Thursday, December 24, 2015

Fevered Longing & Fiery Loss: Relearning to Let Go, Laugh & Love

The holiday season magnetically draws memories and images of family or former relations – past and present, joyful and painful – to consciousness.  Not being with my ex for the first time in ten years heightens the poignancy of the moment.  Perhaps a glutton for punishment, I’m presently working on a new book about my experience with “love, longing, and lust” (not necessarily in that order)…and what I understand of emotional death and rebirth.  The title of the new tome:

Fevered Longing & Fiery Loss:  Relearning to Let Go, Laugh & Love
Through Resiliency Poetry and Shrink Raps ™

Based on the title, the book will have three segments:
I.   Fevered Longing
II.  Fiery Loss
III. Relearning to Let Go, Laugh, & Love.

Also, each piece is sandwiched between an introduction of the poem’s origin or contextual background and “Discussion Questions.”

Here’s a Part 1. selection with substantial family context.  Enjoy.  Best holiday wishes and good adventures.  Mark

Kindred Eyes

This poignant lyric captures three types of connections with the significant women in my life:  my grandmother (secure-warm), mother (intimidating-masked), and the ever elusive “soul mate” (fantasy-fevered).  I can’t recall what made me decide to examine these human-emotional links through the metaphoric lens of the eyes.  Perhaps I was seeking that proverbial “window to the soul” – their souls and mine!

As an aside, my grandmother died when I was thirteen; I was at sleepaway camp and my mother decided not to tell me of my grandmother’s death until I got home.  (I wish she had taken me out of camp as I was quite depressed and ashamed from being frequently teased and taunted by several peers.  I was a wounded animal; fellow “Boy Scouts,” especially those who knew me from home, could smell blood.)  Naturally, I didn’t attend my grandmother’s funeral.  I don’t recall anyone helping me talk about my feelings of loss.  In public school assembly, I recall praying regularly to my grandmother, a loving, simple, “saintly woman."  A state hospital psychiatrist called her a "one woman psychiatric ward" for somehow managing to keep my schizophrenic uncle in one piece.  He had his first breakdown shortly after she died.  Grandma never complained about her host of medical problems, including an amputated leg.  Sometime after her death I just stopped talking to “Gram.”

It wasn’t till a couple of decades later that I understood how bereft, angry, and abandoned I felt with my protector no longer living in our household.  Grandma was able to set some limits on my anxious-controlling mother.  My mother had 150 + IQ; she was the dominant figure in the family, the parent with whom I was most symbiotically dependent.  In fairness, my mother was running a MASH Unit with all the injured and wounded, ill or literally lame souls squeezed into a small three-bedroom ward.  I perceived “nurse-mother” as essential to my survival; not pleasing or annoying her made me quite anxious.  I looked up to her intelligence but also neurotically conformed to a fearful and submissive “identification with the aggressor” behavior pattern.  And while I was conscious of feelings of embarrassment towards my “less adequate” father, with his alcohol and sex escapist patterns, it was my mother who could most readily induce feelings of shame.  (Alas, after his breakdown and ongoing shock therapy regimen, a family secret, commencing when I was one-and-a-half years old and lasting till I was nineteen, my father, other than one panic-driven “cry for help” exception, was not able to be a buffer for me in the home or with the outside bullying.  More later on my father and our down-up-down “roller coaster” relationship.)

But getting back to my grandmother, she had been my nonverbal haven (speaking almost exclusively Yiddish) in a family shrouded in secrets, repressed emotions, and denial.  With my biochemical and psychic potential for depressed and panic mood swings, with silent night terrors and later runaway dread around being taunted or bullied, ever submerged in all varieties of escapism and a rigid “good child” mask, much of my childhood and teen years, especially after grandma’s death, was a living hell.  I can’t help but wonder, especially with the influence of recent 12-Step Group attendance, if a scared child, periodically wandering aimlessly in Hades, has an inordinate need as an adult to pursue a fantasy "heaven" (and woman/object) on earth.

Kindred Eyes

Grandma's eyes age old crystal wisdom
Starry eyes to bathe in heaven's light
Teary eyes mirrored soulful freedom
Cold marble eyes...farewell sweet dreamy nights.

Grandma's eyes, grandma's eyes
Warmed your heart like a sunrise
Grandma's eyes, grandma's eyes
Rays of hope in a sea of lies!

Momma's eyes their brilliance masked the danger
Magnetic eyes compel an iron will
Towering eyes watched her huddled strangers
Such lonesome springs would never get their fill.

Momma's eyes, momma's eyes
Her gold stars were the prize
Momma's eyes, momma's eyes
Why were they so idolized?

Are there laser beams dancing with moon vision
Two fire balls blazing their own path
Buddha blues in the face of confusion
Kindred cat's eyes when, oh when, you coming back?

My cat's eyes, my cat's eyes
From afar romanticize
My cat's eyes, my cat's eyes
Are you real or in disguise?
Are you real or in disguise?

©  Mark Gorkin   1992
Shrink Rap ™ Productions


Discussion Questions

1.  Did you ever have a protector or significant other who provided a safe haven?  What about the person and your interaction made you and the relationship feel secure?

2.  As a child or teen, were you ever involved in a relationship with an intimidating significant other?  What about the relationship made it feel scary, demeaning, and unsafe?

3.  Was your safety, security, or sense of survival ever dependent on an intimidating figure?  If so, how does this impact the way you see this individual, how you view yourself?

4.  In what ways do secure and threatening early relations impact our need to seek out “real” or “disguised” relationships?

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a nationally acclaimed speaker, writer, and "Psychohumorist" ™, is a former psychotherapist and Stress & Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service.  The Doc is a Trauma Debriefing and Critical Incident Consultant for variety of organizations, including the national post-earthquake, Nepali Behavioral Health & Wellness Initiative. He has led numerous transformative -- silo-breaking and communications bridge-building -- Pre-Deployment Stress Resilience-Humor-Team Building Retreats for US Army Senior Officers and Sergeants.  He also provides international Stress Resilience and Burnout Recovery Phone-Skype Coaching.

The Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and The Four Faces of Anger:  Transforming Hostility and Rage into Assertion and Passion, and Resiliency Rap:  The Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc.  His award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" – was called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).  Email for more info.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Using Nonverbal Mirth and Madness to Bridge the Language-Culture Divide

Becoming a Marxist (i.e., the Groucho Variety):  Part I

Years ago, I perused an article in an airline magazine about those comic geniuses, the Marx Brothers.  This comedic clan, of course, was known for their zany antics and outlandish appearance – think Groucho in his oversized tux or Harpo’s trench coat, more warehouse than outer garment – as well as all manner of nonverbal gestures, exaggerated movements, and pratfalls.  Groucho’s predatory animal-like pacing and ogling as well as Harpo’s horn blowing and whistling come to mind.  In addition, of course, there was Groucho’s celebrated quips and skewering wit along with the absurdly psycho-logical, side splitting, dialogic routines between Groucho and Chico.  The humor substance and style of the Marx Brothers was an outrageous marriage of the visual and the verbal.  Anyway, enough of my reverie…

Specifically, I recall reading that a prime fan base for their 1930s and ‘40s movie popularity was the new immigrant and the working classes.  The article helped me see the obvious:  the brothers, especially Groucho, Harpo, and Chico, invariably generated laughs by outmaneuvering, frustrating, or skewering rich, establishment if not aristocratic types, men and women alike.  If their movies did not close some of the existing class-cultural status gaps, at least for a time in the mind of a filmgoer this “band of brothers” helped bring the high and mighty down to earth.  Of course, we now know, and not simply by movie ticket sales, that laughter and emotional catharsis are very good head and heart medicine!

