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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

FEB 2006, Sec. II

The Stress Doc turns a power struggle exercise into a treatise on the value of healthy aggression for:  a) survival adaptation, b) affirmation of identity and integrity, c) effective interpersonal engagement, and d) passionate and purposeful flights of exploration and imagination.  Drawing on personal experience and the professional expertise of psychologist and author, Key Redfield Jamison, a case is made for the role of healthy aggression in the paradoxical and painfully productive pairing of purpose and passion, fever and reason.

 Vital and Creative Functions of Healthy Aggression:
Transforming Pain and Purpose Into Passion and Power

 Said forcefully, the word “Anger” still has a bad rep.  At least based on the responses of attendees of my ”Practice Safe Stress” and  “Managing Anger and Difficult People (or When Going Postal Is Not your Best Career Move”) speaking and workshop programs.  Participants’ call outs include “yelling,” “fear,” “rage,” “out of control,” “violence,” etc.  And yet when you listen to people interested in delivering a high energy, passionate and top notch performance, a common refrain, whether from athletes and actors to political activists is the need to “be aggressive, to be passionate and to stay focused.”

 I’ve witnessed this multifaceted aspect of anger and aggression through a staple interactive power struggle exercise.  Two people are paired as antagonists.  My specific instruction:  “Imagine someone who, at least on occasion, is a pain in your butt.”  (Of course, there’s always an immediate protest:  “How can I limit it to just one!”)  Then in a short yet provocative role-play, Person A declares:  “You can’t make me.”  And B reflexively counters:  “Oh yes I can!”  Participants can be overtly angry or passive-aggressive.  The only limitation:  “You can’t get out of your chair.”   After a few volleys people are encouraged to say what they really would like to say to the stand-in antagonist.  (For a more in depth discussion of this exercise, email me for “Disarming Critical and Power-Driven Aggressors: Case Example, Concepts and Verbal Strategies for Tactful and Forceful Intervention.”)

 You’ll have to take my word for it…the room erupts with energy, noise and hearty laughter.  And some of the non-verbal gestures and body language are priceless.  Many get into the exercise:  for some competitive juices get stirred while others don’t want to be pushed around.  Still a number of participants think the exercise silly.  While the “artificial” nature of the interaction contributes to the perceived silliness, I believe another dynamic contributes to the amount of laughter.  The exercise asks people to engage in raw, fairly spontaneous and pointed aggression.  And frankly, many folks – men as well as women – are not comfortable brashly or boldly expressing such unfiltered emotion.  Nor is it easy or natural to counter such a provocative or power-based position.

 And while some participants are uncomfortable, you also get a 180-degree response.  For example, an Asian MBA grad student of the Indiana University Business School found the exercise “energizing.”  Along with many others he felt alive and empowered when standing up for what he believed.  (Perhaps the exercise freed him from some cultural constraints regarding both open expression of emotion in general as well as the expression of interpersonal anger.)

 Primitive vs. Positive Aggression

 Which brings me to a central tenet of this article:  raw aggression is not inherently “bad” or “mean’ or “out of control.”  Conversely, productivity, effective leadership and successful negotiation are not absolutely contingent upon aggressively macho displays.  However, being able to: a) purposefully and spontaneously summon or connect to one’s raw aggression, b) handle such charged emotion and energy when challenged and, finally, c) constructively channel its conceptual and expressive shape, size and style is truly a powerful tool for both cultivating personal integrity, for influencing effective interpersonal engagement and for intense performance or imaginative problem solving.  In addition, such harnessed aggression is a vital component of “passion,” whether the word refers to sensuality or sexuality, intense desire or commitment, or to it’s Latin root of “suffering,” as in the Passion Play, that is, the Passion of Christ or more generically the sufferings of a martyr.  (Imagine all this time I never knew my Jewish mother was such a passionate woman!  Obviously there is a link between passion and some forms of aggression.)

 And for me, such a vital energizing and engaging source and force that does not crossover the line into rigid obsession and/or addiction is the opposite of burnout.  Alas, burnout frequently occurs when a person’s identity, vitality and spirit have been consumed, if not seemingly extinguished, by one’s dysfunctionally passionate (and often obsessive or obstinate) fires.

