view of The Grand Canyon by a working class looking and sounding guy with his family, fifty feet ahead of me, lingers. Upon his first visual encounter with the Canyon, he erupted: "Oh shit, those postcards don't tell you nothing!" That is the most succinct and cogent comment I've ever heard on the subject.

Still the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is spectacular, even awesome, just because of it's visually comprehensible and, thereby, compelling scale. One doesn't have to descend great depths and walk the canyon floor to grasp its natural beauty and idiosyncratic nature. A 300-foot waterfall symmetrically splits the V-shaped canyon. The sharply sloping canyon walls, dotted with pine trees, plunge into the Yellowstone River. With a canyon depth of 1,000 feet, the falls become the Grand Canyon vista point. The endless roar of the falls (just about at its peak with the melting snow waters) is only masked by a roaring, 50-mph wind as one goes down the switchback walkway. And unlike the view from the Grand Canyon rim where the Colorado River seems an elongated and emaciated faintly colored snake imperceptibly crawling along the floor, the Yellowstone River is restless clear blue-green everchurning white water, at points, close enough to feel the spray. And while the steep 3/8 mile climb back up had me breathing heavily (my ego was relieved when the guide book labeled the path strenuous and cautioned people with heart and lung problems) there was unexpected treasure at the lower falls: a double rainbow.

Of course, nature's symphony is not limited to the ear and skin, to visible and invisible motion and inspiring structure. What a feast for the pigment: those colors and textures. The yellow and golden, brown and cream canyon wall hues, with a texture alternately ragged and polished, rivals the beauty of the soft red, deep green and creamy layered rock formations of Sedona, AZ. The colors reveal that all of Yellowstone is an active volcanic area. Hot water mixes with the deep volcanic rock to yield minerals and bacteria that comprise the ultimate artist's palette.

Spectrum of color is omnipresent in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Snow and rain water seep underground, come in contact with the extremely hot rocks beneath the earth's outer crust and then resurface as boiling water - either hot springs erupting skyward or as earthy fumaroles or steam vents. The most eerie sight was shocking turquoise threads of steam rising, more slithering, from a pool of water; like ethereal snakes being charmed by an invisible musical master. And even the pools that are just barely simmering can be an artistic display. The various subterranean chemicals mix with the water and with algae and other bacteria. Throw in sunlight and shade and…Voila! Gorgeous concentric hues of other worldly colors start at the pool's circumference and unfold toward the center creating, with just a little imagination, liquid Indian rug patterns or Mandala symbols. (Mandala is Sanskrit for "magic circle." And this symbolic, often intricate geometric configuration is a tool for inducing a state of deep meditation. For the quietly prepared mind, these geysers surely were reflecting pools.)

The only area I felt slightly cheated was the relatively few wildlife encounters: some grazing bison and a couple of young moose at a distance. My daytime travels were at odds with prime time animal watching -- dawn and dusk. So this trip, Yellowstone was a whirlwind pace, in and out of the car; spectacular picture postcard photo opportunities aplenty. Yellowstone was a feast for the senses and salve for a heart. Alone, this time, I experienced unadulterated joy. But I was not quite ready to have nature speak to my soul. Perhaps the mountain serenity that John Denver sang about lay ahead. Of course, you pay for the chance for serenity in national park lodging. One place seemed dear but not exorbitant. Onto Signal Mountain Lodge, on Jackson Lake, overlooking the Teton Range. Next time, more insights gleaned along with soulful glances and primal visions while traveling solo. Until then, good adventures and, of course…Practice Safe Stress!

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. As promised, here are the two pieces inspired by angst and amour. Enjoy!

His Moans, Her Moans, Hormones From: Stress Doc@aol.com

I remember fondly an old girl friend, Georgia. This "southern belle" was quite an aroused and vocal lover. Now this would not necessarily pose a problem; actually it was pretty exciting. 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 and, of course, Practice Safe Stress!

The Love Trade From: Stress Doc@aol.com

Staring out the window I wonder why I can't write to you Have you stolen all my thunder? Black clouds eclipse sky blue.

Did we love each other, or Just hunger for human touch? You bone weary from living And my loneliness to much.

The Love Trade, The Love Trade Why must we both hurt so? The Love Trade, the Love Trade You want us to move slow? The Love Trade, The Love Trade Why must we both hurt so? The Love Trade, The Love Trade I just can't let you go.

I was hopin for salvation At least numb my bleeding wrath. But you'd retreat behind that door Float away in your bubble bath.

You'd make me wait forever To gaze upon your creamy curves Islands rising from steamy waters Oh, to wash up on those shores.

The Love Trade, The Love Trade Why must love be so hard? The Love Trade, The Love Trade Whose turn to play de Sade? The Love Trade, The Love Trade Why must love be so hard? The Love Trade, The Love Trade Who will be left scarred?

My head was still in the sand, but You knew we were a memory. Yet you cried so...deep in my arms A cradle for your agony.

To trade for this oasis I gently rocked away your past... Two bodies throbbing through the night The illusion could not last.

So now I'm back at my window A sadder yet wiser man. I had to lose me in another To recover who I am.

The Love Trade, The Love Trade Must we hide from shame? The Love Trade, the Love Trade Can one let go of blame? The Love Trade, The Love Trade Must we hide from shame? The Love Trade, The Love Trade No more need to play this game No more need to play this game No more need to play this game!!

(c) Mark Gorkin 1992 Shrink Rap Productions

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