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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

September 1999, No. 1, Sect. 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: Sexual Identity, Intimacy and the Ideal: Still Waiting for "That Man"?
Shrink Rap: Following One's Voice, Finding a Homeland Sect 2:
Main Essay: "Going Postal": Part II -- Violence-Prone Personality Profile
Reader's Submission: Three Wise Women

News Flash: Alas, only for AOL members, stop by my online "Shrink Rap (TM) and Group Chat," Tuesdays, 9-10:45pm EST: (Email for the link or go to Digital City--Washington, DC.) 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 Announcements: 1)  For all cyberspace travelers, there's the new Ask the Stress Doc Q & A -- Work Stress Digital City - Washington, DC - Ask the Stres... and Love and Relationships  Digital City - Washington, DC - Relations . Also, check the Doc's Q & A Archives: Stess Doc's Q&A and Q&A: Love and Relationships .

Ask the Stress Doc Q & A/Digital City--Washington, DC Love and Relationships

1) Sexual Identity, Intimacy and the Ideal: How Come It's Not with "That Man"?

Q. Hello. In all of my past failed relationships with men, I have now found a woman to love. But I am not sure that I am a lesbian or a bisexual. But I know I must be one or the other? I love this woman deeply and she loves me and I feel that I am accepted. However, I also desire to still find "that man" that I have been looking for all of my life. This makes me confused. Do I seek the man or stay with the woman who is lesbian? She treats me with love and respect and I have yet to find that in a man. I have had rotten relationships with men & three failed marriages. I was wondering what you think about this and if there are others that might have been through this kind of situation before and how they handled it? Thank you.

A. You pose two complex issues: 1) what is your sexual identity? and 2) can you find "that man," that elusive creature with and for whom you have battled, bled and quested? Let's begin with the issue of sexual identity. Over the years, I've worked with several men and women who have come to a realization, later in life rather than earlier, about an undeniable attraction and desire for lust, romance and/or intimacy with a same-sexed partner. And, especially for women, it often follows an unhappy or, at least, insufficiently fulfilling relationship -- marital or otherwise -- with an opposite-sexed mate. Perhaps the men are a bit quicker to know when there's a libido shortage in the electricity department, but not always.

How does one know one's sexual identity? Let's start with an example. One woman in her 40s encountered in cyberspace tentatively allowed the questioning of her sexuality. She observed that her religious upbringing along with the anticipated censure from her family made it very scary and shameful to contemplate the "unspeakable." Still, the tip-off for me as we were chatting was a sense of deadness and lack of passion about her life. It was if she had dammed up a natural wellspring -- her sexual identity and energy -- and had disassociated this blockage from the rest of her life. (Not surprisingly, a short-time after allowing herself to open this "Pandora's Box," she began thinking of childhood and adolescent interests that she had lost touch with -- painting, playing piano, writing poetry, etc. There's an absolutely essential, if not ultimately mysterious, bond between sexual energy and creative passion.

Thoughts of the unconscious and the mysterious reminds me of how a male friend, an emergency room doctor, confirmed his homosexuality: his dreamscape, though still occasionally seeing women, was a kaleidoscopic fusion of encounters with men.

Of course, one must address the question of biological determinism. I do believe genes affect our sexual predilection. For some bisexuality is a natural state. For a percentage of this group, though, a reluctance to commit to an identity, if not a partner, is operating. And for some folks, sexual preference and partners is a rich mix of bio-psycho-social factors, including roles, relationships and opportunities (or lack thereof, for example, prison homosexuality).

Moving from the complex tapestry of sexual identity, let's tackle societal/sexual "shoulds" and the issue of intimacy. I suppose for many women -- lesbian and otherwise -- the desire and the pressure to find "that man" can be unrelenting. It somehow becomes a reflection of attractiveness or worthiness in one's own eyes an in the eyes of one's social comparison community, including family and peer network.

I also believe men may not have to go through a hellish relationship (or endure one as long as a woman) to let go and to pursue their sexual bent. Differing degrees of family commitment may be a factor. Also, that psychic-phallic radar system eventually will help many men hone in on what's real. Not necessarily healthy, but at least real. (I'm trying to be delicate here. I don't want to just come out and say men think with their...)