 With this intro in mind, let’s see how aggression can be transformed by and also transform both purpose and passion, and even depression, to yield a cognitive and motivational state that heightens both exuberant energy and self-conscious focus, that strengthens down to earth integrity and flights of creativity.  Consider these “Vital Functions of Healthy Aggression”:

 1.  Transforms Pain Into Purpose.  Let me begin with a personal vignette.  During a workshop, a female accounting supervisor at a social service agency had been singled out for some criticism by a male casework supervisor.  (Sufficient discussion and closure had not been achieved during the session.)  At the follow-up meeting I attempted to reengage the parties to see if there were any hurt feelings or unresolved issues.  The male supervisor acknowledged his prior, overly blaming stance.  The female supervisor seemed to brush off curtly my attempt at further processing.  Working in accounting, she mostly wanted to express her day-to-day frustration at the perceived lack of cooperation from her colleagues.  Their supervisory reports were often late.

After awhile, we took a break.  The accounting supervisor was at the water fountain.  I approached aware that some folks don't like to bring up sensitive issues in a group setting.  I tactfully asked if she had any thoughts or feelings from the aforementioned encounter (and subsequent brief discussion) that she might want to share.  She gave me a glaring look and then practically spit out:  "Boy, you sure know how to talk things to death!"

Without warning, I had taken a blaming "You" message punch in the psychic gut, if not below the belt.  After recoiling and catching my breath, I managed to say:  "In addition to wanting to check in with you, I'm aware of your concerns about cooperation with peers.  And how important communication can be…"

Before I could finish she tried cutting me off with a provocative, passive aggressive parting shot:  "Whatever."

The Critical Moment

Hey, you can hit me once, and I may still try for some rational engagement; but you hit me twice and I'm ready to fight.  No longer shocked by her hostile style, I could feel my aggressive juices starting to flow, if not to boil.  I mean, in this situation what would you really like to say?  For me, the "b”-word comes to mind:  "You witch!"  (I was always better at rhyming than spelling.)  Somehow my higher power descended and I forcefully declared:  "That hurts.  I feel like I've been stabbed in the back."

This woman, who was pretty introvertish (an accountant remember), and not very assertive (or empathic), didn't connect her dart-throwing tendencies when feeling threatened with her difficulties with peers.  Ironically, she saw herself as more passive and put upon, if not a "victim."  She was in denial about her seemingly quiet yet intimidating presence.

While I confronted her with the real possibility that her cutting messages left people on edge, before completing the confrontation, I summoned some emotional intelligence; I managed somehow to give her a stroke:  "I don't think you realize how powerful you can be as a communicator."  This was a wise move.  By both confronting her "back stabbing" while providing some salve with this "positive" ego stroke, I allowed her to save some face.  I finally got her attention.  She was ready to hear my strong hunch that there was a real connection between her communication style and her colleagues' lack of cooperation.  And, in fact, she was a much more involved and constructive participant for the remainder of the session.

Closing message and moral:  Painful and aggressive feeling helped mobilize uncommon cognitive processing.  In forceful and dramatic fashion ("I feel like I've been stabbed in the back") you can admit the pain of an attack ("That hurts") without projecting so-called weakness, whether in the antagonist's mind or in your own.  You have not compromised your self; you have not diminished an ability to confront and potentially resolve conflict.  In fact, as you've just seen, "I" message acknowledgement that resists lashing out or ranting and raving lays the groundwork for a more specific and strategic response.  A conscious blend of pain, passion and purposeful aggression often affirms one’s integrity, just may disarm an aggressor's style and tactics, and tends to focus goal-directed energy.

 And finally, having a legitimate target or objective – trying to right a wrong, overcoming a barrier or asserting your place at the table, getting back in the saddle after being knocked down, or pursuing a meaningful objective – usually strengthens personal drive and discipline.

