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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist (tm)

August 1998, No. 1

Dear Readers,

Here is your free Stress Doc Newsletter. Twice a month I include original or favorite essays and articles from my various online and offline writings, including my weekly Humor From the Edge <A HREF="http://members.aol.com/hfte/">HUMOR FROM THE EDGE HomePage</A> and AOL/Online Psych <A HREF="aol://4344:972.doc.1264535.556723207">The Stress Doc @ Online Psych</A> columns.

Please forward this letter to interested friends, colleagues and family members, or send along their email addresses. (Also, if you don't wish to receive the newsletter, email me - stressdoc@aol.com .)

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: The Stress Doc and Digital City- Washington Go National: Shrink Rap and Group Chat, the Stress Doc's popular dynamic chat group, moves to a weekly Tuesday format starting Tuesday August 11, from 9-10:30pm EDT. Here are links & announcements: <A HREF="aol://4344:1097.tuechat.25384394.563747919">Tuesday Chats</A> and <A HREF="aol://4344:363.gorkin.5732839.568857121">Dig City Promo - Stress Doc </A> . Hope to see you on Tuesdays.

August! In DC, if it wasn't for Monica, this place would be a ghost town. Now it's just a media illusion. Maybe that's why I'm feeling an inner calling to retreat. Better to climb a mountain; go seek my spiritual homeland. And here are two pieces that capture a spiritually surreal time and place, and further expalin my propensity for living on the edge.

Also, scroll past the essays to find information on my speaking and training schedule, the library of articles on my award-winning website - www.stressdoc.com <A HREF="www.stressdoc.com">STRESSDOC HOMEPAGE</A> - and any fastbreaking developments. And here's my AOL/Online Psych Page <A HREF="aol://4344:972.doc.1264535.556723207">The Stress Doc @ Online Psych </A> and special AOL/Workplace Series <A HREF="aol://4344:972.docwork.1255066.562088752">The Stress Doc Interview @ Online Psych</A>.

Click on these links if you'd like free subscriptions to Humor From the Edge <A HREF="http://members.aol.com/hfte/">HUMOR FROM THE EDGE HomePage</A> and/or to The Death and Dying Newsletter <A HREF="http://www.death-dying.com/"> Welcome To Death & Dying...Where Life Surroun...</A> (See, this newsletter will make you die laughing ;-)

To Sur With Love

The peak of summer evokes memories of summer peaks - from the dramatic Northern California redwood forests and cliffs of Big Sur, the juxtaposition of mountainous terrain and shimmering, sunlight dancing, everchanging turquoise-emerald hues of Pacifica to...the traumatic. Let's journey over two decades back in time to a truly heavenly and harrowing experience hiking with my friend Art in one of the ranges ringing the fjords of Norway. We left late morning for the snow covered peaks. The trek up was moderately strenuous but also a delight as we tramped through lush meadows, passed brightly colored wildflowers and petted grazing sheep. As we continued to climb, vegetation became sparse; green was now replaced with patches of earth and rock, then drifts and fields of snow. Whatever path there was became nonexistent; the ascent to the summit was less a hike than a crawl on hands and knees.

But we finally made it! On top of a world, in the middle of July, where the eerie silence blends in a yin-yang harmony with a gently howling wind. The swirling confetti-dancing snow celebrates our arrival. Talk about "the big picture." Alas, it can only be down from here.

Little did I know how hard the fall would be. As I indicated, there had been no path for the last leg to the top. And our meandering on the ridge had us even losing sight of our original tracks. And on slippery, steep terrain the descent becomes particularly challenging. Struggling to maintain my footing, I suddenly had a blinding flash. (Actually, I think the lack of oxygen was impairing my brain functioning.): "So Mark, why not slide down the wet snow for awhile?" Very quickly I received the answer why launching my "aha" was an ass backwards idea. After a brief exhilarating run, the wet snow suddenly becomes wet rock. And I realize if I don't do something NOW my coccyx (that bony protrusion and base of your spinal column above your backside) is history.

So I try to grab onto something to break my downward hurtling. No way. I suddenly flip over, coming to a crashing halt onto a boulder, top of the head first. I saw the proverbial stars. Somehow I quickly regained consciousness (see mom, there is some value in being hardheaded) placed my hand on my skull, brought my hand down, took one look...and almost passed out again. It was soaking blood red!

At this point, I experienced a little miracle -- the emergency survival mechanism of the human "general adaptation syndrome." Everything seemed to slow down and, in an eerily calm voice, I announced to no one visible, "Art, I think I need some help."

