One develops skills according to one’s situation. The executive learns to give orders, the underling to avoid carrying them out; the prisoner becomes adept at doing time.

The drive to utilize one’s abilities appears to be at least as powerful as the desire for pleasure. One of the reasons people reenlist in the military—or return to other abusive relationships—is to continue making use of their finely honed crisis management skills. Nothing is more terrifying than the unknown, in which one must become something else—than uncertainty, in which one may blame oneself for things going badly because they really might have gone better. Thus our tremendous capacity for adaptation, though it kept us alive in Auschwitz and Biafra, can shackle us to an otherwise insufferable present.

On the other hand, when we have no choice but to adapt, it is certain that we will. If people survived in Auschwitz and Biafra, we could surely adjust to life without managers.

The instant you get out of prison you have the sense that you are leaving something dear to you. Why? Because you know that you are leaving a part of your life inside, because you spent some of your life there which, even if it was under terrible conditions, is still a part of you. And even if you lived it badly and suffered horribly, which is not always the case, it is always better than the nothing that your life is reduced to the moment it disappears.

–Alfredo Bonanno