Stage 5

Life Stages of the Insider Spy - Stage 5

Stage Five: The Remorse / Morning-After Stage

No crisis lasts forever, by definition.

Any crisis and its associated reverberations will eventually settle down.

The insider spy now has a chance to pause for reflection. His perspective will change as it becomes clearer what really happened to him during the course of his recent horrible crisis, and a kind of Buyer’s Remorse can set in.

His original decision to spy occurred under intense pressure cooker conditions, but his Remorse Stage can linger as a protracted, agonizing struggle.

As the old saying goes: Act in haste, repent at leisure.

Personal Bubble Psychology abruptly terminates when rude reality punctures the bubble.

The defining statement that retrospectively characterizes Personal Bubble Psychology will now enter the mind of the insider spy: “What was I thinking?”

The insider spy can see that bad things did unfairly pile up on him back then—but now he wonders if he really did the right thing to turn traitor.

Thus, his first doubts.

Furthermore, now there is a dawning appreciation that he is stuck and trapped.

With second thoughts about having crossed the line, fantasies crowd his mind about having a conversation with his handler to explain that it was all a terrible mistake.

After further thought, he rules out that option.

It would be like trying to get out of an arrangement with the Mafia.

It would be very foolish, perhaps dangerous even to try.

What about doing the right thing and turning himself in?

He could explain that he got overwhelmed and then did something very stupid, and could he please turn the clock back? On further thought, he realizes that option is impossible too.

This situation is what I call Sharks in a Shark Tank.

Sharks can swim nicely together, but if one of them gets nicked and starts to bleed, all the others will instantly turn to attack, predators going after prey.

Given attitudes within the intelligence community, this course is also not a viable option, in fact, it’s exceedingly dangerous: His career will be over for sure and jail time might be added too, constituting a total disaster not only for him but also for his innocent family.

Bad as things are, better to leave things alone, keep spying, and hope for the best.

Now, he is dealing with two failures.

His first failure was being unable to manage his life during the time of crisis before he turned traitor.

Now, being stuck and trapped, an existential black hole, what is he to make of being no longer in full charge of his own life?

Is that not a second failure added to his first?

This appreciation of stuckness leads to the convergence of psychologies that unites most insider spies.

While the individual psychologies of insider spies and the specifics of their unique life stories may have varied up to this point, these details no longer matter.

All insider spies now come to realize they are all in the same boat: stuck and trapped.

Feeling stuck and trapped feels terrible, like being a bug pinned to a mat in a display case, robbing them of basic dignity and pride.

They no longer are the captains of their own lives.

PREVIOUS: Stage Four | NEXT: Stage Six

Read examples of Stage Five:

Christopher Boyce Testimony (1985)

Convicted U.S. spy Christopher Boyce: ‘Snowden is doomed’ (CNN, 2013)