Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Stress Doc Alternative to Just “Move On”: The Inner Journey of Letting Go

The Doc explores the sting in the words “Move On” – its toxic quality, it’s painful effect and, most important, the liberating emotional antidote!

The Stress Doc Alternative to Just “Move On”:  The Inner Journey of Letting Go

Why do I grimace (for sure on the inside, if not facially) upon hearing the words, “It’s time to move on,” “I’ve moved on,” and/or “You need to move on”?  It’s not just or even mostly a feeling of rejection.  This person can even be “so over me.”  The pain comes from not being truly seen or heard.  In fact, the individual is projecting herself onto me, verbalizing her own less comfortable place regarding honest self-disclosure.  Why am I “dragging things out?” is less a question of concern and more an aggressive move to cover angst.  It’s a tactic that says, “I do not want to be vulnerable; I do not want to experience the emotions that would emerge in an honest and intimate give-and-take.”  Or, You analyze too much:  One turns self-doubt into an accusation or negative label foisted on another.  Whether actions or reactions, mostly a defensive ploy, overtly or unconsciously intended to distract and diminish, enabling the other to gain time or throw up a wall, to seize the “high ground” or gain the upper hand.  It’s called, “When the best defense is being offensive!” … And again, the motivation:  first and foremost – self-protection.

Maybe there’s also fear that her hostile side might be exposed.  When one does not want “to dwell on” themselves (like someone they know; again, another pejorative, self-protective term), in contrast “to dwell in,” there’s no inclination to explore a fearful-fragile inner world beyond a safely comfortable, defensive ego-point.  (Or they may want to shut the psychic door and make the room “off-limits” for one and all, including themselves.)   There’s no willingness to empathize or engage with a different, a more candid and complex perspective.  I am asking her to stretch with me a little; to work to get past her fear and shame filters; for each of us to open our eyes and heart, just for a brief while.  For we both know there’s no turning back the cold and calloused hands of time.

As a slow (and a deep) reader of emotions, I need to experience the kaleidoscopic pattern of feelings.  Susceptible to the shift of high and low moods, to the interplay of mindsets light and dark germinating in the shadows, I dive into the psychic-grief wellspring again and again.  And finally, revelation, emerging with another layer of understanding; the wound further cleansed.  Perhaps having a depressive-sensitive-aggressive-creative temperament extends the process and expands the potential of mourning.  This leads to a realization that when it comes to two-word “Get Over It” mantras, I prefer dropping an “O” and adding an “I”.

The Psycho-Philosophical Shift

Why not “Move In” before any seemingly confident pronouncements about the need or readiness to “Move On?”  First of all, when it comes to intimate relationship separations and endings, it’s probably a lot wiser to move out than move in.  Having your own separate space, for me, at least, a room of one’s own, is vital for “R & R – Reflection & Writing.   Of late, I also seek a sacred space – a support group – which allows me both: a) to talk out loud, to hear myself think, to overcome inhibition, to experience feelings, and b) to see my conscious and unconscious reflection in the mirror of another’s share.  The individuals and group – in all our collective wisdom and folly – for me, becomes the higher power.

“Move In” is less a physical or external location than a process of turning inward, grappling with emotional memories, past and present pain, while facing an uncertain if not seemingly empty horizon.  It’s about finding trustworthy others who can see you – strengths and vulnerabilities – more deeply than you can see yourself.  “Move In” means “Confronting the Intimate FOE.”  (See more below.)  Such inner confrontation involves, for example, embracing a fear of abandonment, as well as discovering kindred spirits also seemingly lost on separate islands.  And, alas, finally acknowledging your powerlessness to have the other “Move In” to her space let alone yours.  When both parties of a separation want to travel together for a short while, to use their grief journey to grow emotionally, “Move In” has another possibility:  mutually working in the direction of honest sharing (without the blaming), reaching closure with less dirt in the wound.  But often times, this psychological nexus is not to be.

Still, take heart from the words of the French-Algerian Nobel Prize-winning 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.

Now you have not simply “Moved On.”  You have “Moved In” to the land of the promises, if not the “Promised Land”:  you can gradually reclaim your life and reshape your mind, heart, and soul.  All I can add: “Amen and women, to that!”

Why Can’t I Let You Go?

Why can’t I let you go?
Why is it so hard?
Because you were not a ghost
But the flesh and blood I wanted
To love…Not just because you would
Not just because I could
Not just the many times I should
Have said, “I do” …and moved away
Alas, (or more), to live to write another day!