 2.  Heightens Drive and Discipline.  How can vital aggression sharpen focus and shape performance in an interpersonal context?  When facing a goal that you believe is obtainable and also having time constraints sharpening your focus, you tend to work harder as the deadline and finish line near.  Positive aggression enhances this process in two ways:

a) Injecting High Octane Fuel.  Vital aggression is like going to a higher-grade energy source that really fires your mind-body motor.  And with greater energy and intensity, purpose and determination you really drive to your objective.  For example, when interviewed before a contest, professional athletes invariably avow a need to be aggressive and focused to perform at their best.

 b) Limit Setting.  By sharpening your focus and sense of purpose as well as your priority list, healthy aggression enhances the ability to say, “No.”  You establish clearer boundaries regarding essential or extraneous tasks, social diversions and time commitments.  (And believe me this is a stress reliever.  Remember, “A firm ‘No’ a day keeps the ulcers away, and the hostilities too!”)

 Vital aggression is a key component of productive discipline.  It provides self-clarification regarding:

1) what you won’t or can’t do (at least at the time of the request or demand).  Focused aggression may help you tune out ambient static and allow you to discover or design a small problem-solving window for entering or exiting some amorphous mass or mess.  And once a bit clearer about what’s not acceptable or possible, it’s easier to embrace the words of the ancient Roman poet, Horace:  “To begin is the be half done.  Dare to know – start!”  Perhaps one can even contemplate focused flights of freedom and fantasy.  (Though sometimes the reverse applies, that is, passion transforms a too rigid or predictable order into the uproarious.  For example, I recall the observation that a philosopher brings order to chaos while a comedian brings chaos to order.)

2) what you will or can do.  This heightened state of arousal and thinking helps you clearly and decisively communicate to others your constraints, choices and preferences.  Vital aggression helps you stand your ground in the face of overt or covert objection or seduction, thereby keeping you on task.  This enriched fuel state not only powers you to the time-conscious end zone, but it also helps you stay focused and to persevere during that arduous, frustratingly slow and meandering (with unexpected twists, turns and trials) means to an end.

 Consider these two drive and discipline mantras of healthy aggression:

v      Establishing a beachhead does not mean you have conquered the island.

v      Many battles are fought and lost before a major undertaking is won.

 3.  Fires Purposeful Passion.  It’s helpful to differentiate the information processing aspects of aggressive behavior along the dimensions of latency and focus, that is, distinguishing “reaction” and “response”:

a) Reaction is immediate and defensively subjective; a survival process based more on physiological and bodily arousal than being well thought out.  Reaction is more primitive than cognitive.  Reaction is focused on the environment or, for example, a threatening object (a hostile person, a flying cockroach, etc.) perceived through fairly hard-wired or quick-triggered, habituated or rigid filters (e.g., subconscious memories that has one judging any male authority based on unresolved anger towards an abandoning or harshly critical father figure).  You perceive danger (or humiliation, injury, etc.) and “fight” or “flee.”

 b) Response is more deliberate and consciously subjective, allowing more time for information processing.  While there may be some scanning of the environment, there is also an initial and significant checking in emotionally with your own psycho-physiological state:  What are you feeling; what do you expect?  You have some awareness of how a recent negative encounter with or past painful memories of that critical father/authority figure contributes to your emotional sensitivity and vulnerability in another conflict situation. 

 And this reaction vs. response distinction can be demonstrated just by comparing four words.  Imagine you are having a prolonged argument with a colleague.  Frustrated with his or her obtuseness (i.e., they just don’t see the evident correctness of your position) you blurt out:  “You’re wrong.”  In contrast, using the same scenario, (though not indulging in mental labels of “hardheaded” or “jerk”), you assert, “I disagree” or “I see it differently” (to call on two additional words.)  The first outburst, a blaming “You”-message” reaction, is dismissive, black vs. white, and globally judgmental, especially with the added words “always” or “never.”  The latter responses are respectful, take personal (“I”-message) responsibility and acknowledge the existence of another perspective while affirming your own position.