A Method to Mirth and Madness

But the essay’s purpose is not simply a “laughter as best medicine” message; actually, my goal is to show that using humor and generating laughter, especially through playful, nonverbal and exaggerated communication can open heads and hearts.  (Okay, call me a Marxist).  And that this slightly larger than life, emotion-laden interchange helps build channels of meaning, connecting, and sharing, even in the face of decided language and cultural barriers.  As I once penned, People are less defensive and more open to a serious message gift-wrapped with humor!  And you don’t necessarily have to be lampooning those of different statuses and cultures.  Healing humor can come to life by poking good-natured fun at our own universal, all-too-human flaws and foibles.

All of which brings me to a very recent experience:  my leading a 40-minute Stress Resilience and Mental Health Focus Group co-sponsored by the national Be Well Initiative (BWI) and ASIAN Community Services of Cleveland, OH.  There were seven community members and three staff, including an interpreter.  The community members were relatively new Nepali and Bhutanese Nepali immigrants and refugees dealing with all manner of relocation, transition, and everyday stress, including the challenge of English fluency.  Some of the attendees are also grappling with fairly recent “ethnic cleansing”-type post-traumatic stress.  Parenthetically, based on numerous discussions with people from Nepal over the past six months, Nepali Culture, in general, does not encourage open discussion of issues or emotions related to stress and mental health.  Such behavior is often see as jeopardizing traditional values of family harmony and honor.  Actually, I believe a number of cultures have a similar refrain:  Don’t air your dirty laundry!  (I have previously shared my involvement with the post-earthquake evolution and mission of Be Well Initiative.)

Improvising Strategy

I had arrived a bit early and witnessed an English-speaking staff person itemize the health education and social-acculturation programs that the ASIAN Center would be sponsoring in the upcoming weeks and months.  The speaker’s words were duly translated as group members, sitting upright, listened respectfully, alas with little facial expression.  I quickly realized that this kind of formal, one-way information delivery process was just what I wanting to avoid, or at least minimize.

The ASIAN staff thought my segment was going to start with people taking the BWI health survey.  Fortunately, I didn’t bring any.  After expressing my relief, I said my goal is to have us, and especially the Nepali group members, talking with each other.  Conscious of the translation process, I began to speak in shortened sentences, yet sending messages very much from the heart.  (I recall when traveling in Europe many moons ago, when speaking far from polished French, I would talk louder in the hopes of being better understood.  Now I seemed to be loading brief messages with feeling in the hopes of better capturing and connecting.)
I asked if people knew the word “stress.”  Initially there was no connection but, as the translator elaborated, people recognized the concept as being part of their lives.  We still hadn’t reached the level of spontaneous sharing I was seeking.  It was time for my “Three ‘B’ Stress Barometer Exercise”:  How does your “Brain, Body, and Behavior” tell you when you are under STRESS!  (I was now beginning to employ some exaggerated verbal and nonverbal communication.)  I tried breaking the group in two smaller groups, but the idea of having a recorder in each group to capture their individual stress items was an impediment to group flow.

Breaking Out of the Translation Box

I don’t know if it was a touch of ADD, impatience, or just trusting my gut that some dramatic flair was needed but, with the translator in action, I suddenly jumped up and began to illustrate the “B”s:  a) pointing to my temple for “Brain,” b) sliding my hands along my “Body,” from head to toes, and finally c) miming being behind the wheel of a car, driving furiously, blasting my horn, with an intense, angry, stressed out expression on my face, for “Behavior.”  People laughed; they got it.

The translator and I agreed to forego immediate translation and just let the group respond to the question.  And participation increased steadily.  Once or twice the translator addressed a quiet participant, which usually facilitated some sharing.  My curiosity got the best of me as laughter periodically broke out from the increasingly animated group discussion.  Responses noted were common to my typical Stress Resilience programs – headaches, body aches, trouble sleeping, sadness, loneliness, etc.  I even pointed to my mostly bald pate and said, “See…stress!”  One more time producing smiles and giggles.  Once again there was confirmation of the laboratory research discovery that misery doesn’t just like company…it especially likes miserable company!  ;-)

After acknowledging the seriousness of stress on our physical and mental health, I’m not sure the exact sequence, but I mentioned the importance of having a “stress buddy.”  I then explained the concept of a military spouse pairing up with another stateside spouse to better manage personal and family stress when their husband (or wife) leaves for overseas combat.

Physically, Provocatively, and Passionately Engaging the Audience

Now a somewhat older woman mentioned having a friend with whom she converses to help with her stress, to talk out her problems.  I immediately jumped out of my chair and gave her a gentle yet big hug!  Another round of smiles and energy flowed throughout the room.  (One of the Program Coordinators, an Asian fellow, later admitted he was surprised by the amount of laughter from a group typically more reserved if not stoic.)

Finally, I singled out the lone middle-aged male in the room, asking why there weren’t other Nepali men present.  After attempting to rationalize that they might be busy with work or families, this individual explained that he was here because he loved to learn new things that would help him adapt to his new surroundings.  Naturally, I shook his hand, then I made a somewhat skeptical face and wondered if many men don’t like talking about stress or their feelings.  Upon declaring they want to appear “tough,” I then crossed my arms in front of my chest, put on a scowl…and the knowing laughter ensued.

With time running out, I concisely shared BWI’s goals of running more Focus Groups and having community members, like the present gentleman, (who also acknowledged that neighbors seek him out for talk and counsel) be trained as informal, peer-to-peer Be Well Facilitators in the community.  Not only does such an individual provide a caring ear and shoulder, countering some of that previously mentioned isolation and angst, but this facilitator can help direct others to the community center for more formal or professional assistance, resource information, etc.

I closed by asking if people found our group session useful and enjoyable.  The smiles and nodding head responses were resounding!  All I can say is, Amen and women to that!

Take Home Communication Lessons:  Mining and Miming the Marx Brothers

Not speaking Nepali and pretty frustrated by the slow-moving and stilted nature of the group translation process, I took matters into my own hands, body, voice, and nonverbal mannerisms.  At the same time, the folks in the room were a key part of the “show.”  Let me identify the structured and spontaneous, verbal and especially nonverbal, expressive forms of communication-engagement employed and their trust- and bridge-building impact.  I will also include a “group art therapy-type” exercise that, in the past, successfully facilitated open sharing around stress and conflict issues with international travel agents.   Many of these individuals, too, were not especially comfortable publicly talking about emotions, especially when speaking English.