Stormy:  Weather or Not

Ah, chemistry, an electro-hormone storm
Eyes awash in blinding light
Jolting (and jilting) the heart
Into a night of heat, a primal beat
Of longing and wishing (okay, maybe settling)
Upon a remote star
In shadowy darkness to lonesome mourn.
Be honest…Is that where or who we are?
Or were we but a burning comet?
Fire and ice:  too steep a price.
Would we still choose it?
Destined to lose it
No more need to use it
Together…no longer…still
Birds of a flock, just not of a feather…
Again, high flying solo in stormy weather!

Post-Mortem Learning

So, what have I learned
Being burned and spurned
My life overturned?

The very first thing…for me
Emotions are everything!
I run toward them…unlike many:
Who tried to avoid em?
Emotions are my electric current
Sure, at times I’m short
Sometimes short-circuit
Firing sparks from the heart, at least
I don’t throw dry-static darts
Shocking one senseless
Leaving one speechless.

If emotions wire-inspire my brain
Why did I choose one who would refuse?
To look inside, still trying to hide
In our “his moans, her moans, hormones” haze
From a lost, up at 3am daze
Searching for someone to fill all holes
Running red lights and tolls…
The predictable quandary:
Where is the boundary?

Epilogue:  Reality or Fantasy?

Oh, for a heart that sings and a mind that dances
One willing to swim in deep emotional seas
To go the long distance…just you and me
Confronting the Intimate FOE:  Fear of Exposure
Exploring that treasure:  two hearts beating together
Without losing their individual souls
Clutching each other on breakers and shoals.
Better, provide freely a shoulder
So each becomes bolder
Now growing wiser…not just getting older!

©  Mark Gorkin  2016
Shrink Rap ™ Productions

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a nationally acclaimed speaker, writer, and "Psychohumorist" ™, is a Leadership Consultant for the international Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University, HQd in Daytona, FL.  Mark is also a founding partner and Stress Resilience and Trauma Debriefing Consultant for the Nepali Diaspora Behavioral Health & Wellness Initiative.  A former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service, he has led numerous Pre-Deployment Stress Resilience-Humor-Team Building Retreats for the US Army.  The Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress, The Four Faces of Anger, and Preserving Human Touch in a High Tech World.  Mark’s award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" – was called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).  For more info, email:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The “Cultural Sensitivity” vs. “Political Correctness” Drama: Dissension vs. Compassion – Part I

The Stress Doc ™ examines a recent controversial – “cultural sensitivity” vs. “political correctness” – Linked-In posting that generated some impassioned and inflamed to thoughtful and empathic commentary.  (IMHO, the recent election shines a spotlight on the contemporary and critical relevance of this culturally exchange.)  Part I lays out the narrative and sites high-pitched and pointed reaction as well as reasoned response.  Part II will provide psychological-communicational-motivational analysis along with adding to or expanding upon some of the constructive strategic suggestions.

The “Cultural Sensitivity” vs. “Political Correctness” Drama:  Dissension vs. Compassion – Part I

Ten days ago, my corner of the Linked-In Universe exploded in tens of thousands of “likes,” comments, and rants.  The initiator (or instigator, depending on your viewpoint) was a young man (a “32 under 32” awardee) who I, fittingly enough, will call K (for all you Franz Kafka fans).  According to his Linked-In profile, K is a recognized entrepreneur and social activist/leader working with culturally diverse youth and minority communities.  So, what did this upstanding young man do to cause such an uproar?  As is customary for this younger generation (though the practice seems to be crossing, if not infecting, multi-generations), K posted words and images depicting his version of a “troubling” two-party social interaction (  I suspect you are already anticipating the punchline:  an event that, in years past, would have played out mostly in obscurity now gains social media notoriety!

Social-Cultural Rorschach Test

As God (or the devil) is in the details, let me sketch our drama.  K’s first and last names seem to reflect a Muslim lineage (or identification), though his pictures on Linked-In simply depict a good-looking, tall, athletic, light-brown hued, individual, whether in T-shirt or business attire.  Returning to the name, his last is comprised of ten letters and six vowels, including every vowel but “i”.  Suffice to say, it is not a familiar, dominant culture last (or first) name that for many rolls off the tongue.  Let’s jump into the narrative, using K’s own words:

I checked into my hotel at the Hyatt Regency and the front desk person went on to make fun of my last name. She laughed as she said it had every letter in the alphabet in it. I didn't laugh. In fact, I thought she lacked some cultural sensitivity. I tweeted at the hotel about my experience. Instead of brushing it off, they went above and beyond during my stay to make it memorable and worthwhile. They acknowledged the comments on twitter, had the hotel manager call my room, and they wrote an apology [which he posts]. We can all learn from this service recovery.

