Did you have any difficulties when learning to dive? Were there times that you felt out of your depth? Perhaps there were uncomfortable feelings like frustration or fear

Taking our first breaths underwater is exciting and can sometimes feel a bit strange.  There are new sensations to get used to, like the feeling of a neck seal or water trickling into your scuba mask.  Expanding your skills means temporarily not knowing what you are doing, and not being confident in your own ability.  It can be a vulnerable place and it can trigger some difficult things like fear of failure or bring you into contact with uncomfortable feelings.  

Here are some questions to ask yourself when encountering difficulties and discomfort in training:

Divers step off a boat

Do I have everything I need to engage in this course?

Let’s start with the fundamental human needs: are you warm enough? Do you have food and water? Are you safe enough to make mistakes while you learn? 

It is important to raise concerns if you are unsure.  Quite often there are simple adaptations that can be made, such as switching to more comfortable equipment or talking through the planned dive.  Doing new things can feel weird and dealing with that is easier when you are physically and socially safe. 

What is the gap between my current ability and chosen skill?

If you feel daunted or overwhelmed, then it may be that there is too big a gap between what you can do and what you are learning to do.  Perhaps there are more skills you need to develop before you can cross the gap. 

Did you know that PADI courses are structured so that divers progress from basic skills to more advanced skills?  Also, within each course it is possible for your instructor to break down the skills into smaller steps. 

PADI training psychology in Scuba Diving

Is this pace of training right for me?

If you are feeling uncomfortable during training: check the pace.  Do you feel like there is too much information? Does it feel like it is all too fast and you are not sure what you are doing?  It could be that you simply need more time to focus on your learning.  Consider requesting more time with your instructor or extending the duration of the course.  You may be able to break up the training dives with less demanding dives to relax or practice what you have already learned.

Can you apply psychological skills to training discomfort?

Learning is not always easy and it’s normal to experience some difficulties or discomfort during training.  Pushing yourself to learn can mean facing fears of failure or sitting with those uncomfortable feelings.  Distance yourself from unhelpful thoughts and find ways to switch perspective.  Be willing to encounter frustration or a little embarrassment when you can’t do something the first time (hardly anyone does anyway!).  Let go of the distracting mind-chatter so that you can focus on what matters to you.

Prepare for Open Water - Kit

Scuba diving offers opportunities for facing personal challenges and overcoming difficulties. Developing as a diver happens not when you find ways to avoid discomfort, but when you allow it to push you to be better. Sign up for your PADI Open Water Diver course today.


Dr Laura Walton is a Clinical Psychologist and PADI IDC Staff Instructor with a fascination for the psychology of diving. Visit scubapsyche to learn more about our behaviour as divers.

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