Playing Through the Pain? - The Impact of Secrets and Dark Knowledge on Security and Intelligence Professionals presented at Defcon 2016

by Richard Thieme,

Summary : Dismissing or laughing off concerns about what it does to a person to know critical secrets does not lessen the impact when those secrets build a different map of reality than "normals" use and one has to calibrate narratives to what another believes. The cognitive dissonance that inevitably causes is managed by some with denial who live as if refusing to feel the pain makes it disappear. But as Philip K. Dick said, reality is that which, when you no longer believe in it, refuses to go away. And when cognitive dissonance evolves into symptoms of traumatic stress, one ignores those symptoms at one's peril. But the constraints of one's work often make it impossible to speak aloud about those symptoms, because that might threaten one's clearances, work, and career. The real cost of security work and professional intelligence goes beyond dollars. It is measured in family life, relationships, and mental and physical well-being.
The divorce rate is as high among intelligence professionals as it is among medical professionals, for good reason - how can relationships be based on openness and trust when one's primary commitments make truth-telling and disclosure impossible?