Submariners are a group of people who live and work in enclosed habitats. In this confined environment, they need to balance the emotional needs of individuals with the resources of the group, to ensure effective coping for all. This study explored the mechanisms of maintaining this balance.

Observations and a self-report measure (a modified Brief COPE) were used to describe the coping of submariners during deployment. Findings from the thematic analysis and self-report instrument are briefly described. An apparent contrast between the qualitative observations and quantitative data was noted, and when closely examined reveal two mechanisms whereby submariners managed their individual psychological needs without unbalancing the psychological state of the collective group. These were, firstly, the use of humor and talking nonsense as sublimated—or covert—way of venting emotions, and secondly, the use of rituals such as mealtimes as covert opportunities to provide and receive psychological support.

This study illustrates how groups living in enclosed habitats may use covert mechanisms to cope with emotional needs, in order to maintain the emotional balance in the confined environment.

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