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Kripalu Guest Stories: Suzan W.

Permission to be Human

Positive Psychology helps to heal a healer.

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Suzan W.

At age 40, I left a career as a painter to start medical school. I had done a lot of work on my own healing, and I came out of that experience with a desire to help others heal. During med school, I realized that I wanted to minister not just to people’s bodies but to the state of their souls. I’m now in the fourth year of my psychiatry residency.

Medical school and residency are like trying to drink out of a fire hose—there’s so much information you’re taking in, and there’s a lot of pressure. In my sixth year of training—with four years of med school and two years of residency under my belt—I started to burn out. I was questioning the process, I kept getting sick. I just felt like my heart wasn’t in it.

Around that time, I discovered the Certificate in Positive Psychology program at Kripalu. Positive Psychology helped me to see that everything I needed was right there—all I had to do was change the way I was looking at it. Tal [Ben-Shahar] talks about giving ourselves “permission to be human,” and that idea helped me to soften my expectations of myself and bring more of my authentic self to every aspect of my work. I’m taking better care of myself, too—one direct result of the program was that I started biking to work almost every day.

The tools of Positive Psychology are also a wonderful supplement to my medical school training. Right away, I started bringing them to my patients—recognizing their strengths and looking at what’s working in their lives.

Positive Psychology has also affected my relationships. My partner and I are getting along better than we ever have, and it’s because we’re allowing ourselves to be known to each other in a new way. I’ve become very close with the five other women in my Positive Psychology coaching group—a minister, a venture capitalist, a massage therapist, a tech guru, and a corporate executive. We had a regular Monday-night call during the program, in which we talked about our homework as well as our challenges and victories over the week. We graduated in April, but we’re still talking every Monday. It’s been an incredible gift to connect with people with such different life experiences who are all dedicated to healing and growing.

—Suzan W., psychiatry resident,
Berkshire County, Massachusetts