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The childhood habit doesn’t go away for everyone — and neither does the shame around it

Eric, a 45-year-old advertising executive with a major U.S. agency, was being upbraided by an angry client displeased by the lousy performance of a recent campaign when the conference room suddenly fell silent, and Eric realized all eyes were on him.

“Dude, what are you doing?” his colleague whispered.

It was at that moment that Eric realized he was sucking his thumb.

“Oh, sorry,” Eric said with a nervous laugh, withdrawing his thumb to a loud shlop. “I’ve just got this piece of loose skin on my thumb. I’ll take care of it later.”

Eric, of course, was lying. In truth, he’s an adult thumbsucker, who takes to the habit whenever he’s under stress — like when he’s being berated by an angry client. …


C. Brian Smith

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