Think, Feel, Say, Do


BLOG_Think Feel Say Do; vol. 2, no. 12

     Recently, I was at our grandson’s Little League game. There was a high school girl’s softball game wrapping up, on the field that our guys were going to be using. While the boys warmed up with tosses and fungo, I watched the end of the girl’s game. It was amazing to see – and hear! The winning team (no wonder) was the most energetic, vocal and affirming team I had heard in a long time. They shouted encouragement non-stop for every single batter. It was fun and creative! One girl’s name was Molly. So the chant was: “come on, Molly…come on, Molly-mol….come on six (her number)…good swing, Molly-mol…” and so on. That ongoing affirmation bled over to our grandson’s game. The boys picked up the clamoring. I walked away feeling uplifted, inspired, grateful. What a cool thing to experience – all that affirmation, for all those kids – in one spot!

     It’s that kind of affirmation that is critical when dealing with shame triggers. I had an example of a shame trigger a few months ago that snuck up on me. I was able to thwart its toxic effect by running through a fairly simple formula: think, feel, say, do. Then, using my “3-c’s of I’m okay” I quickly moved from shame to affirmation and engagement. Let me describe that for you.

     A proximate cause triggering shame for me can be going into someone’s really nice house for the first time. It can trigger the feelings of shame, embarrassment, sadness, jealousy, etc. that I felt growing up. My house was shabby, filled with the tension of chemical, physical, sexual violence; not a place that I readily invited friends into. After years of therapy and growth, I can say that a lot of things that might trigger a sense of shame for me have dissipated. But every now and then, I’m surprised! Such was the case when going into my friend’s very nice house the first time.

     I thought: they have way more money than me (note the “one down” positioning, the diminishing of myself). I felt a shortness of breath, rapid pulse in my body while also noticing that I was jealous, sad, awkward and feeling stupid. I said to myself “I don’t belong here. I’m out of my league.” I froze. Then I went through the “3-cs” – capable, competent, confident – as I rubbed my wrist and repeated “I’m okay.” I recalled that I learned how to swim and ride a bike plus several other accomplishments. I called to mind education, gifts, skills. I heard the voices of affirmation – and how significant the affirmation was that I remembered coming from Little League experiences.

     Going through the formula again, I thought about the fact that I was no longer that little boy. I felt the literal embrace of welcome and hospitality from my hosts. I said to myself “I have a right to be here. I’ve been invited. Thanks, Lord, for putting these people in my life.” And then I engaged in the party. It’s a responsibility of guests to help the party be a success. So, I went from shame to affirmation in less than a minute; from the time it took to hang up my coat to get over to the snack table. Simple formula: think, feel, say, do. It works. NOTE: if you can’t label a feeling, don’t worry. Just pay attention to your body. What’s happening? Shortness of breath, rapid pulse, knot in your stomach (nausea), lump in your throat (about to cry)…they are all body clues to feelings. Use the formula! And remember: you’ve got this. Atta boy. Atta girl.

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