Now fortunately, my friend Art had exercised better judgment. He was content to crawl. Art, thinking he had lost a friend for sure, was looking kind of pale when he finally reached me. Maybe it was my looking like I'd been in finger painting class and the red paint was splattered all over me. Art took out his handkerchief, applied it to the crown and suddenly was waving a red flag. Clearly, the bleeding was not going to stop immediately. I realized there was no choice. We were in the middle of nowhere and the youth hostel was hours away. I slowly got up and said, "Let's walk." As I did, my left calf started cramping. The product of stress, repressed anxiety, blood loss, who knows. Luckily, it was not severe. I kneaded it out and we proceeded. I wouldn't let myself rest; just measured, focused and relentless footsteps. And after 31/2 hours, we made it to the hostel. The bleeding had mostly stopped.

I couldn't experience the relief right away. I was painfully famished; perhaps having a post-trauma, low blood sugar attack. Blessedly, the hostel had an ice cream vending machine. I just started gobbling ice cream cones. And the "piece de resistance" is a friend's photo capturing my blood caked face, wearing a blue wind breaker transformed into a Jackson Pollack of purple and red splotches and drippings, eating my third strawberry cone, with the biggest, most incongruous, most joyful and grateful grin.

I only needed four stitches the next day. And now you know why my brain works in strange ways. And why mountains, for me, most dramatically capture and echo the peaks and depths of nature and human nature. Just remember...Practice Safe Stress!

Finding A Spiritual Homeland: Part I

Has anyone found their spiritual homeland? And perhaps I should follow-up with: what do I mean by such a paradoxical entity? For me, a spiritual homeland is a geographic-cultural location and ambience that nurtures, stimulates and challenges your mind-body-spirit. And in the process of engaging this human trinity, you discover or uncover your unique history, individual gifts and true passions. And staying this exploratory course - no matter how torturous nor how often it seems you are diverted or delayed - invariably results in both surface and deep eruptions of self-awareness and genuine expressions of creativity.

The City as Muse

Now coming home spiritually, in an earthbound sense, has its flows and ebbs; like life, itself, the connection is not static. Let me provide a personal illustration. In my late 20s, I moved to New Orleans to start a doctoral program. Never having lived in the Deep South, (other than four months of Army Reserve Basic Training in Columbia, South Carolina), little did I know I was embarking on my "American in Cajun Paris" years. I had gotten off the New York City Type A Track and had landed in "The Big Easy." My intellectual and psychological orientation was overwhelmed by this sensual, playful and hedonistic world -- the Cajun and Creole cuisine (I can still salivate just thinking of oyster poboys, softshell crab and crawfish etouffe), Mardi Gras Madness and the ever present music, at Jazz Fest, on French Quarter streets, in steamy clubs.

And speaking of steamy, the heat and humidity, the sultry sweat, the crackle of lightning and torrential thunderstorms, rivers straining against levees...in New Orleans weather and water enveloped you. This includes having my ground floor apartment flooded with 12" of water twice in three years by "once in a hundred year" floods. You know things were not looking good when I had to park my car 1/4 mile from the house and to wade home waist deep in the big muddy. And, then, upon opening the front door, I see my bathroom slippers floating in the living room. (Hey, the Louisiana Tourist Commission tried to start a state slogan similar to "Virginia Is For Lovers." Their brainstorm: "Louisiana: A Dream State." You know where that was headed -- "A Wet Dream State." The promotion disappeared quickly.)

Of course, speaking of wet dreams, there were those wonderful New Orleans women in all their shapes and sizes, personalities and colors and colorful personalities. And as one who was just starting to come out of the creative closet, I was particularly drawn to the fertile - mind as much as body - female. (My brother, a few years back, upon seeing all the art on my walls, courtesy of former loves, exclaimed, "Mark, you don't collect art...you collect artists!" Guilty as charged.)

And finally, the "third world" and devil may care spirit of "The Crescent City" fostered my journey in two other ways. The cost of living in New Orleans is much less than where I am now - Washington, DC. I often lament: "It makes perfect sense from a real estate perspective to have left New Orleans. I have almost ten times less square foot space and I'm only paying $500/month more for rent. Though I really shouldn't complain. This includes an off street parking space behind the building.

So in "The Big Easy" I didn't have to work a full-time private practice. Once I had burnt out and dropped out of academia, I could make new career tracks. With a good idea and a little chutzpah, you can trailblaze through the primordial swamp. I broke into radio, as well as Cable and Public Television; became known as "The Stress Doc." I built on my university teaching experience to become a workshop leader and convention speaker. Of course, now it was no longer just "The Big Easy," but also a lot of blood, sweat and tears along the swamp trail. Still, I was pushing the outer and inner envelope, breaking down the fearful, defensive crust that, for years, kept me from embracing and realizing my individual essence.