Conversely, women who have not experienced much safety, trust and compassion in a relationship long for, need and deserve such a bond. And such a loving relationship is valuable and vital, whether there also is a strong sexual connection or not. All I'm suggesting is not to confuse the two, or not to necessarily equate one's sexual identity with one's needs for and interpersonal arena of intimacy.

For whatever reasons, the chemistry and intimacy has not clicked with men chosen. Are women, in general, more practiced and comfortable with intimacy than men? Most likely. Are most men only good for rotten relationships? Most likely not. Is it possible your energy and sympathy flows most freely with women? Certainly possible at this time in your life. At an earlier stage, if you'd been more comfortable exploring unconventional intimate relationships, perhaps you would have spared yourself some romantic, marital and family grief. On the other hand, sometimes we need to go through a number of trials and errors before we can say, "Yes! I've found what I've been looking and longing for." And the past pain makes the seemingly belated realization even sweeter.

So my two cents. Cherish and continue to build upon what's real, alive and immediate as opposed to grasping endlessly for the ideal and elusive. Remember, as someone once observed; "Pursuing the unobtainable makes impossible the realizable!" A good strategy to help you...Practice Safe Stress!

Shrink Rap™: L'Shonah Tovah! My own translation of the Hebrew: A joyous, graceful and healthy New Year. Seems like the year will be filled with challenge and opportunity. As I said to my new publisher upon his offer of a book contract: "I've been waiting thirteen years for this." The startup publishing company is called AdviceZone. (Their website - www.advicezone.com - will be up and running shortly.) The principals, based in DC, are lean and hungry, appear to be ethical, have business savvy and are literate. I'm especially attracted to their aggressive marketing strategy both offline and online. And they want to use the Stress Doc Q & A as one of their expert columns.

The book will be a compilation of my Internet psychohumor essays - from stress and burnout and defusing power struggles to creative career transition and finding a spiritual homeland. And, of course, how to become a "Psychohumorist"™. (I'll let you decide where the emphasis should be placed.)

Whitefish on My Mind

Obtaining the contract (certainly not the small advance) sharpened a desire to find a place for retreating and writing. Actually, this quest was shaped by an early summer conversation with a storeowner in Jackson Hole, WY. When I shared some westward fantasies, she mentioned Whitefish, MT as a beautiful place that may be attracting creative types. And with its lower altitude than Jackson (which is south of Grand Teton National Park), Whitefish winters are less unforgiving.

Then, in July, a week's vacation in the awesome, saw-toothed and snow-covered Canadian Rockies. It dawned on me that just south of the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia are the state of Montana and Glacier National Park. (The combined wilderness area is called the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.) And upon discovering that Whitefish was only a half-hour drive from Glacier, well my gut didn't need much convincing.

In late August I was Whitefish bound. Whitefish is a lovely town, blessed with an opulent lake, the "Big Mountain" ski resort, a delightful coffee house, a great New Orleans style restaurant and a fabulous bakery that provides generous free samples of wonderful Glacier bread - a light grainy, nutty, sweet, filled with cherries and raisins ambrosia. And you can add a killer cream cheese icing spread.

Still…as a book store owner said, "Whitefish is more for the outdoor sportsmen, not really a hangout for artists and writers." He recommended Big Fork, home to may art galleries. And a forty-minute trip to Big Fork, near Flathead Lake, confirmed that Main Street is lined with restaurants and galleries. Call me picky, but the ambience was more tourist than native. However, I picked up a book of essays by contemporary Montana writers called, Writing Montana: Literature under the Big Sky. This treasure provided a hot clue on my hunt for a writers' haven and haunt: a number of the literati and "lariati" (those cowboy poets) have started settling in the Livingston area. Livingston is 23 miles east of Bozeman and about five-six hours by car from Whitefish.

The Search for Oz

After two and ½ days of vigorous hiking in Whitefish and Glacier I decided to head south, to the cities with major universities and writing programs and then eventually explore the literary newcomer. Both Missoula and Bozeman had the feel of old-modern West, Missoula more a small city, Bozeman a growing town. There was a viable Main Street with engaging shops, restaurants and coffeehouses and friendly citizenry. Both universities had verdant and spacious campuses, with contemporary architecture, and mountains for a backdrop. Each a very livable world; neither conjured magic. After a computer retailer and gallery director said that Bozeman was getting a little too big and commercial, and both suggested heading east…it was onto Livingston.

And I found my Emerald City. Livingston is a small old western-artsy town, a historic train depot in the town center, with the rolling hills into serrated Absaroka Mountains at the end of Main Street. I stayed overnight in a delightfully quaint hotel. The Chicago Tribune described The Murray Hotel as, "The quintessential old Montana kind of lodging." While The New York Times noted that the establishment, "Appeals to celebrities and to a certain Western disorder." Hey, for a guy who's definitely a legend in his own mind and who has also written the provocative essay, "Creative Risk-Taking: The Art of Designing Disorder," this was too perfect. The lobby is paneled in wood, has a big fireplace and the standard elk's head with imposing antlers on the wall. The place has lodged the likes of Will Rogers and Teddy Roosevelt. And I had a suite for $80 in the heart of tourist season.

Two blocks away, a well-know local and regional artist, Russell Chatham, with a growing reputation (deserved in my opinion, his soft dreamy landscapes are definitely sui generis) has opened an upscale restaurant. Chatham's appears to be the "in" watering hole for both artists and patrons. One woman encountered near the restaurant, who had clearly watered down, responded to my question about the social scene at Chatham's, "Honey, just sit at the bar, buy a drink and smile. You'll do just fine!" I can do that. ;-)

But the clincher came the following morning. Meandering about the low-trafficked, definitely small town streets, I discovered a breakfast oasis that served Crème Brulee Oatmeal. I said Crème Brulee Oatmeal. Unbelievable. It was sinful! And wonderful, vibrant art was found in the various coffeehouses and restaurants encountered.

So off to real estate offices, not sure exactly what I was looking for. My favorite process motto on this expedition was definitely in full swing: "I don't know where I'm going…I just think I know how to get there." I do know I'm not ready to vacate Washington, DC. Stress Doc Enterprises is still too dependent on the government contractor soil to uproot. But why not Stress Doc Enterprises--West? Why not a second base to stimulate mind and soul for new creative heights?

And again destiny answered my call. I seemed to be following in the footsteps of W.H. Murray, author and explorer:

Until one is committed there is hesitance, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do, Or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, Power and magic in it.

Oz happens! One of the agents directed me just across the street to what had been a small hotel, The Grabow. The current owner's family had the building years ago, then lost it during hard economic times. Under the management of two lawyers, the hotel was allowed to deteriorate to a shadow of its former glorious self. Ms. Grabow, the daughter of the original owners, was able to buy back the property. She has been renovating and converting the rooms into rentals. The lobby has towering ceilings, a regal staircase and showcase animal heads. (For sensitive readers, I am not encouraging the slaughter of animals. Just appreciating some days gone by Americana.) And she had a guestroom with private bath that she was willing to rent for $350/month. (I think being AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" was a good selling point.) Later, when I did the math, we negotiated a four-month lease for $1200. And the place is Internet compatible. In fact, she's quite computer savvy, trying to get high-speed lines into Livingston. Her Generation X son already has sold an e-business to Amazon.com. So Old West and New Web may be able to coexist creatively.

By the way, I'll only be using my guest room for short bursts through the rest of the year (or at least till mid-December). If anyone is interested in a time-share arrangement for a very reasonable rate, just email stressdoc@aol.com or call, 202-232-8662.

So The Stress Doc just may be ready to live out another one of those maxims: "Go web young cyber-ite!" I'll keep you posted on this search for a geographic, literary and spiritual homeland, a world in which to…Practice Safe Stress!

(c) Mark Gorkin 1999 Shrink Rap™ Productions