It is possible to take the idea further and to suggest that people actively and often unconsciously seek out work that relates to emotional issues with which they have difficulty. From time to time, I have trivialised this proposition by suggesting for example that teachers become teachers because they find it hard to learn, or that social workers become social workers because they have difficulty with social relationships. Probation officers on this theory would be attracted to the work by their own difficulty with authority, or by their own destructive predatory needs.
This certainly made some sense to me of why I went into this kind of work. Although I saw myself as in many ways a timid and painfully shy boy, and indeed a ‘good’ boy, I knew I was attracted by such examples of delinquency that I encountered. I first became aware of this as a boy visiting my grandparents. My maternal uncle was still living at his parents’ home (he stayed there all his life in fact, another feature of the phenomenon of delinquency that was not lost on me later). He was an uncouth presence, deliberately so I think, often rude and never joining us at any of our visits other than making fleeting appearances. He spoke to his parents with a rudeness that I would have never dared to adopt – there was little to admire in him and yet I felt some kind of connection with him and some kind of sympathy. I felt something similar as a school prefect when dealing with some of the more disruptive lads in the school – it was not just that I lacked the confidence and courage to challenge them; I enjoyed their ‘spirit’ and defiance.