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SCUBA, A Support Model for Diving into New Psychological Environments

Friday September 21, 2018

[Photo: Deep in the shadows! Sidemount diving photo, credit Pete Jawrocky ]

I developed this model, called SCUBA (the origin should be obvious), to help others approach the need to flex their personality type. Flexing type (also described as practicing with others’ cognitive gifts) is a risky process, and we need all the backup we can get.

In effect, when we try to accommodate, understand, and even be more like others, we are submerging ourselves in an environment that could be hostile to our typical state of being. For this reason, SCUBA gear is important.

  • Self: Am I considering my own interests, wants, and needs during this process? On a daily and even hourly level? You can change your approach at any time, and you are wise to do so when it is needed.
  • Contained: Have I set boundaries on this process? Do I know when, where, and how I can step out of the process for a break if desired? Do I need to set a timer, or limit the use to a single conversation with someone? Not every dive has to be 150 feet deep. Some dives are 10-20 feet deep, especially early dives. Ask yourself what sounds doable and interesting with regards to a given cognitive process. Difficult functions should probably start with shallower dives.
  • Underwater: Am I giving attention to the fact that I’m doing something rare and even exciting? That I’m a “stranger in a strange land?” Am I on the lookout for new and interesting aspects to this experience? It’s a good idea to record them and reflect on them. Every function or set of functions has its benefits and leverage points.
  • Breathing: Am I aware of, and monitoring, my physical condition? My blood pressure, pulse, hydration levels, exhaustion? Some of us push ourselves very hard toward psychological change when we are low on sleep, or otherwise in high-anxiety mode. But that may prevent positive outcomes, or bring about additional negative outcomes.
  • Apparatus: Do I have the tools and resources I need to do this work? For example, access to helpful people, plans to visit comfortable places where I’ll use my “me” time to reflect? Would special computer software help, or do I need e.g. exercise equipment to enter this mode in an appropriate way?


After some struggles in her chemistry class, Mia, an INTJ high school senior, learned that her chemistry teacher, Ms. Erickson, was a Fe-dominant ESFJ. In contrast to Mia’s intense approach to career planning and her science interests, Ms. Erickson seemed to discourage too much intensity and career focus, and tried to keep the class discussions simple and approachable.

After a few strained discussions in which Mia felt her level of intelligence was being insulted, she decided to try a science experiment suggested by the career coach her mother had hired. Mia would don some SCUBA gear, and learn more about her teacher’s world.

For a few minutes at intervals during each class (Containment to a fixed time period), she wrote a few notes as to how she felt affected by the teacher’s psychology (Self – attention to feelings). She also made notes (Apparatus – tools) about what she saw as the pros and cons of her teacher’s behavior (Underwater – exploration). In addition, Mia increased her level of intensity at a personal level (Self – support of own values), by expanding her plans on paper, and using time outside of class to gather like-minded students and discuss chemistry at a deeper level (Apparatus – gathering outside support).

Finally, Mia also monitored her stress levels during the class. When she felt annoyed or stressed, she took breaks to take deep breaths, drink some water, and even doodle mindlessly for a bit (Breathing – attention to physiological factors). If she felt extra frustrated, she would also write down some fun things she was looking forward to in her next class, or after school (Self – attention to values).

As an outcome to this observing and learning process, Mia identified important leverage points in working with Ms. Erickson. Learning to smile and say “thank you” at appropriate times made it easier for her to approach Ms. Erickson with questions later. She also identified that Ms. Erickson often hinted about things she’d like done in the classroom, rather than addressing them directly. A student who caught on to these things early could help the class earn additional points.

In the end, Mia learned that while it is reasonable to expect that science is taught according to certain standards, individuals may have widely differing expectations as to how those standards are interpreted. Mia emerged from this experience a more mature individual. She also felt like she had learned to take a more scientific view when working in difficult circumstances.

Notes about the model

The key leverage points:

  • Helping people understand that flexing one’s type is possible
  • Helping people understand that flexing one’s type is risky
  • Helping people understand that there are hidden rewards to exploring others’ types
  • Helping people sustain a goal to gradually work on their flexibility and gain a new level of effectiveness with people

I wish I had conceived this model prior to the time when I was first experimenting with functions like Fe. I overdid that one and ended up suffering through that experience needlessly. The main symptom seemed to be a high level of stress and frustration, which could quickly turn into anger felt toward others.

In my humble opinion, the SCUBA model can help us conceive of realistic goals that push us further toward healthy psychological development, while reducing the overall risk factor.

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