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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

July 1999, No. 2, Sect. I

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

Stress Doc's Breaking News of the Improbable:

Just found out one of the major newspapers in Sweden had a recent series on stress and The Stress Doc Website was one of the resources featured. The world is definitely getting smaller and more absurd ;-)

Table of Contents

Announcements: AOL Chat Group and Q & A Links/Archives Q & A: The M.O. for Dealing with B.O. and Other Toxins Shrink Rap: Existential Death and Life: Up and Down the Creek Main Essay: The Mountain Is the Message: Part I (Sect. II) Reader's Submission: Kid's Letters to God (Sect II)

News Flash:

Alas, only for AOL members, stop by my online "Shrink Rap and Group Chat," Tuesdays, 9-10:45pm 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. (Most likely I'll be out of the cyberloop on Tuesday, July 13th. See you on the 20th.)

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.

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

1) The M.O. for Dealing with B.O. and Other Toxins/Toxic People

Q. Can you please advise me on how to deal with (1.) body odor and (2.) perfume allergy in the workplace? Situation #1 is a part-time employee who has offended coworkers with his b.o. He is very large, and this may have something to do with it. He is such a nice guy that I hate to hurt his feelings, but it is nearly intolerable somedays... The second situation brings me to ask if you can suggest a tactful way to ask someone not to wear a certain perfume. I have already asked someone I carpooled with by saying that I seem to have developed an allergy to that particular perfume. I used to really like it and even wore it, but something has changed because it now gives me an instant headache and makes me feel nauseous! It doesn't help matters that the woman wearing the perfume in our office is the "big boss"... Thank you for any help you can offer.

A. Body odor, bad breath, flatulence, hair growing from nostrils or the ears...I can't quite decide why we are so self-conscious about emissions and shrubbery-like growth protruding from various bodily orifices. Perhaps some of it has to do with all the taunting one experienced in childhood or, especially, early adolescence. (Or maybe it's the media saturated image of perpetual youth and the need for Rogaine at the drop of a hair follicle.) Clearly, the terrible teens was an age when one's bodily processes, often raging out of control -- those pimples, for another example -- made one awkward, nerdy, ugly, self-conscious and so conspicuous. You stood out like a sore mountainous zit...Inevitably to picked at. Adolescents, like vultures, almost instinctually prey upon a peer's imperfections and vulnerabilities. Actually, scapegoating and tormenting others helped distract from facing our own inadequacies and insecurities or might foster a superficial sense of superiority.

But returning to the odious and onerous (can we say odorous?) issue still lingering, certain emissions, no matter what the age, rarely achieve a sense of grace. Let's face it, farting is uncool (unless trying out for Animal House: Part Sixteen). And still the existential dilemma when one emits an SBD: does the gaseous exterminator own up to the noxious deed? And just when you thought you'd finally escaped those adolescent nightmares now, with the aging process and lactose intolerance, so many baby boomers are reliving this humiliating scene. How about another label for this generation: "Baby Fumers"?)

While I am rambling, there is a point here: perhaps some of the difficulty in confronting a colleague's body odor is due to one's own attitude about b.o or body image or our own PTAD: Post Traumatic Adolescence Disorder. Maybe he doesn't have such an acute sense of smell. He may not be as self-conscious as you. (Of course, he may.) My suggestion: Tactfully approach him after work and say, "Joe, may I talk to you about a personal subject that, for me, is not easy to bring up? I'm sensitive to your body odor." (An "I-message" approach that proved effective for you when confronted by toxic emissions inside the car.)

Next see if he reacts or responds. Does he get angry or defensive? Does he acknowledge the problem? If the former, you might say, "I wasn't trying to be critical or hurtful, and I'm sorry if you feel that I was. But others have also expressed discomfort as well." Remember, you are really trying to be helpful and, hopefully, he will in time recognize that and thank you. If he's not defensive, you might ask if he's thought about speaking to a doctor. (Does your company have a medical department? Perhaps he can get a referral from an Employee Assistance Program Counselor.)

