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How A SNUBA Adventure Taught Me to Use My Traits Wisely

Behavioural Traits

I am known for certain behavioural traits like my stubbornness amongst the people who know me very well, and I’ll also admit to having a bit of pride. Being stubborn has often gotten me into trouble, leaving me stuck in places, relationships, thoughts, and behavioural patterns well past their expiry date. In other instances, being stubborn worked to my benefit as it did on one of my trips.

On a trip to Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic, in 2010, my cousin and I purchased an excursion package that included a speedboat ride, snorkelling and SNUBA. What is SNUBA? SNUBA combines aspects of snorkelling and scuba diving, with your air supply on the surface floating in a raft while allowing you to breathe below the surface through a regulator.

My cousin and I had a blast on the speedboat, which we got to maneuver ourselves. I had snorkelled among stingrays and nurse sharks on a previous vacation. But with SNUBA, I was concerned about ear pressure. We learned techniques to equalize pressure in the ears, and I had to keep these techniques in mind. I also had the added task of remembering to breathe through my mouth and not through my nose.

My cousin decided not to go. He found it difficult to get used to the idea of breathing through his mouth, which meant I had to do this without his support.

Down I went.

It was hardly a minute into my descent underwater when I had forgotten to breathe through my mouth. I felt the gear suck into my face. My heart was pounding, and I couldn’t breathe. The scuba diver (who, by the way, was buff and gorgeous) had signalled to ask if I was ok, and I had to signal back to him that I had to go back up.

As I swooshed up to the surface, I could only imagine the look I had on my face. I was gasping for air.

One of the tour guides saw me, asked if I was ok and then said, “You can go back to the boat if you want.”

“What?? NO! I need a minute.” I was offended. Did he know who I was? Of course, he didn’t.

I needed some time to catch my breath and remember all the strategies to do this successfully.

“You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. You can go back, really.” The tour guide reassured me that it was ok to do so.

No, it wasn’t. It was going to hurt my pride! I couldn’t handle that.

I was annoyed with myself. I was not planning to leave the Dominican Republic until I experienced what I had come for, and besides, I had already paid for the excursion. I shuddered at any regret and disappointment for not going through with it. I thought about the other people that were already below me, who would soon come up and rave about what it was like to witness underwater marine life and coral reef. I felt that twinge of jealousy rise within.

Then I imagined going home to tell people how fascinating this experience was and enticing them to try it out no matter how unfamiliar or scary it might feel.

With a stubborn resolve to make sure I came home with my pride intact, I quietly rehearsed the breathing and equalizing techniques in my mind. Without hesitation, I muttered to myself, “F**k it, I am going down.”

My heart was beating nervously. “Slow and steady,” I reminded myself as I controlled my breathing. The scuba diver and I exchanged communication to signal that all was well with me. We held hands. Damn, if I could smile with that regulator and mouthpiece on, I would have. I was giddy. Hang on! I thought to myself, “Was there going to be some underwater romance? Should I play the damsel in distress and keep holding onto his arm? Just look at those biceps outlining his wetsuit, and OMG. Is he flirting with me? Wait, does my hair look good? Crap, my hair is in a bun, but the rest of the strands are flying all over the place. Ugh.”

Seriously, were these the dumb-ass thoughts I was having? Yes, they were. Yes, they were! We were having a conversation using hand signals. He had asked me where my “husband” was by indicating the ring finger on the left hand. WHAT? What husband??? He thought my cousin was my husband. I gestured at my hand in the same way he had and profusely nodded. “No.”

He understood. Phew! He could happily flirt back.

“Snap out of it. Let go of his arm and go explore,” I scolded myself. I let him go. I was finally getting used to the idea of breathing comfortably through my mouth. I was moving freely and was in awe at the coral reef and the different types of fish I saw before my eyes (or goggles). Another scuba diver had given me a ball of oatmeal to feed the fish. In no time, there was a large school of tropical fish in hues of blue and yellow, some striped, that came to eat right out of the palm of my hand. I can still feel them nipping at the food I held out.

The professional photographers were fantastic at making it seem like everyone was modelling for a photo shoot. I found myself fashionably posing as I stood, sat and lay on the ocean floor. (I can’t seem to find the cd with the photos of this experience, but I’ll update this post if I do.)

Being 30 feet underwater was unlike anything I had ever experienced on Earth. It was unimaginably peaceful. There were moments when I was far away from the other tourists, and it felt as if all that existed was the sound of my heart beating and the gurgling sounds of the ocean. Cheesy, I know. Hey, it was nice to be away from all the noise!

I am glad my stubbornness (and pride) worked in my favour in this instance, but it is just as well it could have gone differently.

My adventure made me think of all the times I could have utilized my stubborn nature to pursue ambitious goals and how it could have helped me persevere against all odds.

I also know that I could have used less of this trait when asking for and accepting help from others, something I have a hard time doing.

My SNUBA escapade was a memorable experience for many reasons, but I realized that many of our traits function as double-edged swords and can work in our favour or against us. More importantly, it would be to our advantage to discern how and when they work for us and when they don’t. It may be beneficial if we mindfully pay attention to how our behaviours can get in the way and adapt our traits constructively to suit the circumstances in which we find ourselves. In doing so, we might also extend these benefits to our relationships with others.

Of course, I want to note that we will not get it right 100 percent of the time, and change calls for a willingness to endure some discomfort when adjusting our behaviours. For example, as I mentioned before, I can be too stubborn to ask for help. Noticing the negative consequences of struggling to do things by myself reveals how exhausting it is not to have added support when I need it most. I can’t always see my blind spots, and I can get in the way, certainly not able to function at my best. I wouldn’t say I like having to ask for help, but the willingness to be open-minded and take a look at where the value of interdependence might be helpful to me provides great relief when I struggle during difficult times.

The struggle to change is real. The starting goal would be to bring awareness and insight into your traits and how they work and move into actionable steps that constructively make the most of them. You can also work with me to look at how your traits function from an emotional intelligence perspective.

In the meantime, here are some questions for you to start the process:

 What traits do you possess?

Do you recognize the advantages and disadvantages of all your traits?

In what ways can you use your traits to help you?

In what ways have you noticed those very same traits hindering you?

How might you tweak the use of your traits to work in your favour? In someone else’s favour? What actions are you willing to take?

Could you recruit other traits to replace the ones that aren’t working well for you in any circumstance?

What values do you have that might support you in utilizing your traits more effectively?



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