 The Purpose of Passion, the Passion of Purpose

 Now that we’ve distinguished “reaction” and “response” what happens if we blend or combine them?  A reactive response anyone?  How about a responsive reaction?  I believe this seemingly contradictory but actually paradoxical perspective brings us back to “passion,” and to the noted scholar and author, Kay Redfield Jamison.  A John Hopkins University psychologist, Jamison is especially known for her work in the field of manic-depression.  In her recent book, Exuberance:  The Passion for Life (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), observes that, “Passion rides roughshod over hesitating judgment; it dissolves inhibitions…provokes play and bring(s) to our attention the overlooked; (passions) compel commitment of time and heart.  (However, when high spirit and unrelenting optimism) lacks a fuller emotional or intellectual context, it can become intrinsically shallow…lacking the gravitas of the tragic or heroic…not struggling with profound issues of humanity, not contending with the shadows cast by death.  Exuberance is not an inward-looking state; it looks upward and forward, rarely to the past.  Disquieting emotions are overpowered by excitement of the idea; the past cedes territory to the present and future.”

 Not surprisingly, Jamison believes, “It is the amalgam of fever and reason that genius lies.  Passion kept on a loose bit serves its master far better than if it is left unbridled.  Brakes are necessary; the exuberant mind must preserve the capacity to take a dispassionate measure of itself and the object of its zeal.”   A passion reined in with a balanced touch of light and shadow, or with an aggressively pragmatic goal focus, or with a sure grasp of hard-earned wisdom is less likely to fall over Jamison’s metaphoric fine line – from the champagne of exuberance to the cocaine of mania.

 4.  Stimulates Adrenaline and Animation, Depression and Discovery.  Yet sometimes, life situations compel the need for energy, intensity and denial.  Jamison illustrates the link between vital aggression, exuberance and boldness.  She quotes a young Civil War officer who responded to his sister’s questions regarding how it felt “when in the hottest of battle.”  The officer wrote, “once he (i.e., a soldier) begins firing he becomes animated and emboldened, he forgets danger.”  (So too for me as a speaker.  There can be 500 in the audience, but once I start firing words, and sense I’m not shooting blank stares, I’m unconsciously absorbed, flowing and flying ahead, exhilarated, only alighting to launch the audience in a stimulating, high energy and fun-filled interactive exercise.)

 Of course, there is a non-battlefield condition that often mimics the soldier’s words – the manic phase of manic-depression.  Here to, “The life blood hurries like a race horse through (the) veins, and every nerve is fully exalted…(The) brain is alive; thought is quick and active, and is ten times more full of life than before.”

 Invariably, such an intensely exhilarating pace can’t last; in fact, mania invites it’s opposite.  And the paradox is that sometimes you must crash to survive and thrive.  That is, denial may keep you fighting or soaring beyond the possible; you may become enthralled with an expansive or visionary “big picture.”  But at some point the laws of gravity and physics (as well as psychic limits) take over.  Eventually, falling to earth (on the condition it doesn’t kill you) keeps you humble and connected to humanity.  (Do you recall the old saw:  what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger)?  Yet, at minimum you may need to lick psychic wounds.

 For Jamison, “melancholy, forces a slower pace, makes denial a less plausible enterprise, and constructs a ceiling of reality over skyborne ideas.  It thrusts death into the mental theatre and sees to it that the salient past will be preserved.”   Healthy failure helps you experience angry emotions that when productively harnessed enable you to cut the chord with the outmoded or self-defeating; letting go evokes new perspectives while redirecting efforts and energy towards the ambitious and achievable.  To quote the Nobel Prize winning Algerian-French author, Albert Camus:  Once we have accepted the fact of loss we understand that the loved one obstructed a whole corner of the possible pure now as a sky washed by rain.

 A Poignantly Passionate Mix of Mania and Melancholia

 The concept of “melancholia” has connection to another emotional process linking aggression with depression or moodiness.  And this gradual emotional rejuvenation dynamic (in contrast to the soldier’s excitation-to-battlefield-exhaustion or a bipolar cycle) is the grief state.  In this state, sadness and depression along with anger and rage may make poignant yet conflicted or volatile bedfellows.  Grieving or depressed individuals often try to bottle up (or don’t have the energy for) angry feelings.  Or the energy and effort required for holding down raw or smoldering aggression may well contribute to mind-body “brain strain” and drain – apathy, helplessness, pessimism and hopelessness.  (I recall a former therapist describing it as attempting to hold down the lid of a furiously boiling cauldron whose contents are ready, in lava-like fashion, to explode and overflow.)

