“If Only … “

Have you been affected by things other divers do? Or forget to do!  Do you make mistakes when diving?

I’d be very surprised if you said no.  I know I’ve made plenty of mistakes as a diver, I don’t know a diver who hasn’t!   In reality, most of the time we are lucky.  Whether it’s jumping in with the wrong weight belt, descending while breathing off a snorkel or a rapid ascent arising from panic … in the majority of these events, one way or another it works out we are okay (if a little embarrassed and shaken).  But sometimes we do not get away with it.  People are left saying “If only, I had … / If only they hadn’t …”

“If Only … ” is the title of a new, short documentary about one of these occasions: when Brian Bugge died on the surface after entering the water with his oxygen supply switched off.  The documentary was created by Gareth Lock, with Brian’s wife Ashley and his dive buddies, to tell the story in a way that will help all divers.  The documentary is reviewed here, and there is a link to watch it freely, online.  

You can also catch up with Gareth and I talking about the importance of seeking to understand why these events occur during the Scuba Diver Magazine Live Stream, recorded on 16th June.

But first I’d like to explain what makes this documentary, and the discussion around it, so important to you and all divers.

As a Diving Psychologist, I regularly talk to divers who’ve been significantly affected by the type of events none of us ever want to experience.  So I know the value of telling the story of what happened.  When we experience a distressing or traumatic event, we process it, work through it, by telling ourselves a story: an explanation of what happened.  Some stories are more helpful than others.  A story that has big gaps, or a narrow focus can often be part of why divers get stuck.  But a story that helps us understand what happened in a useful way is one we can learn from. 

A useful story about a complex event is necessarily rich in detail and perspective.

Yet, when we see things happening to other divers the stories that are shared are all too frequently the unhelpful ones.  The ones that focus on placing blame or those that hang on the single mistake someone made. They are the simple, short stories we tell ourselves to help us feel a bit better.    They have an advantage on the rich, complex stories because they are short and easy to tell.  Their simplicity is often soothing because they allow us to kid ourselves it won’t happen to us. Paradoxically, they are also a source of anxiety for many divers. Short explanations are often alarming but lacking in detail, that combination leads to a gnawing uncertainty: an oscillation between “won’t happen” and “but what if…” that does little to prevent us left saying “If only …”.  

When the story of what happened is told accurately and effectively, it helps the individual people affected to understand.  Talking about what happened, with people we feel safe with, is part of recovering from a difficult experience  The story we tell also shapes how we move forward.  It guides the decisions we make about future diving and life.  

And when such a story is shared with others, it saves lives.

So watch the documentary  here.

And head here to watch Gareth Lock and I talking about human factors, psychology and diving and why it matters to you.

Talking about psychology, human factors and scuba diving.