The next whisper I heard was one of several that came in November. It had been a relief to pinpoint in previous whispers that what I loved about work and my career was that I was "in the trenches" with suffering- helping people face it, cope with it, and prevent it. This work resonates with me- I feel most alive, at home, and right/peaceful/settled when I am doing this work. The next whisper quietly inquired- why is that? How much of that feeling is due to a genuine desire to help others, and how much is possibly because suffering is comfortable and familiar to me because of my own tumultuous past? Counselors are trained to watch for this common tendency in themselves, or the tendency to entangle their own issues with their clients' and with work in general. It's important to prevent and correct this for many reasons, one being that it will never lead to a successful resolution of the real internal problems, so it causes perpetual dissatisfaction and lack of peace.
I watched a wonderful movie as part of my 30 Before 30 called the Hurt Locker that portrays how this preference for chaos and suffering often manifests in soldiers returning from war zones. How do you make sense of transitioning from the adrenaline of disarming IED's, surviving in a foreign land every day to trying to care about shopping for cereal under the sedated fluorescent lights and the mind-numbing music of a fully stocked suburban grocery store? The guy in the movie keeps volunteering to go back into the war. In that situation, he should ideally face with the underlying problem (the desire for adrenaline for example) first, and then he can make a decision about whether and when to go back to war based on his higher, more stable values.
I can completely identify with the disenchantment with the sheltered, comfortable excess of the suburban grocery store. And I often use that image to help separate out my reasons for missing "being in the trenches." After all, it's unwise to run into war to escape the shallowness of the grocery store, or simply to be among familiar chaos. The decision to stay home or work should be as unclouded by these unwise motivations as possible. I have my motives pretty well sorted out now, and I find that movie to be helpful for quickly reassessing my motivations periodically.