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Mark Gorkin, LICSWMark Gorkin, LICSW
A Blog about reducing Stress in our lives.

The Six "R" Road to Burnout Recovery - Part IV: The Next Two "R"s - Retreating & Writing

Mark Gorkin, LCSW ("The Stress Doc") Updated: Oct 28th 2013

3. Retreating

When you read the word "retreat," do you think refuge before defeat?
The difference is huge - white-water flow or flood stage deluge.
To give up, back off, perhaps recede
It's a real "hot button": you hate to concede.
To withdraw facing alleged strength superior
Incites an inner shriek: You are INFERIOR!

Retreat: War and Peace

As mentioned before, what if retreat is really more -
A time to face your exhaustion, to free up reflection
To refuel and design a strategic position.
Group's that survive do more than wish
To hell with pretenses, they will crawfish.
Those often winning that much prized medal
Know when and how to quickly backpedal
Grabbing some shelter, finding peace and quiet
Amidst helter-skelter and battlefield riot.

One Must Let Go, Sometimes Eat Crow
To Be Prepared to Go with the Flow

Retreat is not all deliberation; it often signals decisive action:
I don't ask very much: just let go of a longstanding crutch -
That "personal savior"; your almighty will power?
At one time or another, to get it together
You may need to retire to an "ivory tower."

I'm not talking forever, nor an installation
More a space to savor the imagination.
A private sanctum to picture a mountain
A rushing stream or cool spraying fountain.
From a hidden nook espy a fresh look…
A down-to-earth heaven; a reverse Garden of Eden:
Mind meadows and canyons, a lush place to examine
And the skillful weeding of self-defeating patterns.

Double-Edged Memories: Electrical Echoes

Secret valley echoes are hard-earned mementos
Most sacred ground to revisit old wounds, alas
Not without danger if you've been a stranger.
As Proust observed through years of reflection
Memories of emotion are two-sided commotion.
Both virulent slow poison and succulent Aloe potion.
Or as Joan Baez would sing…all that memories bring:
From hot lava love to glacial mistrust -
Eternal diamonds and erosive rust.

Yet absent those memories - that electrical current
Despite best policies, we're merely knights errant:
For any retreat to escape "same old" repeat
There must be living memory to learn from our history -
Making peace with old tragedy while igniting bold strategy.
For author, John Fowles, root instincts are lost
Without a wired primal brain "power source."

Fertile Association and Final Reflection

Now design a platform for electric group brainstorm
Try building in norms while digging out worms.
Find new paths and partners with whom to perform.
(Of course, the retreat is not a springboard to cheat.)

Still final reflection involves introspection -
Engaging one question and a critical notion:
First, how did I create my burnout condition?
Next, a game-changing realization…
There's no longer an option or a real choice:
Stop running from your own true inner voice!

4. Writing

I write, therefore I am; trust me, this is no scam
Like now, when life seems a nonstop exam.
Or when burnt out, my brain on the lam.
In a life sucking hole; others try to cajole…
Don't make me laugh: "Just set a goal."
Without Moses' staff, there's no Promised Land path
Unless the staff is a pen with the power of Zen.
Despite all the pain, up the mountain again.

Shoveling, Winging, and Resurrecting

For improving self-image, writing's not a mirage…
Though trapped in a hovel your fingers are shovels
Unearthing a maze, a safe passage for rage.
Who knows where you'll go on a blank screen or page!
Even though a black funnel at the end of the tunnel
A keyboard with wings may be a heroic role model:
Perhaps a soaring and daring iconic seagull
Or a soon to be Phoenix: the sign of ingenious
Skywriting with ashes; not just tweet flashes
Morphing void and null as the rebirth of a soul.

The Journaling Journey

On the dark border of panic, torch words therapeutic
Upon a moonlit screen - now mindful dramatics.
And we're not talking highbrow academics.
Why not a journal of emotional kernels?
Dig for earthy raw pearls; pass on the cerebrals
Discover your history; debunk some of the mystery
Behind life's doom and gloom, oh please leave some room
For sticking a pen in hot ego balloons.
(And if you can self-poke, you're not totally broke.)
When concrete truth is too fixed; simple, create your own mix.

One Must Begin to Separate…One Must Be to Separate to Begin

Now escaping from hell, not such a hard sell
The guts of recovery: share your personal story.
Don't wait for a sign - start an outline and timeline.
Alas, starting's not easy; many get queasy
Perhaps even wary; to begin can be scary, especially
Trapped in familiar rough: "It will never ever be good enough."
The key - start small; don't try for it all
Or finish your writing in only one sitting.
Some believe in a magical power - simply wait till the 11th hour.
All they need, a final push; just one more adrenaline rush.