In Transition

New Orleans was my first spiritual homeland. A sixteen year run. But by the end of the 80s, with the loss of key friends to migration, the prolonged economic hard times for the city and a sense of being adrift personally, there were no more mountains to climb in the bayou. An urge for geographic synthesis, as well as a desire to reestablish more northeast roots, propelled me to "the nation's capital." As I've written, if New York City and New Orleans had a baby...it would look like Washington, DC. (Of course, I can't vouch for its legitimacy.)

Now Washington has certainly honed my skills as a consultant and rough and tumble workshop leader, including a tour as a stress and violence prevention consultant for the US Postal Service. But DC is a fairly bureaucratic state (of mind); some might say a political wasteland, more than a spiritual homeland. Actually, the internet and AOL have become my virtual homeland. In reality, though, something was missing. And then the trip to Santa Fe, Taos and, finally, Sedona, AZ...And in less than 24 hours I realized I had discovered my future spiritual homeland. And I'll tell you more about the haven quest and of Sedona, which I've dubbed "the rebirthplace of the 60s," next time. Until then...Practice Safe Stress!

(c) Mark Gorkin 1997 Shrink Rap Productions

Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc," Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a nationally recognized speaker, workshop leader and author on stress, reorganizational change, anger, team building, creativity and humor. He is also the internet's and the nation's leading "Psychohumorist." The Stress Doc is a columnist for the popular cyber-newsletter, Humor From The Edge -- <A HREF="http://hfte.funnytown.com/">HUMOR FROM THE EDGE HOME PAGE</A> . Mark is also the "Online Psychohumorist" for the major AOL mental health resource network, Online Psych -- <A HREF="aol://4344:972.doc.1264535.556723207">ONLINE PSYCH: THE STRESS DOC</A> and Financial Services Journal Online -- http://fsc.fsonline.com/fsj . And he is an offline writer for two mental health/substance abuse publications -- Treatment Today and Paradigm Magazine. His motto: Have Stress? Will Travel: A Smart Mouth for Hire! Reach "The Doc" at (202) 232-8662, email: Stress Doc@aol.com, or check out his "Hot Site" website: http://www.stressdoc.com or click <A HREF="http://www.stressdoc.com/">STRESS DOC HOMEPAGE</A>. (The site was selected as a USA Today Online "Hot Site" and designated a four-star, top- rated site by Mental Health Net.)

And now the Doc is leading a "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" for Digital City- Washington, Tuesdays from 9-10:30pm EDT. Field questions on stress, relationship issues, school/job problems, career transition, etc. Definitely a lively hour. Here's the link: <A HREF="aol://4344:363.gorkin.5732839.568857121">Dig City Promo - Stress Doc </A>

"The Stress Doc Letter" features and functions:

1. Psychohumor Writings. To provide you the best of my past and current online and offline writngs, including Humor From the Edge columns and America On Line/Online Psych special topical essays, e.g, <A HREF="aol://4344:972.docwork.1255066.562088752">The Stress Doc Interview @ Online Psych</A> and <A HREF="aol://4344:972.olpny3.1264502.565460680">Make Your Resolution A Habit With Help From Online Psych!</A>. For those not on AOL, if you'd like a copy of these popular series, just email - stressdoc@aol.com. Or check out my website - www.stressdoc.com - or my AOL/Online Psych Page - Keyword: Stress Doc, <A HREF="aol://4344:972.doc.1264535.556723207">The Stress Doc @ Online Psych </A> .

My writings now appear twice/month in Perspectives, the electronic magazine of Mental Health Net. MHN is a not-for-profit organization devoted to mental health information and education resources online. They are located at: www.cmhc.com/

2. Special Projects/Speaking Updates. Workshops, conferences and new or special projects that are flying around or about to be (or have been) launched:

a) Come on by for my weekly"Shrink Rap and Group Chat" on AOL/Digital City - Washington. It's an online stress support group. It's a free wheeling discussion, with some Stress Doc direction about your personal concerns on stress and wellness, relationship and family issues, loss and grief, career transition, creativity and psychological growth, etc., Tuesdays, from 9-10pm EDT. The openinig topic: Soulful Vacations; Tuesday August 11th. Here's the link: <A HREF="aol://4344:363.gorkin.5732839.568857121"> </A>D <A HREF="aol://4344:363.gorkin.5732839.568857121">ig City Promo - Stress Doc </A> .