So stay tuned for Part II:

Key Expressive Nonverbal-Visual Forms of Communication

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a nationally acclaimed speaker, writer, and "Psychohumorist" ™, is a former psychotherapist and Stress & Violence Prevention Consultant for the U.S. Postal Service.  The Doc is a Trauma Debriefing and Critical Incident Consultant for variety of organizations, including the national post-earthquake, Nepali Behavioral Health & Wellness Initiative. He has led numerous transformative -- silo-breaking and communications bridge-building -- Pre-Deployment Stress Resilience-Humor-Team Building Retreats for US Army Senior Officers and Sergeants.  He also provides international Stress Resilience and Burnout Recovery Phone-Skype Coaching.
The Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and The Four Faces of Anger:  Transforming Hostility and Rage into Assertion and Passion, and Resiliency Rap:  The Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc.  His award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" – was called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).  Email for more info.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Renewed Search for Peace

Once again my obsessive nature kicked in as I saw opportunities to upgrade my recent poem, “The Search for Peace.”  Two recent experiences motivated the rethinking and rewriting:

a) I’ve been attending various 12-Step meetings, e.g., Emotions Anonymous and Codependents Anonymous, to help continue my grief work; that “sadder yet wiser” path of hard-earned wisdom.  Specifically, I find sharing with others and getting feedback from individuals after the formal meeting, as well as a hug or two with my tears flowing, is helping me emotionally let go.  I am gradually moving on from the loss of a partner and, especially, the loss of her young granddaughter.  Btw, my ex is a woman I’ve known with varying degrees of intimacy since 1970; the last ten years have been most intimate, involving part-time live-in relating, and

b) Reading Love Sense, by Dr. Sue Johnson, a 2013 book that compiles recent neurobiological data through the lens of MRI brain scans along with various animal studies and psychosocial experiments.  Love Sense illuminates the phenomenon of “love” and its emotional envelope, dynamics and impact across the age spectrum. The critical diagnostic differences among “secure, anxious, and avoidant” parenting, relationship, and personality styles are highlighted.  So too the pivotal role of safety and security in childhood upbringing and various social-cultural contexts.  A “good enough” secure interpersonal connection promotes stress resilience and overall mind-body well-being, even longevity.  Chronic tension in relations undermines the same.

And with an intimate partner, in terms of therapeutic, trust-building consequences, the renowned researcher, therapist, and author extols the imperative of honestly recognizing, (re)appraising, and expressing our emotions, especially our hidden and vulnerable ones.  One challenge, alas, is that these sensitive “hot buttons” are often covered up by implosive, passive-aggressive, condescending, or explosive expression.  For example, instead of reacting with anger outbursts or flashes of rage, or with smoldering silence, it’s more healthy to harness this aggression by articulating an underlying fear (of, for example, rejection or abandonment) or of an isolated, empty feeling, whether these subterranean emotions are situation induced or part of our psychic core.  This will lessen the likelihood of volcanic eruption (or bottled-up depression) and throwing (or insinuating) fuel on the relationship conflict fire.  Now able to hear your pain, a partner becomes less defensive; he or she may respond with greater understanding, perhaps even genuine empathy.  Hopefully, this does not include a pseudo-sympathetic, “Oh I know what you mean” or “I feel your pain” pronouncement.

Incidental (Yet Not Insignificant) Insight

Finally, an indirect indication that I am making some progress in my grieving-writing process, feeling a bit more at peace:  the latest poetic iteration had a short burst of humor.  This realization parallels an insight by, Dr. Ernst Kris, a long-standing psychoanalyst and student of humor.  Kris observed, What was once feared and is now mastered, is laughed at.  And my inversion:  What was once feared and is now laughed at, is no longer a master!

Still my long-term goal:  What was once feared and is now laughed with, likely becomes a mistress or lover!  ;-)

Enough with the background, book review, and postscript…I hope you enjoy the expanded poetic conception (see below).  Mark

In honor of the season, I decided to share a few little somethings that you might enjoy.  If so inclined, feel free to share or republish:

1) Classic Holiday Joke

Most people have heard of "Holiday Blues" and "Holiday Stress."  Being psychologically-minded, I needed to distinguish the two.  Now holiday blues is the feeling of loss or sadness that you have over the holidays when, for whatever reason, you can't be with those people who have been or are special or significant.  And holiday when you have to be with some of those people! 

2) The Search for Peace

Interestingly, the search began by grappling with, in mantra-like fashion, the elusive relation between "forgive" and "forget" in the context of letting go of the end of a relationship, the loss of a partner and, especially, her little granddaughter.

However, over time, recognizing my necessary and still ongoing entanglement in the grief web, a realization dawned:  I had succinctly captured a hoped for end state; alas, unrealized was the sadder and wiser, still smoldering, still seeking detached desire, that is, the maddening yet liberating path of wisdom:

For the Phoenix to rise from the ashes
One must know the pain
To transform the fire to burning desire!

The Search for Peace
(Or the Rise of a Philosophical Phoenix)


Oh to be able
“To forgive and forget”…
All I can say is:
Not yet, oh not yet!

I may not forget; even less to forgive
So what shall I do?
Pray, hope, and believe
In the crawl from the cave…
To one's last dying grave:
Was a mission achieved?
Or a soul addressed?
How can a question be reborn as a quest?
Without all the guilt for leaving the nest?

Trials of tears, trails of sweat
Many off roads before I rest.
No end of tunnel light
Nor road-map for success.
It’s your dark night journey of the soul…
Without a GPS!

The only direction’s a love connection
With lost souls relearning right from left
And our sole task
But to humbly ask
For a hug…
A hug to heal a heart bereft.

Now empowered to grieve
To let go and conceive
The ultimate test...
My only reprieve, a refrain to believe:

I may not forget; even less to forgive
So what shall I do?

(c)  Mark Gorkin   2015
Shrink Rap ™ Productions

3) Finally, my Classic Holiday Essay (which contains some "Shrink Rap" lyrics) pasted below in its entirety --
Practice Safe Stress for the Holidays:
The 4 "F"s of Holiday Friction

Closing Thoughts

As noted in a recent blog, last month's EAPA program was a big hit. (See testimonials below.)  If I can help you and your folks start the New Year off with a jolt of my serious and sassy, "Psychohumorist" energy and team synergy, please e-holler.

Employee Assistance Professionals Assn/Chesapeake-MetroDC, "Leading with Passion Power:  Inspiring with Courage, Clarity, and Creativity," half-day program

Nov 9, 2015


Heard some great feedback. Comment that resonated was that it was like a retreat for practitioners and the timing couldn't have been better! Sorry that I had a conflict but wanted to stop by and say hello, after such a long time!!!  Jim

Jim O'Hair
Coordinator, Employee and Family Assistance Program at Northrop Grumman Corp.

Nov 6, 2015

Hi Mark,

Thank you so much for the great training yesterday! I really enjoyed it and feel that everyone really liked having the interaction amongst our groups. It really helped us all learn more about each other which was nice.

I will surely keep you in mind for some upcoming events I am doing in the new year.

Have a great weekend!


Kate Black
Senior Marketing Coordinator
Maryland. Washington DC. Northern Virginia. Delaware
Cell 561.758.6272

Best wishes and good adventures,


Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW
The Stress Doc ™

Stress, Change & Leader Resilience Speaking, Coaching
Crisis & Critical Incident Intervention-Consultation
Burnout-Bullying/Conflict-Grief Counseling

Google blog:


Practice Safe Stress for the Holidays:
The 4 "F"s of Holiday Friction

While many associate the holidays with Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and its theme of gaining and sharing the holiday spirit, the opening lines from A Tale of Two Cities may have even more relevance:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of time
It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness...
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

Like Dickens, I too have tried to capture the complexity of the holidays; if not through a great novel, then with my one classic holiday joke.  I realized with all this talk of pressure during the holidays, I needed to distinguish between "Holiday Blues" and "Holiday Stress."  Now holiday blues is the feeling of loss or sadness that you have over the holidays when, for whatever reason, you can't be with those people who have been or are special and significant.  And holiday when you have to be with some of those people!

Now here's some lighthearted, seasonal verse I wrote years ago for my radio feature, "Stress Brake."  It's called "Cruisin for a Bluesin":

The holidays may bring you down
And you just sing the blues.
To turn those soured tones around
Just play these "don'ts" and "dos."

When you're cruisin on the town
Don't charge away the blues.
If you card the credit crown
Your spouse may blow a fuse.