 Yet, acting out one’s anger may not be or reveal the answer.  In fact, when it comes to moodiness or despair, all is not dark.  Actually, Jamison, in an earlier work, Touched with Fire:  Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, finds that this interplay of fever tempered by reason, mania modulated by melancholy yields an uncommon poignancy and passion to the artistic endeavors of certain writers, poets and painters.   She quotes the “touched with fire” writer, Herman Melville:

 In these flashing revelations of grief’s wonderful fire we see all things as they are; and though, when the electric element is gone, the shadows once more descend, and the false outline of objects again return; yet not with their former power to deceive.

 As Jamison echoes:  “Fluctuating moods evoke a sensitivity to the ambiguities, shadings and inconsistencies of human nature and life itself...to a first hand knowledge of man’s multiplicity of selves.”

 Or as I once penned:

 Climbing icy spires, dancing on the ledge
The Phoenix only rises on the jagged edge.
In a world of highs and lows
Hey the cosmos ebbs and flows.

 (From Double-edged Depression, 1994; email stressdoc@aol.com for the entire lyric.)

 5.  Fires Consciousness, Commitment and Constructive-Comedic Discontent.  Returning to our Civil War soldier, however, aggression and passion don’t only coalesce when in a state of exhilaration and denial.  Passion as suffering broadens and deepens one’s consciousness and can steel one’s commitment.  Speaking of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln comes to mind.  He was frequently drained emotionally by the death and suffering of a war torn presidency (not to mention the concomitant death of his young son and the subsequent emotional breakdown of his wife).  Yet once convinced of the rightness and timing for declaring the “Emancipation Proclamation,” Lincoln was determined not to compromise on the eradication of slavery to foreshorten the War Between the States.  And he remained steadfast despite considerable pressure to the contrary from even those in his party.

 Lincoln also employed an age-old technique for helping manage his own longstanding (possibly biochemical) melancholia and a moodiness borne of extraordinary tension and frustration:  he lightened his load (and likely kept his sanity) through humorous storytelling and shared laughter.  Of course, there’s also this connection between humor and aggression:  the former has been a favorite technique for skewering the self-righteous and the high and mighty.  I recall recently reading a Smithsonian Magazine that highlighted the madcap comedy of the Marx Brothers.  One reason for the success of this zany bunch, in addition to their comedic genius, is that they represented the newly arrived and uncouth immigrant class still able to undress, figuratively and literally, the members of the too proper and pompous upper crust.  And while quotas and exclusionary policies were all too real in the first half of the 20th century, on film at least, these Marxists invaded and crashed the cruise ship soiree or country club set.

Not always over the top, sometimes humor can be a subtly aggressive tool for disarming arrogance.  Here’s a personal-professional example called “Finding the Pass in the Impasse”:

I was leading a conflict management workshop for beleaguered nurse supervisors and their administrator when the administrator suddenly declared, "What happens if you're just tired of accommodating these (mostly made) doctors, being the one who always has to bend. Then what?"

 As "the expert," I definitely felt on the hot seat. Fortunately, only time froze, my brain was cooking. I finally replied, “Try telling the doctor you may not be your normal cheerful self today. And when he asks, ‘Why not,' say, 'I hurt my back.'  When he inquires, in a somewhat haughty manner, ‘Now how did that happen,’ in a most humble manner reply, 'I'm not so sure, but I think I've been bending over backwards for too many people lately.'"  The nurses roared their approval.