From Sleeping and Dreaming to Mental Meandering

Sleeping on words is far from absurd
What better place to scheme on demand -
Hades or paradise with a flick of a wand
Your personal odyssey at once at hand…
Ready, get set…now off to dreamland!
And we're better word pilots flying the skies
With organic radar - a fresh pair of eyes.

Yet, sometimes embarking, I'll still have to say
"Just walk away…live to write another day."
Being caught in slow-limbo doesn't equate as a dumbo
Try to meander, do not simply mope
A mind that may wander has unlimited scope:
To journey from desert to fertile ground
One must be lost before being found.

Short and Sharp

Transform your pen into a sword
Cut through dense forest; find the right chord.
In today's world: The Lord of the Phone
One can no longer drone on and on.
One must be short yet not too sweet
With the summit of language: The Art of the Tweet.
And one must surely abide that all-knowing guide:
The "Three Steps to Mastery" Power Point Slide!
Okay, waxing ironic - my own face-saving tonic.
Oh to be afire with hot-blooded desire
A solitary mind burning Byronic as others "en masse" lust electronic
And attention spans click at rates supersonic.

Tools and Tricks of the Trade: The Essential

Enough of my tirade; back to the trade:
For sketching your draft, hard won tips of the craft:
Don't distort the complex by making it simple
Make "the obvious" uncommonly visible.
Sketch forest and trees, and even the leaves:
We believe what we see and see what we believe.

Provide needed context; cut out what's not vital
Though do sculpt your text - make strengths and cares central.
Target positive strategy; yet don't run from tragedy
Head and heart unity is practical therapy.
Sharing drudges and druthers with receptive others
May transform even strangers into sisters and brothers.
Research shows misery doesn't just like company
It actually prefers the miserable variety. ;-)

Tools and Tricks of the Trade: The Magical

Go beyond staying sane - try kaleidoscope brain:
Before taking chances on elusive romances
Pursue a heart that sings and a mind that dances
To a multihued rhythm that vibrates as a prism…
The "Aha" integration: r a I n b o w revelation.
Who, what, when, and where should always appear
But musing how and why lights the narrative sky.
Still my desire before I expire:
To unify the wise man and wise guy!

A Courageous Composition: A Meaningful Idea
Purposefully and Passionately Wrapped in Emotion

Can you compose a story - far from fields of glory?
Yet with a heartfelt ring, but…one that's embarrassing.
A tale that gently laughs at your own failures and flaws
An unguarded account that might give others pause
But for you it's become an innermost cause
Waiting, just waiting to seep through your pores
A true priceless gift; unmatched by Mr. Clause.

When you finally unwind the "be perfect" bind
No longer honor bound by the old "h"-word wound
Break through psycho-gravity's secret surround
At last, on the hollowed home ground…
Shatter for good that barrier of sound:
Sharing dark imperfection heals deep humiliation
Naturally first in your own mind…
And even if some others still lag behind
Let healing essence flow to all human kind.

Closing Summary

When soulful writing is your romance
You're out on the floor; you've chosen to dance
With ideas and emotions, in all combinations
Wild and wise - from the pits to the skies
Blending purpose and passion, yet despite best intentions
Make room for regression, nurture some deviance
As you tango and gambol on the path of variance
Just remember, you always have a writer's chance…to:

    • Make sense of experience
    • Justify one's existence
    • Plow through resistance
    • Express vehemence
    • Rework adolescence
    • Demonstrate coherence
    • Explore divergence
    • Model persistence
    • Cultivate a new fragrance
    • Share your quintessence
    • and of upmost importance


  • Reaffirm common essence!
Mark Gorkin, LCSW (

Mark Gorkin, the Stress Doc ™, acclaimed Keynote and Kickoff Speaker, Webinar Presenter, Retreat Leader and Motivational Humorist, is the author of Practice Safe Stress and The Four Faces of Anger. A former Stress & Violence Prevention consultant for the US Postal Service, the Doc leads highly interactive, innovative and inspiring programs for corporations and government agencies, including the US Military, on stress resiliency/burnout prevention through humor, change and conflict management, generational communication, and 3 "R" -- Responsible, Resilient & Risk-Taking -- leadership-partnership team building. Email for his popular free newsletter & info on speaking programs. Check out his popular website -- -- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR). Stress Doc Mantra: "Think out of the box, perform outside the curve (the Bell Curve) and be out-rage-ous!"

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