For fussy dad the streets you'll pound
To find the perfect muse.
He might as well be tied...and bound
He'll never change his views.

If you're alone, don't be house bound
Or cuddle up to booze.
Go ahead.  Drown a frown with tears
And folks who can amuse.

Why not try that choral sound
Spread some joyous news.
For when the voices do resound
Then notes you can abuse.

This year don't play the tragic clown
Be bold in how you choose.
You too can prance above the ground
Put on those dancing shoes.

So now we've come full circle round
More lines I must refuse.
Just know when love and friends abound
The blues have many hues.

(c) Shrink Rap Productions  1997

Despite this good advice, we know that when you are with some of those people (or if they are just in your head), real sparks can fly.  Here are "The Four 'F's of Holiday Friction:  Fantasies, Family, Food and Finances."

1.  Fantasies. 
First, the idyllic image of the holidays portrayed by the media seems so out of touch with reality, it's enough to make you overload on eggnog (with or without the alcohol).

Another pressure is the internalized memories we carry around. I recall my friend Linda, a single parent at the time, berating herself because she couldn't keep up with the holidays - the cooking, the shopping, the house decorations, etc. - the way her mother had.  Of course, Linda's mom did not work outside the home.  I also recall Linda observing that, as a successful professional, she now has the money but lacks the time for the season.  Previously, when she wasn't working, she had plenty of time and no money:  The "Holiday Catch-22."

And, finally, this season turns most of us into sentimental jelly fish, just waiting to get entangled in the arms of that "true love."  Hey, I'm not saying that Mr. or Ms. Holiday Hopeful is as possible or as real as Santa Claus.  (My motto:  "I no longer count on nor discount any possibility.")  Just don't let childhood longings and memories and voices transform you into a frantic, salivating, love-crazed inner child.

The key to managing this friction:  gently embrace, don't cling, to magical memories.  Discover a blend of magical realism that helps you balance love, work and play in the present.

2.  Family.
  There are so many permutations in families these days, it's got to get a bit confusing.  For separated families, a poignant question:  which parent (or grandparents) will we be with for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, for New Years?  I vividly remember an eight year old's lament:  "Why can't we just be one family again?"

Another common family issue is when a holiday gathering turns into a competitive arena for sibling rivalry, along with a desire for long-standing recognition and approval.  And if you find in these family therapy sessions, I mean holiday reunions, that you can't resist trying to change the attitude and behavior of the parent (sibling or child) that "makes you crazy," patterns which have resisted influence attempts for decades...maybe there's only one solution.  Have you thought about getting far out of town for the holidays? 

3.  Food. 
The holidays turn most of us into bingeaholics.  Running helter skelter, not stopping for lunch, overdosing on the cookies and chocolate that a colleague has brought to work.  And discipline at a party is a contradiction in terms.  This caloric chaos is not surprising considering the biggest role model of the holidays looks like he hasn't met a single gram of fat in two hundred years that he doesn't love.  Hey, Santa Claus hasn't been doing his aerobic workouts either.  But wait...Appoint a designated nagger, who will gently remind you when you are overdoing it.  Don't chat hovering around the buffet table.  Take reasonable portions and move away.  Now replace food with some food for thought. 

And face it, no matter what you do, or don't do, you are likely to add some pounds on the holidays.  So go to the malls and walk briskly for thirty minutes before you start the shopping splurge.  You'll spend less and, probably, will eat less as well.

4.  Finances. 
The holidays heighten our monetary consciousness -- from the end of the year financial and psychological accounting (did we meet our financial/family security and career goals?) to the never-ending list of holiday gifts.  And as the great Russian novelist, Doestoyevsky, noted:  "Consciousness is depression!" 

For the first issue, seek a budget counselor, a CPA, a career counselor or even a mental health specialist.  For the last, "just say no" to your child's "toy lust."  Give your child choices; explain why there are limits. Try this holiday mantra:  "Presence not just presents."  This season, invest time, not just money. 

For big families, be creative.  Divide up the gift list with other relatives.  You shouldn't have to buy something for everyone.  Making a gift definitely adds a personal touch.  And, finally, don't overlook a very important person.  Get a special gift for yourself.

So the holidays may be a stressful time; a time of feelings of loss and sadness.  But with a little higher power humor it also, can be a source of creative expression and sharing.  Here's my gift to you:

Double-Edged Depression

Waves of sadness
Raging river of fear
Whirlpooling madness
Till I disappear
Into the depths of primal pain
Then pain, no gain.

Depression, depression
Is it chemistry or confession?
Depression, depression
Dark side of perfection!

Climbing icy spires
Dancing at the ledge
The phoenix only rises
On the jagged edge
In a world of highs and lows
Hey, the cosmos ebbs and flows.

Depression, depression
It's electrifried obsession
High flying depression
Exalted regression?

So I'm pumping iron
And Prozac, too
What else can
A real man do
In a life of muted dreams
How about a primal SCREAM?

Depression, depression
Even inner child rejection
Depression, depression
Hallelujah for creative expression!

(c)  Mark Gorkin   1994

Shrink Rap Productions

Just remember, for the holidays and beyond...Practice Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an keynote and kickoff speaker, "Motivational Humorist," a team building and organizational development consultant, and is America Online's "Online Psychohumorist" ™.  The author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger, the Doc's inspiring programs are always high energy, thought-provoking, interactive and FUN!  He is the opening speaker for the national conferences of Estrin Legal Education.  See his award winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- -- cited as a workplace resource by National Public Radio (NPR).  And to view web video highlights of a Stress Doc Keynote, go to .

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bullying Prevention and Early Intervention for the Columbia/Howard County School System: A Proposal

Two socio-demographic characteristics of Columbia/Howard County, MD, are its quality of education and diversity of cultures, including racial and ethnic groups.  However, sometimes even positive intentions and progressive dynamics can fuel psychological and social pressures and tensions within and among individuals and groups of students.  And such differences and dynamics can contribute to bullying behavior.  And of course, these days bullying behavior is not confined to the classroom, hallway, cafeteria, schoolyard, or on the trek or travel home.  In a digital age it can occur virtually anywhere and at any time, day or night!

I.  Proposal Overview:  Problem Description and Assessment

A.  Bullying Defined

According to

In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Education released the first federal uniform definition of bullying for research and surveillance.  The core elements of the definition include: unwanted aggressive behavior; observed or perceived power imbalance; and repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition.  There are many different modes and types of bullying.  The current definition acknowledges two modes and four types by which youth can be bullied or can bully others.  The two modes of bullying include direct (e.g., bullying that occurs in the presence of a targeted youth) and indirect (e.g., bullying not directly communicated to a targeted youth such as spreading rumors). In addition to these two modes, the four types of bullying include broad categories of physical, verbal, relational (e.g., efforts to harm the reputation or relationships of the targeted youth), and damage to property.

Bullying can happen in any number of places, contexts, or locations.  Sometimes that place is online or with a cellphone.  Bullying that occurs using technology (including but not limited to phones, email, chat rooms, instant messaging, and online posts) is considered electronic bullying and is viewed as a context or location.  Electronic bullying or cyberbullying involves primarily verbal aggression (e.g., threatening or harassing electronic communications) and relational aggression (e.g., spreading rumors electronically).  Electronic bullying or cyberbullying can also involve property damage resulting from electronic attacks that lead to the modification, dissemination, damage, or destruction of a youth's privately stored electronic information.

Some bullying actions can fall into criminal categories, such as harassment, hazing, or assault.