The Existential Question

So, is this an issue of “cultural sensitivity” or “political correctness” run wild?  Was successfully pushing this up to a higher level worth the potential injury?  And why was social media brought into this picture?  Clearly, aspects of our “case study” triggered folks.  Ironically, yet not surprisingly, many who accuse our protagonist, K, of overreaction in his discomfort with and criticism of the desk clerk’s communication, appear to be engaging in similar quick-fire judgments.  Or are missing other apparent ironies, to wit:

One woman began lecturing K not to make decisions just because his feeling got hurt.  Decisions should be based on facts or evidence, not emotional assumptions.  I agreed with L, but went on to post:  Wouldn’t it be nice if the most powerful man in the country/our most powerful role model took your words to heart!  A momentarily self-absorbed Millennial is not the only one engaging in such “immature” or “mixed bag” behavior with potential negative consequences.


A lack of "cultural sensitivity"?? Don't take yourself so seriously and learn to laugh at yourself a little.

Develop some thick-skin…another whiny Millennial.

Lighten up, life is short, if this upsets you enough to put someone's job in jeopardy how do you deal in day to day business?

Don't be so sensitive. We all go through this type of name problem. Just help them to understand that it’s not appropriate and move on.

I feel you over reacted!! To me it feel like a innocuous non-offending remark! Of course, in this days they had no choice but to apology and so on.  I don’t think they were sincere and really thought you are right to be so offended. As Yair put it – Grow up!


That's a great response from the hotel. As for people being too politically correct, it's not nice to make fun of people's names. Period. There's nothing wrong with politeness and being nice to strangers. It keeps us civilized.

This has nothing to do with political correctness; it has to do with plain, old fashioned respect and courtesy.

Ugh, this happens to me so often (full name Oluwatope Fashola Mitchell)! As a woman, I am taught to diffuse awkward moments with laughter and exit stage left rather than confronting them. I will be stronger and help people gain some cultural intelligence! Thanks for posting!

I think the follow up you received was awesome! I think service is what distinguishes great companies and is something rarer than it should be. Thank you for sharing this case study in how one company, and one manager chose to both be aware of their customer opinions, and took action to correct a slight. :-)

Strategic Yay and Nay or Just Go Away!

She obviously does not know her alphabet. There are other ways of starting a politically correct conversation with someone you don't know. When in doubt, less is more. Be gracious.

I would not risk someone's job by making a complaint like this one. I believe a better approach is to confront the person when they make the comment to give them a chance to learn from the experience without possibly losing their job. The person was probably just trying to lighten the mood and make small talk.

It was an odd way to create conversation w/ K. Front desk staff truly make or break your vacation for a myriad of reasons. The best "front desker's" feed off the guest's emotions to either role with their "good" mood or try to deflate their "bad" mood. ...but who's to know what Karim's body language, etc were being portrayed. But yes, social media didn't have to play a role in this...address the staff member of your concerns...if there is push back...then go above her to Management. OR stop down in the morning to address it with Management. Twitter did not need to be used.

Seriously, you could have addressed it yourself with her. You should have taken the high road and shared your thoughts face to face. Instead this poor person probably has a write up in her HR file now. This is a good example of a poor leadership trait, you did exactly what we ask our employees not to do, run from the situation and discuss it with others instead of addressing the issue and making a learning/positive experience. A simple, I know you think this funny, but some people are sensitive about their names------- chances are she was only trying to be funny (probably flirting with you and thought she was being cute) and she had no intention of hurting your feelings. Hope you learned from this experience and your take away is to lighten up and address issues as an adult instead of using social media to make a point.

This has gone too far, probably this is how all the revolutions started, with an idea, a stupid little thing, like this story.

Closing Thoughts

Well, I hope Part I did not drag on, was neither stupid nor trivial, but began to hold up a mirror to the diverse perceptions, social-cultural, even generational, divisions, and divisiveness in our society.  And one “kumbaya” moment will not make such arguments and tensions disappear.  Actually, as Distinguished Professor, Stanley Fish, notes in Winning Arguments:  What Works and Doesn’t Work in Politic, the Bedroom, the Courtroom, and the Classroom, (Harper/Collins, 2016), these underlying differences will never fully disappear.  However, through honest give and take, divisiveness can morph into a more complex and multifaceted, engaging and enlightening contest if not exchange of ideas.  And maybe the “barrier-bridge” ratio is positively impacted.  All I can say, “Amen and women, to that!”  Stay tuned for “Bridge-Building” Part II.

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a nationally acclaimed speaker, writer, and "Psychohumorist" ™, is a founding partner and Stress Resilience and Trauma Debriefing Consultant for the Nepali Diaspora Behavioral Health & Wellness Initiative.  He is also a "Leadership Consultant" for the international Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University, HQd in Daytona, FL.  A former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service, he has led numerous Pre-Deployment Stress Resilience-Humor-Team Building Retreats for the US Army.  The Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress, The Four Faces of Anger, and Preserving Human Touch in a High Tech World.  Mark’s award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" – – was called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).  For more info, email: