“The Road to Resilience: Strategies for Playing Through the Pain” by Richard Thieme at Def Con 26 (August 11, 2018) is now available on YouTube. 23rd year at Def Con. Connecting with the heart of a left-brain crowd.

The Road to Resilience: Strategies for Playing Through the Pain

by Richard Thieme

At one end of the spectrum, stressful events at work can add up to just another bad day. We have all had those. But toward the other end, information security work – which shades easily into work for the intelligence and defense communities – can be traumatic and impact us deeply.

Sometimes the darker knowledge we gather can not be forgotten and abrades the way we like to think of ourselves or life in general. Sometimes we encounter momentous challenges to the ethics or morality we believe governs our actions. Sometimes we are compelled to do things that so seriously assault our core selves – our very sense of who we are – that it rises to the level of “moral harm,” a category of damage often discussed today in relationship to war.

We all bear scars. Resilience includes learning to live with them. But sometimes the challenges go beyond that. We deny or minimize or rationalize our experience in order to deal with it, but those strategies are ultimately self-defeating. The traumatic impact of what can never be forgotten – what we did or know others did while we stood by – can erode our enthusiasm for getting up in the morning and rising to the challenge of the everyday.

Information security can bring us into situations we did not anticipate when we thought of the job as merely technical. Engaging with malevolent actors from individuals to criminal networks to nation-states can call our fundamental assumptions into question.

The real cost goes beyond dollars. It is measured in family life, relationships, and mental and physical well-being. The real impact of this work on people over the long term has to be mitigated by countermeasures and strategies so scars can be endured or, even better, incorporated and put to use.

Richard Thieme has listened closely for 25 years to information security and intelligence professionals who often struggle to “play through the pain.” He presents meaningful strategies for transcending the consequences of being on the front lines of an undeclared war without borders where attackers have taken the high ground. He discusses these issues aloud to combat the silence that so often attends their mere mention.

This conversation needs to happen.

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