B.  Who’s at Risk:  Potential Local Sources of Pressure and Tension

No single factor puts a child at risk of being bullied or bullying others. Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns. Depending on the environment, some groups—such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) youth, youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth—may be at an increased risk of being bullied ( 

1)  Howard County.  In Columbia/Howard County, sources of student stress and tension might include socio-economic differences, differences in exposure to childhood trauma, including acts of violence, and early separation and loss issues, a competitive, high demand “college prep” culture, adaptability to a traditional classroom setting, students with special needs, racial and ethnic diversity, everyday family stress levels and communication patterns, immigrant status and relocation stress, etc.

2) Critical Difference.  Whether in an individual or a group, differences are often the characteristics “that are going to be made fun of and known as odd or weird because (they are) different (or alien).”  Variation in social rules, language, dress, and religious practices may contribute to bullies’ views of victims as strange or weak. These differences can lead to students being less accepted by their peers, having less friends from other cultures (or social groups), and feeling isolated or lonely.

3) Mitigating/Instigating Factors.  A child’s ability to consider another’s views or feelings, how much competition or conflict a student experiences directly or believes exists between groups at school or in the community, and prejudicial beliefs (such as an unreasonable fear of foreigners) expressed by important people in a child’s environment all factor in to the likelihood of he or she bullying others (Scherr, T. G., & Larson, J. (2010). Bullying dynamics associated with race, ethnicity, and immigration status. In S. R. Jimerson, S. M. Swearer, & D. L. Espelage (Eds.).The Handbook of Bullying in Schools: An International Perspective. New York: Routledge).

4) Traumatic Experience.  Finally, a factor that may well exacerbate the likelihood of being bullied or being the aggressor is exposure to trauma:  Traumatic experiences and high levels of “toxic stress,” can change the course of a life.  If untreated, trauma can interfere with an individual’s emotional well-being, physical and cognitive health, and interpersonal relationships.  Ultimately, it can change the way individuals view the world and the systems of care around them.  Traumatic and adverse experiences, whether chronic or in isolation, gener­ally occur in the context of community.  They happen in people’s homes, at their jobs, and in their neighborhoods and schools.  Both individuals and communities can experience trauma, through neighborhood violence, per­vasive poverty, and shared experience of oppression, racial discrimination and injustice. (Bloom, S. (2006). “Neither liberty nor safety: The im­pact of fear on individuals, institutions, and societies, part IV,” Psychotherapy and Politics International, 4-23. Retrieved January 16, 2015)

C.  Victim or Bully:  Warning Signs
Whether bullied or the bully, both individuals are caught in a dysfunctional behavior pattern with consequences for maturational growth and adaptive educational-psycho-social development.

Signs a child is being bullied:
" Unexplainable injuries
" Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry
" Frequent headaches or stomachaches, feeling sick or faking illness
" Changes in eating habits, such as suddenly skipping meals or binge eating; kids also may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch
" Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
" Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school
" Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
" Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
" Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves or talking about suicide

Signs a child is bullying others:
" Get into physical or verbal fights
" Have friends who bully others
" Are increasingly aggressive
" Get sent to the principal's office or to detention frequently
" Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
" Blame others for their problems
" Don't accept responsibility for their actions
" Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
[From Erin Stewart, "Is Your Child a Bully or a Victim?," Erin Stewart, Desert News, Nov. 2 2015]

II.  Bullying Prevention and Early Intervention Plan:  Structure and Strategy
Focusing on the above psycho-social-cultural assessment, a team of local and national experts – educators, e.g., local teachers, former NYC Principal of an Intl High School, clinical social worker, motivational speaker/workshop leader and stress resilience/trauma consultant, and substance abuse specialist, etc. – have developed (and will continue to evolve) a comprehensive and multifaceted Stop the Bullying Program:  Prevention and Early Intervention for Columbia/Howard County School System.

A.  Target Audience
The prevention/early intervention structures and strategies proposed will be specifically designed for and shared with three main audiences:
1) students (from middle school to high school; might also be relevant for pre-middle schoolers)
2) teachers staff, and administrators
3) parents and close family members

All three stakeholder groups would also have meaningful input in shaping the substance and structure of a prevention/early intervention program before it is launched.  Focus groups led by team facilitators would solicit input and, hopefully, constituent buy-in.

B.  Learning and Sharing, Support and Healing Structures and Strategies:  A Program/Services Menu
Based on the above diagnostics and dynamics, an initial menu of structures and strategies is hereby proposed for positively increasing awareness and understanding of the bullying problem as well as strengthening the security, safety, and trust levels in classrooms, of the overall school environment, within and between families, etc.  The key is creating structures, providing tools and techniques, and creating climates for more open dialogue and emotional sharing among students, faculty and staff, and parents/family members.

Prevention/Early Intervention Programs

A three-part prevention/early intervention sequence is proposed:  1) Psycho-Educational Classes, 2) Supportive Workshops, and 3) Individual Counseling/Coaching or Clinical Referral

1.  Psycho-Educational Classes:  classes may be designed for each of the above three audiences; depending on social-cultural demographics, there may initially be classes held for different grouping of students before mixing groups of students, e.g., boys and girls groups, immigrant groups, etc.; when deemed appropriate, the three main groups (H.S. students, teachers/staff, family members) may be asked to participate in the same class; the below topic sections can comprise an overview class as well as a stand-alone offering

a) Identifying the Bully-Bullied Cycle:  risk factors, sources of stress, pressure and tension – from individual to communal, social to cultural warning signs
b) Anger Dynamics and the Bullying Process:  acclaimed Four Faces of Anger: Model and Method; learning to see anger as potentially constructive or destructive; becoming aware of sources of anger and “hot buttons”; practicing assertiveness skills; replacing blaming “You” messages with affirming “I”s; learning how to say “No,” learning how to walk away;
c) Stress Resilience and Conflict Resolution Skills and Strategies:  classroom and peer group tools for understanding the impact of trauma and “toxic stress”; defusing power struggles, disarming critical aggressors and conflict negotiation skills; overcoming rigid or dysfunctional perfectionism; the Stress Doc’s formula for Natural SPEED; affirming self-esteem and learning to reach out for appropriate support, inside and outside the school; actions to take as a witness to bullying; speaking up is courageous not snitching, etc.
d) Loss (of Control), Trauma, and the Grief Process:  understanding and overcoming sense of shame, feeling out of control and panic, addressing and dressing emotional wounds; compassionately challenging hopelessness and helplessness; letting go of toxic peer groups, recognizing codependent behavior, and building healthier friendship systems; replacing dysfunctional behavioral patterns with positive activities, hobbies, creative expression, etc.; when indicated, making “gentle handoff” to appropriate referral resources
e) Substance Abuse and Going MA&DD (Media Addiction and Digital Distraction):  linking substance abuse and compulsive gaming/gadget use with increased anxiety, aggressive behavior, apathy, and depression
f) Cyberbullying:  adapting above skills and strategies, tools and techniques for addressing critical or crisis electronic communication/social media situations; recognition that with greater distance and anonymity in communication empathy often decreases and aggression increases
2.  Bullying Prevention/Early Intervention Training for School Personnel
a.  Disarming the Bullying Cycle: for teachers, administrators, and staff; skills and strategies for effective intervention in bullying, anger management, or conflict intervention; creating a climate of trust, learning, consequences, and support for bullying targets, aggressors, and witnesses
3.  Peer Support Workshops:  Adult Facilitated and Peer Facilitated
a.  Supportive Workshop:  opportunity for students and others who have (or have not) attended the psycho-educational class, to more intimately discuss bullying experiences inside or outside of school, e.g., in family, neighborhood; peer group; community gang, etc.; separate groups for students; also for faculty/staff and parents as needed; early peer support workshops led by trained adult facilitator; adult facilitator may shift to observer role; or depending on the maturity of the students might function without adult in the room
b.  Peer Support Workshops and Train the (High School) Student Facilitator Trainings: 1) workshops initially facilitated by trained adult facilitator; (2) with successful training, peer facilitated student support groups; student facilitators will be formally supervised by appropriate school personnel
c.  High School Culture:  recognition that more subtle or disguised bullying often occurs in this setting

4.  Sustaining a Bullying Prevention/Early Intervention School Culture:  Additional Structures and Strategies
a. Sprigeo Online Reporting System (being introduced at Harper’s Choice Middle School)

“We recognize that creating a safe learning environment is a critical part of helping each child achieve academic success. This year we will introduce Sprigeo, a new online system that students can use to report bullying incidents and school safety incidents. Sprigeo will give your child another medium for communicating with our school administration when bullying or school safety incidents occur. All information sent through the Sprigeo system goes directly to selected central office staff who will then send the report to our administrators through a secure online connection.

How does the Sprigeo system work?

Students can access the reporting form directly through a link on our school web site or they may go to the website. After completing the reporting form and clicking the "submit" button, the report details are sent in a secure email to selected central office staff who will then send the report to our administrators through a secure online connection. Over 90% of students include their name when using the Sprigeo system. However, reports can be made anonymously.”

Adam Eldridge, Principal
Harper's Choice Middle School | 5450 Beaverkill Road Columbia, MD 21044 | 410-313-6929 |

b.  Stress Doc Experience.  Based on my experience as a Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service and as a Critical Incident, Stress Resilience, and Organizational Development Consultant for a variety of organizations, the following structures and strategies are proposed:
1) Face-to-Face Meeting with School Administrator: once bully incident (or likely bully incident) is identified, there’s a meeting with bully and bullied and when needed teachers and/or with their respective family members
2) Ongoing Monthly Matrix Group: for three main constituents to assess prevention/early intervention effectiveness; adult and peer facilitators will also participate
3) Friendly “Listener” and “Observer” on the Hall Beat:  having a teacher, school counselor/social worker walking the school halls during change of classes, walking in the cafeteria, etc., to identify and engage with potential parties to bullying or seemingly distressed/depressed individuals; this recommendation is based on my experience as a Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant walking the workfloors and warehouses for the 6,000 person, 24/7 Baltimore Processing & Distribution Plant; provided a supportive ear and shoulder for employees; source of personal stress identification/intervention and employee-employee, employee-supervisor, supervisor-manager, and within team conflict and harassment; quickly identified employees needing informal workplace, personal, and/or family stress coaching; also facilitated identifying individuals needing counseling, including walking individuals to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Office
4) Resiliency Rap/Poetry on the “Dance of Bullying” in Groups:  small groups consisting of teachers, facilitators, and students from pre-middle to high school reading and discussing the Stress Doc’s age-appropriate verse on bullying and family behavior-communication patterns with different student groups; for the past two years, author has had powerful experiences with children under thirteen and their parents reading/singing the resiliency lyrics at a US Patent and Trademark Office “Take Your Child to Work/Wellness Health Fair”; “Resiliency Rap” samples in Addendum below
5) Stress Resilience/Stop the Bullying Health Fair:  invite all three constituents to a Bullying Prevention Program kick off (with free pizza) as a way of getting all parties engaged and excited about the launch of the prevention/early intervention educational and support campaign

5.  Additional Prevention/Intervention Ideas and Strategies from a good friend, colleague, and team member:
Burt Rosenberg
Former NYC International High School Principal
National Coach for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Consultant with several national education reform programs

You have certainly proposed a very comprehensive approach, incorporating all the stake holders.  Well done.  Many of your strategies are ones we've used at my school and I know they can work.  We focused more broadly on diminishing violence and conflict resolution, but bullying is certainly an integral part of it.  I appreciate your extensive list of suggestions, knowing full well that schools are pressed by limited resources and limited time, but such a comprehensive list allows them to pick and choose.

In addition to all the strategies you suggest, we also incorporated some other strategies that you may or may not have included:

1)  The use of role playing, which is particularly effective as it is experiential and helps students model appropriate behavior.

2)  Inviting in a school (high school or college) or community theater company that performs dramatizations of potentially violent (or bullying) situations with an eye towards conflict resolution.  This could be followed by large or small group discussions to debrief.

3)  We conducted some sessions specifically directed to the "bystander" or the "friend" of the perpetrator, since most students are neither the bully nor the bullied, but almost always witness or personally know the perpetrators.  How should they act?  What can they do or say?  Why should they get involved?  

4)  One issue you will confront in trying to get such a program underway is structural i.e. where in the school day could this take place?   Here are some suggestions:
  • Most schools already have weekly professional development, whole faculty or department meeting time.
  • Most school have professional development days.
  • Many schools have professional learning communities where these issues could be discussed. 
  • Many schools have student advisory time where teachers meet with small groups of students.
  • On a given day, a school could shorten class periods to allow for a large or small group meetings.
  • Counselors could visit designated classes to facilitate a discussion or do training.
  • One school department could incorporate a unit on bullying into their curriculum.  It could easily be incorporated into language arts or health.
  • Involving extracurricular groups to get involved, e.g. starting a peer counseling group, the school newspaper to publicize bullying, a sports team (to serve as role models), the school theater group, etc. 
5)  Of course a critical piece of this is getting faculty buy-in.  You don't need every staff member to get on board initially.  A principal just needs to designate one interested faculty member who could lead the effort.

What you're doing is important.  Hope this all works out.  I'll send you my resume next.
Good luck

6.  General Strategies for Reducing Bullying
·         Bullying prevention programs. Contact the school and ask about anti-bullying procedures and diversity education. Do they have research to back up their programs’ effectiveness? Bully prevention programs and diversity education are most likely to be effective if they’re used regularly and are backed by research showing they have been tried and shown to be effective before.
·         Codes of conduct. Make sure that everyone is protected by asking the school to list detailed descriptions of the types of bullying (racial, ethnic, immigrant, etc.) that won’t be tolerated. Conduct codes often list just a few of the most common types of bullying, and students may not understand that other kinds of bullying are wrong, too.
·         Recorded stories. Keep track of bullying that targets race, ethnicity, or immigration, so you can begin to evaluate the extent of the problem at your school. Once you’ve gathered sufficient data, present it to the administration or school board to help facilitate change. Sharing actual examples can help show school leadership that there is a problem that needs attention.
·         Reach out. Make sure that students have an on-campus adult who shares their language—or at least has an understanding of their culture. A trusted adult can give kids the courage to report bullying incidents, especially if they believe the report will result in help being given.
·         Survey. Student surveys and focus groups can help spread the word about local conflicts and possible solutions to bullying. Additionally, putting a spotlight on these incidents will show students that their school is aware of this problem and is working to fix it.
Rally the troops. Encourage educators, parents and community leaders to work together and solve problems related to bullying. The more solutions that are suggested, the better chance the group has of finding an effective solution to bullying based on race, ethnicity and immigration. (Scherr, T. G., & Larson, J. (2010). Bullying dynamics associated with race, ethnicity, and immigration status. In S. R. Jimerson, S. M. Swearer, & D. L. Espelage (Eds.).The Handbook of Bullying in Schools: An International Perspective. New York: Routledge).

C.  Program Lead’s and Team Members’ Bios and Credentials

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a nationally acclaimed speaker, writer, and "Psychohumorist” ™, is a former psychotherapist and Stress & Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service.  The Doc is a Trauma Debriefing and Critical Incident Consultant for variety of organizations, including the national post-earthquake, Nepali Behavioral Health & Wellness Initiative. He has led numerous transformative -- silo-breaking and communications bridge-building -- Pre-Deployment Stress Resilience-Humor-Team Building Retreats for US Army Senior Officers and Sergeants.
From a Ft. Hood Brigade Commander:  Your (Command Offsite) session on managing change and stress was the perfect lead-in to the work we had to accomplish throughout the conference.  It set the conditions for the free, uninhibited work (regardless of rank). Here's the BLUF: Your session was the critical building block on which we built the rest of the conference.  The Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and The Four Faces of Anger:  Transforming Hostility and Rage into Assertion and Passion.   The Stress Doc blog appears in such platforms as and
His award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" – was called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).  As SHRM and IPMA-HR Program Chairs recently noted, Mark has a way of captivating an audience and makes them want to hear more...Take a passionate and creative ride with the Stress Doc!
The Stress Doc’s Bullying Prevention/Early Intervention Credentials are based on:
a. long-recognized expertise as a Stress & Change Resilience and Critical Incident – Grief & Trauma – Debriefing Consultant, Inspiring Speaker, Workshp/Retreat Leader, Group/Team Facilitator; Stress Doc Programs help audiences “Get FIT” by being FUN-Interactive-Thought-provoking; over twenty years as a private practice psychotherapist
b. decades experience as a Stress & Violence Consultant for the US Postal Service and a Stress Resilience-Humor-Tean Building Retreat Leader for various military units at Ft. Hood, TX; workshops at Ft. Meade, MD, etc.
c. ten years Adjunct Asst Professor at Tulane University School of Social Work teaching graduate level course on "Crisis Intervention and Brief Treatment"
d. Co-Founder of post-eathquake mental health-focused Be Well Initiative for the U.S. Nepali Diapora
e. led 2015 “Anger and Conflict Management Workshop” for faculty and staff of Wash, DC Carlos Rosario Intl Charter School
f. two years Stress Resilience and Anger Management Trainer with “Welfare Mothers” in a MD Career Support/Independence Skills Program
g. author of The Four Faces of Anger – Model & Method:  Transforming Anger, Rage, and Conflict andPractice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression
h. 20+ years experience as a “Psychohumorist” ™ pioneering the field of psychologically humorous rap music, Shrink Rap ™ Productions
i. ground-breaking children’s lyrics and “Resiliency Raps” on “Bullying,” “Family Dynamics/Family Communication,” (email to read the lyrics/raps; he is the self-described Dr. Seuss of Stress for Adults (and kids of all ages)
j. “The Stress Doc’s ™ Stress Resiliency and Brain Agility Formula for Natural SPEED – Sleep-Priorities/Passion-Empathy-Exercise-Diet and, most important,
k. own personal experience being bullied as a child and young teen for too many years.
Burt Rosenberg
Former NYC International High School Principal
National Coach for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Consultant with several national education reform programs

New York City Department of Education (1969-2004)
  • 36 years as a teacher (grades 6-12), counselor, assistant principal and principal
  • Thirty of those years at two innovative high schools on the campus of LaGuardia Community College (CUNY), Middle College High School serving at-risk students and International High School serving recently arrived immigrants.
  • Retired in 2004 as Principal of International High School

Middle College National Consortium (2004-present)
  • A nationally acclaimed school reform organization, which was one of the first organizations to receive Early College funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Middle College National Consortium has also received funding from the Pew Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the US Department of Education.
  • Since 2004, serving as a coach for numerous early and middle college high school programs throughout the country.
  • In addition, has worked with other education reform programs including the North Carolina New schools Project, the School Redesign Network at Stanford University and the Internationals Network for Public Schools (a consortium of schools serving English language learners). 

Eddie Waddington      
Steps to Recovery, Director of Client Care

Ed Waddington, CNDAI, Director of Client Care of Steps to Recovery, a Premium Addiction treatment Network, is a peer advocate for Addiction Prevention, Treatment, and long-term recovery.   A treatment outreach coordinator, Ed also provides intervention services, addiction education, and family education for Steps to Recovery clients. Currently, he is on course for his CIP credentialing; Ed has been working in the field of Substance Abuse treatment for the last 5 years.  Due to his own personal recovery he found a calling in the field to share hope to the seemingly hopeless.  Ed has been asked by local committees of Bucks County to speak to High Schools, and Grade Schools in the area about the effects of Substance Abuse and Peer support.  As a former member of ATOD (Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs) he provided substance abuse awareness programs to local grade schools in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.  Ed is also an active member of the recovery community and up and down the East Coast and speaks at large 12-step fellowship conventions.

In addition, Ed is a founding father of Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity at Temple University and since working in the field has been asked by LaSalle University and Temple University to speak to the Fraternal Community about prevention and guidance with chemical dependency.   In Ed’s free time he is still highly active in sports, playing on numerous softball teams but his heart lies with coaching the 10-11 year old Northampton Indians Pop Warner football team.   Ed is well versed in adjusting his approach to the specific audience, whether an actively using client, a teen struggling with acceptance, a parent struggling with a teen’s dependency, a parent in the grips of codependent behavior, or even with his kids on the football field.
Children’s Lyrics and Resiliency Raps – Bullying and Family Communication


[A variation on, yet in the tune of, the children’s song/camp favorite, “B-I-N-G-O”; can be sung as BULLY Girl]

{In this version, the four (or five lines) of each stanza are sung with the same melody as in the original; specifically, the last two lines of each stanza have the same melody as the first two lines.  The same rules apply to the B-U-L-L-Y chorus as in the B-I-N-G-O chorus.}

In my school there is a kid      
And Bully Boy’s his name, oh
Blaming me for what he did
And tries to make me cry, oh…

B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y…
And Bully Boy’s his name, sigh.

Chasing me right after school
Bullying’s his game, oh
Calling me a “little fool”
My oh my oh why, oh?

B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y…
And Bully Boy’s his name, sigh.

Why does he just pick on me?
The Boy should be ashamed, oh
Is he green with jealousy?
Or just a red bull guy, oh…

B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y…
And Bully Boy’s his name, sigh.

I must learn to take a stand
And nurture my heart’s flame, oh
Not give in to his demands
And look him in the eye, oh…

B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y…
And Bully Boy’s his name, sigh

I will find one trustworthy
To talk out all my pain, oh
Then stand tall as an oak tree
Or walk away, nothing to say
But with my head held high, oh…

B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y…
And Bully Boy’s his name, sigh

Now I see…a scared boy like me
Who hides his pain and shame, oh
If he wants to talk to me
I’ll share how I wrestled free
But he must want to try, oh…

B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y… B-U-L-L-Y…
I won’t play his bully game, oh
B-R-A-V-O… B-R-A-V-O… B-R-A-V-O…
I stood up for my own name, OH!

© Mark Gorkin  2014
Shrink Rap ™ Productions

Reaching Out and Within to Disarm the Bully

Mom is overload edgy
Dad is big boss upset
Sis is boyfriend angry
And you’re in a sweat!

The in-crowd at school
Shoves you to the side
While they pass by so cool
You wish you could hide…

Panic and terror
Like lightning and thunder
Where is a big rock
For me to crawl under?