If he's truly belligerent or resistant, then you and your colleagues might need to speak with a supervisor about the situation. (Now it's really starting to feel like Junior High School!)

As for the second scenario, I'll focus on the issue of setting boundaries and making requests of an authority figure. As a youngster or as a mate, did you grow up or live with any critical "big bosses"? If so, this can turn a reasonable, albeit delicate, request into a feeling that you are making an unreasonable, selfish demand. I suppose there could be some anticipatory anxiety: the boss gets angry at you for implying she is heavy-handed with the perfume.

Again, take a tactful approach by acknowledging that it is your biochemical sensitivity that's the issue. If she's a professional (not to mention in any way a compassionate person) she will adjust accordingly. If she's unprofessional, and basically says live with it, if possible, next stop the Human Resources Department. At least in the Federal Government, I believe, this is a grievable issue -- a hazardous work environment.

So, screw up your courage, engage with these physical and psychic bogeymen and women and, of course...Practice Safe Stress!

(Editors Note: This URL and line came from the publisher of Head Scraps, DayCareAnn: http://www.gentlehints.com; this lady has been doing something about problems like body odor etc....)

Shrink Rap: Sixteen years in New Orleans usually has been adequate protection for surviving DC summer heat and humidity. But returning from a mid-July week in the Canadian Rockies definitely weakened my resistance. (I can hear the sympathetic "Poor Baby" reverberating through cyberspace.) We had snow even at the lower altitudes. And waking up to a brisk 3 degrees each morning definitely is a jolt to a steamy Mid-Atlantic thermostatic baseline. (Okay, so it's around 38 degrees centigrade. Still, cool enough to motivate buying thermal underwear for high elevation hikes and freezing rain.)

There are many indelible visual memories of the mountains, many to be contemplated and captured in the ensuing main article. However, it's the uncomfortable fit with my DC home base that clouds the present gaze. An unfair comparison recently emerged. As I was taking my afternoon, fast-paced, 2-3 mile walk in Rock Creek Park a familiar sight, to which I had been slowly adapting (not without some regret) suddenly had undeniable poignancy. We've been experiencing near drought conditions for a number of months. My favorite creek's water level is inexorably diminishing. Sand bars and gravelly rocks, once submerged under the water's steady, if not energetic, flow, now protrude and litter the streamscape. The water barely gurgles by. The stagnant brown color reflects the shallow levels of the creek. I'm walking alongside a ghost; a silent shadow of it's former self.

And the Rockies throws all into dramatic relief. With a lengthy, precipitation-filled winter and melting snow gorging streams, rivers and falls, there is everywhere a churning, roaring, spraying with manic intensity. Expansive lakes of hallucinogenic and kaleidoscopic greens and blues become hallucinogenic polka dots on the landscape. My turbulent inner psyche has found it's natural outer counterpart.

Washington, DC of course, is a fascinating city with much to offer - a variety of challenging work and enriching cultural opportunities. But with an increasingly tenuous social and spiritual connection (to some degree self-imposed), there's a sense of "déjà vu" building. As with the last years of New Orleans, there's a spiraling louder inner mantra vibrating an old aphorism, "No more mountains to climb in the bayou."

I don't know if I'm: a) adrenaline addicted, b) have ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder, c) a case of the brain strain and the Bjorn Bored Syndrome: When Mastery times Monotony provides an index of Misery!, d) new a new challenging or thrill seeking learning curve, e) missing a creative, artistic - a la New Orleans, a haven for oddballs and outcasts; actually, I also subscribe to French novelist, Gustave Flaubert's philosophy: "Live life like a bourgeois so your heart and mind can run wild," and f) need to be in a geographic setting that speaks to my soul.

While the financial foundation client base is not in place quite yet for total relocation, perhaps if the mountains can't march on DC, perhaps the Doc must return to the mountains. And for right now I can always travel in writer's time. I hope the main essay, "The Mountain Is the Message" also speaks to your inner essence. To hard work, some inner peace and good adventures.

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