De-Stress Series: What a Chinese Finger Trap Teaches Us About Stress! | By Ben Dooley

person-chfingtrpThe Chinese finger trap? What's that?

Well, it's something I remember from my childhood, perhaps you've seen it. It's a rather innocent looking tube that's just wide enough for you to stick your two fingers into each end. Kind of like a muff for your fingers, made of dried banana leaves. The only problem is, when you try to pull your fingers out, the weaving contracts around your fingers making the grip on you tighter, so you actually can't pull your fingers out.

So what do you do next? Simple, you pull even more, which constricts the tube tighter and traps your fingers even more securely. And on it goes.

OK, so perhaps if I relax a little... Then pull quickly! Nope. It only wraps tightly around your fingers, but this time quickly, which hurts a little.

Panic begins to set in. Now that instinct of "fight or flight" kicks in. Your fingers are trapped and it's scary. Your urgency to get out has increased. Pull harder! Pull harder! Try to break your way out! Now you're struggling, pulling desperately every which way. But this stuff is strong. Its fibers weave over itself creating tremendous reinforcement and resilience. You really can't force your way out.

This is why they call it the finger trap. The more you struggle, the worse it gets.

So how do you get out? Actually it's quite simple. While your instinct tells you that in order to get out you must move your hands in the direction you want to go, the real solution is just the opposite. You must relax, and move your fingers into the center. If the action of pulling outward tightens the trap, then clearly pushing inward releases—enough so that it's grip on you is completely gone, and then—and only then—can you remove your fingers.

So are you getting how this translates to your coaching?

Sometimes our clients get caught in a trap of their own, and their natural instinct tells them to run away.

Share with them the idea of the Chinese finger trap. Get them to relax, not to focus all their attention on getting out. Have them notice how it feels. Have them describe the experience of feeling trapped (the tube pinching their fingers and the tightness when they pull away). Soon enough they may begin to realize that more of the way they've been doing won't work. And instead of struggling and fighting, they may simply need to relax, breathe, and "push their fingers in".

It's also referred to as "leaning in," and it's pretty cool when it happens.

In fact, when we step away from that auto-pilot instinct to "run away", and simply notice or get present to what we are experiencing, the solution is almost always right there.

It's easy...

…when you know-how.

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Contributing Author:

Ben Dooley, MCC. YOUR coaching confidence and success made easy and fun. "I BElieve that you are an amazing, powerful, and impacting coach! I want to help you connect to that coach and unleash your coaching power and confidence to create your coaching success!" Find out more about Ben—awesome mentor coach and so much more—at

Learn more about Ben & see all their articles here >>

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