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Kripalu Guest Stories: Gary S.

Learning How to “Fill the Bucket”

Positive Psychology helps a psychotherapist recover from burnout—and change his life.

Gary S.

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After more than 20 years as a practicing psychotherapist, I ended up getting what’s called compassion fatigue. In 2008, I started looking for a way to balance the burnout. That search took me in a lot of different directions, and one of those was Positive Psychology. I knew about Positive Psychology, but I thought of it as a preventive method. I began researching it more deeply, got passionate about it, and started looking for a certificate program. That’s when I found Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar’s on-site/online program at Kripalu.

There’s an enormous amount of heart that Tal puts into his teaching, as well as a clear, disciplined intellect. He walks his talk—he’s not just teaching from his head, he’s teaching from his body, his heart, his mind, and his lived experience. I’m seeing how the application of Positive Psychology is unlimited: I can bring it into my clinical practice, my consulting, my personal life, my relationships with friends.

The first on-site week of the program was the first time I’d ever been to Kripalu. It’s an enormously beautiful setting, the food was awesome, and it was great to be able to do yoga while I was there. I’ve been meditating regularly for 25 years, and I’ve done some yoga, but I’ve never had a yoga practice. Now I’m doing yoga every week. Last year, I had a cardiac event—my body was telling me I’ve got to take care of it, and yoga is part of that healing. This has set me on a course to do a yoga teacher training down the road.

One thing I discovered a few years back is that I need variety in my work life. Now I work with clients, consult for family businesses and organizations, teach, speak, and write. Positive Psychology affects everything I do. I’m integrating the simple, practical, and deeply wise tools that Tal teaches into my work with both psychotherapy and consulting clients, and I’ve seen them make an enormous impact in a very short time. I have two daughters, ages 17 and 11, and I’m engaging them in this, too. My older daughter comes with me to yoga class every week.

In Positive Psychology, bringing good things into your life is called “filling the bucket.” I’m learning how to fill my bucket. I was just pouring out. Now my bucket’s being refilled by yoga, colleagues, friends I met in the program, and the practices of Positive Psychology. I worked with pain and suffering for years, and now I’m on the other side, where the focus is on positive emotion.
—Gary S., Chicago, Illinois