 Such conscious energy and disciplined or dramatic engagement is often fueled by an interpretation of events that yields “The Four Angry ‘I’s”:  a sense of “Injustice, Injury, Insult and Invasion.”  Clearly, this passion may not just set limits, but also break down barriers.  Jamison captures an uncommonly rich gumbo of exuberance and constructive discontent seasoned with a light touch and an enlightened sound.  She draws on he words of Laurence Bergreen, the biographer of Louis Armstrong:  “He had a distinctly American brand of optimism and striving (but) there was a power and even an edge of anger to the laughter.  It was a cosmic shout of defiance, a refusal to accept the status quo, and a determination to remake the world of his childhood and by extension, the world at large as he believed it to be.”

 6.  Cultivates a Destruction-Frustration and Exploration-Creation Cycle.  One doesn’t have to be literally on the front lines to be engaged in life and death risk-taking.  In its own way, drawing lines or as mentioned above, “dancing on the ledge” can be just as daring.  Risk and aggression are inherent aspects of courage and creativity.  As Pablo Picasso, one of the great artists of the 20th century, observed:  Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.  One must destroy familiar ways of perceiving and behaving to see, contemplate, and design anew.  Sometimes easier said than done.  With Picasso’s “act of destruction” one risks a sense of loss, whether a loss of vision, identity, direction and/or of control.  Still, life is double-edged.  As I once penned: 

 Whether the loss is a key person, a desired position or a powerful illusion each deserves the respect of a mourning.  The pit in the stomach, the clenched fists and quivering jaw, the anguished sobs prove catalytic in time.  In mystical fashion, like spring upon winter, the seeds of dissolution bear fruitful renewal.

 And as we’ve seen, there’s a second paradoxical pairing in addition to the cycle of destruction and creation or death and rebirth:  for “touched with fire” expression or for an expanded world view an unbroken fever is best joined with and moderated by some poignant and painful reflection, calculation and reason.

 And a pioneer of nature, human and otherwise, would add some frustration to this fluid and fluctuating mix.  To fuel ingenuity and an exploratory restlessness, consider a compound injection of vital aggression and dissatisfaction with excess comfort and complacency.  As one of the discoverers of the DNA Double Helix, James Watson, observed:  “Too much contentment necessarily leads to indolence…it is discontent with the present that leads clever minds to extend the frontiers of human imagination.”

 Healthy aggression not only fuels an independent and exploratory spirit, but an idiosyncratic one as well.  And as Jamison notes, a highly structured and secure learning environment may be especially counterproductive for children:  “Long lazy days of just ‘messing about’ are now filled with lessons, and games so structured as to teach little of what could be more interestingly and originally learned in wide-open roughhousing and aimless exploration.”

 In somewhat analogous fashion, during the early ‘90s I witnessed this progressive-regressive distinction while participating in a DC Artists Support Group.  Several of the BFA and MFA participants, schooled in commercially successful techniques, now, as mid-life/mid-career adults, believed they had misplaced their creative soul.  In contrast to a process of mentoring, a nearly three decades long, self-defined and self-designed word-artist “Path of Meandering”  (“I don’t know where I’m going…I just think I know how to get there!”) still has my “blood charged with streams of fire” (to quote composer Hugo Wolf).

 Not surprisingly, James Watson pushes even further the mental boundary:  “Survival might often depend on not if we think two and two is four, but on being slightly wild.  Because life is just much more complicated than when we try to organize it.  And so a brain which is slightly disconnected from reality might be a good thing.  I think when we do science we see that a little madness does help; and you propose bizarre things which everyone says can’t be true.  Conceivably what you need is sometimes to start up with a different set of facts.”

 Alas, people who are terribly uncomfortable with being different and/or with handling aggression – their own or others’ – who fear criticism and who NEED to be liked or to indiscriminately please, will not likely leave shore, let alone rock the boat or venture out in stormy waters.  Remember, Errors of judgment and design rarely consign one to a state of incompetence.  They more likely reveal immaturity or inexperience, perhaps even boldness.  Our so-called failures can be channeled as guiding streams (sometimes raging rivers) of opportunity and experience that over time widen and deepen the risk-taking passage.  If only we can immerse ourselves in these roiling and uncertain yet ultimately regenerative waters.


 Opening with the dynamics of a power struggle exercise, this article has identified six vital functions of healthy aggression:

1.  Transforms Pain Into Purpose 

2.  Heightens Drive and Discipline

3.  Fires Purposeful Passion

4.  Stimulates Adrenaline and Animation, Depression and Discovery

5.  Fires Consciousness, Commitment and Constructive-Comedic Discontent

6.  Cultivates a Destruction-Frustration and Exploration-Creation Cycle

These functions are progressively organized so that one discovers how aggressive energy and thought as well as motivating pain, drive and biochemistry are transformed into a paradoxical pairing of moods, enlightened passion, courage and creativity.

 As noted by oft-quoted psychologist, Kay Redfield Jamison, tapping into one’s capacity for channeling adrenaline and expressing aggression, “assures the attention and quickness essential to survival; a sense of vitality provides the denial necessary to continue fighting.”  Consider this closing passage from former Rough Rider and President, Teddy Roosevelt, on the centrality of courage, aggression and vital exuberance in personal action: 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have…known neither victory nor defeat.

 This essay reflects my intense interest for the subject at hand:  the vital connection among aggression and passion, risk-taking and inspiration.   Of course, I hope my professional and personal reflections have been both passionately eloquent and persuasive.  (You’ve heard the old saw:  “Vanity thy name is Gorkin!”)   In any event, here are words and ideas to help us all…Practice Safe Stress!


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§ Reducing conflict as a healing or motivational "psychohumorist" ™

There are satirical essays on "lean-and-MEAN" managers and on mismanaged downsizings.  Learn to "laugh in the face of layoffs" and ponder the possibility of "Van Gogh, Prozac, and Creativity."  The Stress Doc also shares his his own trials, errors, and triumphs in battling the "Toxic Trio."

Safe Stress provides many discrete "Top Ten" lists and "strategic tips" essays useful as educational/informational handouts.  To quote the Internet Newsroom:  Your Guide to the World of Electronic Factgathering:  "The most outstanding feature…is his 'psychohumor' essays.  Always witty, thought-provoking, and helpful."  With this easy-to-follow, fast-paced, and fun health and wellness guide, you'll return often to Practice Safe Stress.

b) The Four Faces of Anger:  Model and Method
Transforming Anger, Rage and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior

The "Four Faces of Anger" presents an elegantly simple yet intellectually powerful model that will challenge your beliefs about anger -- both regarding its range of emotion and its potential for positive communication.  The book is a dynamic blend of popular psychohumor articles, essays, case examples and short vignettes, as well as Stress Doc Q & As and even "Shrink Rap" ™ lyrics.  You will gain ideas and tools, skills and techniques for personal control, playful intervention and conflict mastery.  Learn to:

Ø Identify self-defeating styles of anger and violence-prone personalities
Ø Transform hostility and rage into assertion and passion
Ø Confront directly or disarm outrageously critics and (passive) aggressors
Ø Bust the guilt not burst a gut
Ø Prevent emails from becoming e-missiles

And finally, his years as a multimedia psychotherapist and as a Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service yield a survival and spiritual mantra at the heart of the "Four Faces of Anger":

Seek the higher power of Stress Doc humor…May the Farce Be With You!

Published:  2004; Pages:  116  [Book size:  9"x12"]

Paperback:  $20 + $4.95 priority shipping in US; $4.05 in Metro, DC area; $27 in Mexico and Canada; other international destinations to be determined

E-Book:  $15

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, is a psychotherapist and "Motivational Humorist" whose Interactive Keynotes and Kickoffs draw wide and "amazing" acclaim - from Fortune 100s and Federal Agencies to around the world with Celebrity Cruise Lines.   An OD/Team Building Consultant, Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and of The Four Faces of Anger: Transforming Anger, Rage, and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior.  Also, the Doc is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap ™ and Group Chat."  See his award winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com (cited as a workplace resource by National Public Radio (NPR).  Finally, Mark is an advisor to The Bright Side ™ -- www.the-bright-side.org -- a multi-award winning mental health resource.  Email for his monthly newsletter showcased on List-a-Day.com.  For more info on the Doc's speaking and training programs and products, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-946-0865.

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2006
Shrink Rap Productions