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Can't Get No Satisfaction

People who are suffering from burnout tend to describe the sensation in metaphors of emptiness-'"they're a dry teapot over a high flame, a drained battery that can no longer hold its charge. Thirteen years, three books, and dozens of papers into his profession, Barry Farber, a professor at Teachers College and trained psychotherapist, realized he was feeling this way. Unfortunately, he was well acquainted with the symptoms. He was a burnout researcher himself.

Farber was so captivated by the notion of burnout he made it the subject of his dissertation. And he stayed with it for another thirteen years. Until the day he couldn't anymore. He still remembers the breaking point. He'd just completed a book about burnout among teachers, a subject he'd once considered exceptionally urgent. "Yet even as I was writing," he says, "I had this sense that I really wanted to finish it so that I could go on to something else. I felt somewhat bored, and somewhat depleted. I'd said all I wanted to say." He ponders this point. "I guess," he says, "I lost the sense that it was important."

This article appeared in the November 26, 2006 edition of the New York News and Features.

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