But charging down the hall
Like a mad bull in heat
As you feel so small
Resigned to defeat…

The schoolyard bully
Laughing at your fear
Taking your lunch money
Leaving you in despair!

Panic and terror
Like thunder and lightning
Why do I find
So many things frightening?

And why, oh why
Isn’t a teacher around?
To hear your silent cry
Or the bull’s snorting sound!

When life seems hopeless
With nowhere to turn
There’s help for your stress
Sit back…listen and learn.

Panic and terror
Like lightning and thunder
Is it much sound and fury?
I’m starting to wonder.

Let Me Be Brief:
Key Pillars of Relief

First, be wary of “friends”
Who act like big shot stars
They use you for their ends
And ignore who you are.

But the biggest mistake
Is to bottle up fear
From this you will break, so…
Find a trustworthy ear.

She’s older and wiser
Shows you how to hold them
He’s artful in poker
So knows when to fold em.

Reframe panic and terror
As more trial and error
Embrace flaw and failure
Expand human nature!

Now speak calmly, move swiftly
The Poet-Ninja Way:
Eye the bully coolly
Like a fox, no delay.

Breathe out anxiety
Smartly walk away.
Reflect in a diary…and live
To fight (and write) another day!

Reframe panic and terror
As more error and trial
Grow from flaw and failure
You’ve walked the toughest mile!!

Actions, Reactions, and Trans-actions:
Logical, Psychological, and even Spiritual

To disarm this cruelty
Find a strong allied voice.
Talk with the Bull family
But, if left no other choice…

March with authority
To the principal’s office.
Rid your back of the monkey
You are through playing nice!

You are not a snitch
Nor squealer or tattler
Less disloyal witch
More real gutsy battler!

Rename terror and panic
Rethink flaw and failure
You’re just a bit “manic.”
Don’t let labels nail ya!

We all have fantasies:
“Go ahead…make my day!”
Alas, the “real” enemies
Are oft hidden away…

Inside one’s caged mind
To be gently torn apart
As you explore humankind
Through the beat of a heart!

To view panic and terror
As neither error nor trial
Receive flaw and failure
With a sly Buddha smile!

Natural SPEED for Kids (of all ages): 
Stress Resiliency Rap (and other outrages)

When the crisis is past
And you no longer bleed
For strength that will last
Try the Doc’s Natural SPEED!

© Mark Gorkin  2014
Shrink Rap ™ Productions

The Stress Doc explores a range of family life dynamics in this powerful lyrical piece based on a familiar Civil War tune.  This offering has relevance not only for families, and also for the military, educators, social workers, counselors, and a wide array of family-allied health professionals.  And while sliding from the joyful to the poignantly painful, the lyric closes on an uplifting note of grace and hope!

Who’s Coming through the Door Again?
[To the tune of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”]

When mommy comes walking through the door, hurrah, hurrah
When mommy comes walking through the door, hurrah, hurrah
My mind will dance, my heart will sing
When I hear the doorbell ring
And we’ll all shout “Hurrah” when mommy comes home again!

When daddy comes walking through the door, hurrah, hurrah
When daddy comes walking through the door, hurrah, hurrah
He’ll lift me high, like a bird I’ll fly
“Never put me down,” I’ll cry
And we’ll all shout “Hurrah” when daddy comes home again!

When mommy can’t come home again, boo-hoo, boo-hoo
When mommy can’t come home again, boo-hoo, boo-hoo
Now my shouts turn to self-doubt
As I pout or just lash out
Oh we miss you mommy, please come home again!

When daddy can’t come home again, boo-hoo, boo-hoo
When daddy can’t come home again, boo-hoo, boo-hoo
My heart no longer has a song; my hero’s missing
Something’s so wrong
Oh we miss you daddy, please come home again!

When mommy and daddy fight again, uh oh, uh oh
When mommy and daddy fight again, uh oh, uh oh
When mommy yells and daddy hits
Now my tummy’s having fits
And we all feel bad when mommy and daddy fight!

When mommy and daddy drink again, oh no, oh no
When mommy and daddy drink again, oh no, oh no
“No place like home” more battle zone
And all I want to be is gone
And we’re all sad when mommy and daddy drink!

When mommy and daddy fight and drink, watch out, watch out
When mommy and daddy fight and drink, watch out, watch out
My head against the wall I’ll bang
Help…I don’t want to join a gang
And we’re all mad when family fight and drink!

When angry silence comes marching in, please no, please no
When angry silence comes marching in, please no, please no
A once happy home feels like a tomb
Covered by a shroud of gloom
I can’t even hide in my room
For overhead the sword of doom
We’re all numb when angry silence comes through the door.

Why can’t we be a family again, oh please, oh please?
Why can’t we be a family again, oh please, oh please?
We’ll laugh and sing and even fight
Not might – but help – will make it right
Talking together helps shine a light
And fear will finally sleep tonight
Holding each other warm and tight
And we’ll be a family, ‘Hoorah,” we’ll be a family again!

© Mark Gorkin  2015
Shrink Rap ™ Productions

Grief Ghosts:  A Viral or Vital Metamorphosis

And the Grief Ghosts will rise from the ashes
When one tries to bury the pain.
Feeding a fire that chokes dreams and desire
Oh when will your tears fall like rain?

Too late…look, soul-sucking phantoms
Spiral higher and higher, madly morph and conspire
As Trojan worms raiding while aerating your brain.

Wait…Perhaps there is still time to reach for the sublime:
Grieve, let go…and grow with the flow!

© Mark Gorkin  2012
Shrink Rap ™ Productions

As a Critical Incident Consultant, I’m poignantly aware how unexpected dramas and tragedies lurk behind every corner and crevice of our hearts and minds…and also lie in the shadows of our homes, schools, and places of work.  Out of the quiet, out of The Death of a Salesman closet, Arthur Miller screams:  Attention must be paid!  And sometimes we must risk trusting our gut, risk "overreacting" and being mislabeled, and say something to the right someone...or be the right someone!

Learning from the Fatal Flaw

Did she really take her life over a phone?
Taken from a colleague…now all’s undone!
One woman dead, one torn apart
Guilt spears a throbbing heart
Regret for filing that stolen report
Who is at fault?  Who is at fault?  Who is at fault?

Can one grasp obscure knowledge
On the all too human fatal edge?
To get on the same page, one must leave a stage
Masked by “got it together” pain and rage.
Even with the latest gauge, who knows faux-taupe from beige?
Who is a sage?  Who is a sage?  Who is a sage?

Yet a friend sensed her look, a fearful absent look.
Still her head stayed by the book...
Why didn’t she speak up?
Neither one trusted their gut
"Don’t be a pain in the butt!”
So we doubt?  So we doubt?  So we doubt?

Do we pass in the hall and nod
In a hazy-distant fog
And mouth, “How you doing?”…
But only reminiscing; more simply whistling
Who has time for real listening?
Do your thing?  Do your thing?  Do your thing?

Now so sad; maybe wiser: are we respecting one another?
Whatever happened to “sister” and “brother”?
Wide-eyed to foreign experience
Energized by expressive variance
Growing through world view contrariance.
Will you dance?  Will you dance?  Will you dance?

Is it too risky to share
Without some faith in the air?
Of course, you can’t flip a switch, still
Pull one from a ditch; let another bitch…
The sky’s not falling – more like a glitch.
For a culture to be rich, offer a broad-shouldered niche.
Hey, it’s "get real" or be a bust:
Now they might trust!  Now they might trust!  Now they might trust!

© Mark Gorkin  2014
Shrink Rap ™ Productions