This group replaces the Frequent Sighers Club which never quite got off the ground. (I still like the name.)

b) Team Building Series for Aeronautical Charting and Cartography/Dept. of Commerce commenced on June 5th and continues in high gear. A number of peer facilitated groups have been launched. This follows two highly successful Stress and Conflict Management all day workshops. For more info, call Melissa Hartman, Special Projects Manager, (202) 482-3026.

c) Overcoming Stress, Loss and Change; Managing Anger and Conflict - continuing series for Fairfax County Government, VA, Metro-Area Re-employment Project: for Displaced Federal Employees. For more info, call: Marilyn Manno, (703) 324-7390.

d) Confronting/Managing Downsizing and Organizational Change - On August 4 and August 20, all-day workshops for allied health professionals of the DC Commission on Mental Health Services. For more info, call Patricia O'Meally, Training Coordinator, (202) 373-6801.

e) Practicing Safe Stress - On August 19th, one hour evening program for the Alexandria, VA JCs. For more info, call Genie Moore, (703) 222-1434.

f) Rebuilding the Fire: Transforming Burnout into Your Creative Career Path; On June 8th and 9th, two highly successful half day programs for the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers Annual Conference. Rumor has it I was "the star of the conference." These comments from Ron Lambert, Director, Career Services, John Hopkins University/SAIS, (202) 663-5710: Once again, let me thank you for the outstanding job facilitating "Rebuilding the Fire; Transforming Burnout Into Your Creative Career Path."...From the evaluations submitted, clearly, it was one of our most successful workshops of the conference. While my own coordinating duties kept me from attending, every time I passed by your seminar room, it was clear that you were able to build and maintain a high level of energy and enthusiasm...In these frenetic times, yours is a gift that many organizations surely will find a great benefit.

g) Generating Creativity and High Performance; as a spinoff of the above Rebuilding the Fire EACE Conference, will be leading a 2 1/2 hour "Beginning Year Kickoff" motivational workshop on Aug 11th at Ithaca College for 80 Student Personnel staff members; for more info, call Gary Littlepage, (607) 274-3365.

g) These comments from David Odar, Program Chair for American Association of Healthcare Adminsitrative Mnagement on May's Practicing Safe Stress presentation: We want to express thanks for the wonderful presentation you made to our group last month. It was obvious that you connected with the group and provided us all with some fresh perspectives and strategies for dealing with stress...We look forward to having you be an integral part of our year end meeting that will focus on strategies for "career control."

3. Online Coaching/Training. To promote my Coaching for Consultants and Entrepreneurs Program:

Special Announcement: I am starting a Multi-Media Coaching for Consultants Program: ** developing, delivering, marketing workshop programs online & offline ** humor/speech writing services and website design with the Cyber Doc ** online consultation and participation in chat group

For information on the products and instructional services, email me at Stress Doc@aol.com. With questions, call (202) 232-8662 or mail me at:

Mark Gorkin Stress Doc Enterprises 1616 18th Street, NW #312 Washington, DC 20009-2530

4. Award-Winning Website. To remind you that there is a lot more material on my award winning, USA Today Online "Hot Site" website. It's also just been acclaimed a 4 Star, top-rated site, by Mental Health Net, the largest review guide of mental health, psychology and psychiatry resources online today. Go to www.stressdoc.com or <A HREF="http://www.stressdoc.com/">STRESS DOC HOMEPAGE</A> . Also, check out my AOL/Online Psych Page, <A HREF="aol://4344:972.doc.1264535.556723207">The Stress Doc @ Online Psych </A> or Keyword: Stress Doc. Over 100 articles are arranged in 15 different categories:

Stress Doc Bio and Philosophy Stress and Burnout Managing Anger with Authority Power Struggles: Dyads-Systems Depression/Teens, Parents... Cyberaddicts Anonymous Good Grief Searching for Love Career Transition Humor: Art and Science Creativity Unbound Achieving Peak Performance Spiritual Exploration Readers' Submissions

5. Readers' Platform. Please submit questions, comments, criticisms, cutting edge information as well as stories about how you've used humor to help relieve a client's, family member's or your own stress. I will gladly print your offering and credit you completely. (And thank you for using your spellchecker.)

Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc," Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a nationally recognized speaker, workshop leader and author on stress, reorganizational change, anger, team building, creativity and humor. He is also the internet's and the nation's leading "Psychohumorist." The Stress Doc is a columnist for the popular cyber-newsletter, Humor From The Edge -- HUMOR FROM THE EDGE HOME PAGE . Mark is also the "Online Psychohumorist" for the major AOL mental health resource network, Online Psych -- ONLINE PSYCH: THE STRESS DOC and Financial Services Journal Online. And he is an offline writer for two mental health/substance abuse publications -- Treatment Today and Paradigm Magazine. His motto: Have Stress? Will Travel: A Smart Mouth for Hire! Reach "The Doc" at (202) 232-8662, email: Stress Doc@aol.com, or check out his "Hot Site" website: http://www.stressdoc.com or click STRESS DOC HOMEPAGE. (The site was selected as a USA Today Online "Hot Site" and designated a four-star, top- rated site by Mental Health Net.)