On Habit and Self Reliance | March 10, 2015

I learnt to dive the PADI way, safe in the knowledge that my “buddy” would be there to help if I needed them. So if I was struggling to get my fins on they’d steady me, if I got caught in some fishing line they’d untangle me, and in the unlikely event that I ran out of air, we could breath from the same source. The “buddy system” provides a great comfort blanket and makes recreational diving that much safer.

Society often feels like part of a giant buddy system. If something goes wrong there’s usually somebody nearby to help you, whether it’s a parent, a teacher, a work colleague or a friend. However while support networks are a necessity, it’s all too easy to become dependant. This is most starkly reflected by the number of trivial calls placed to the emergency services.

I see this thinking a lot. People automatically looking for external solutions, rather than looking internally. Maybe they think it’s somebody else responsibility, maybe they don’t fully grasp their part in the problem, or maybe it’s just quicker and simpler to ask somebody else for help.

I recently undertook a cave diving course while on holiday in Mexico and was fascinated by the difference between recreational and technical diving. Sure, you still dove as part of a team, and would double check each others equipment, gas calculations and tie-offs (to ensure an uninterrupted line back to the surface). However each person had a specific role to play, whether that was setting the line or leading the team back to the exit.

Furthermore, there was a real focus on problem solving and self rescue. So if you got yourself into a tricky situation, like one of your tanks blew or you got tangled up in the line, you were encouraged to fix it yourself rather than immediately turning to your teammates for help.

As such a lot of the training involve being blindfolded (to simulate zero visibility) and trying to find your way out of a cave, while the instructor simulated various emergency situations like your regulator failing, one of your tanks suddenly emptying, getting your hoses caught on obstructions or losing contact with the line, all while trying to remain calm and fix the problem.

This may sound pretty challenging, and indeed it was. So there were times when I felt my instructor was being unnecessarily critical or harsh. However if you find yourself lost in a cave, 30 minutes from the surface with your air slowly running out and no sign of your team members, the habit you’ve formed by constantly being forced to solve your own problems, may just be the difference between life and death.

Posted at March 10, 2015 11:22 PM