I’m going to share with you the 10 most important things I wish I knew back in the day about stuttering in my own stuttering journey.
I’m going to tell you what I wish somebody had told me a long, long time ago so that I didn’t have to spend so much time discovering all those things.
I’ve discovered them for you so stay tuned!
For me personally, stuttering began vividly when I was 10. I was a kid back in the day so I didn’t have a clue how to react, how to respond, how to deal with it. And it started out for me, as feeling the tension in my body. And feeling that I can’t say what I want to say as a result.
You know the words, you know them perfectly. You know you can say it in principle, you can articulate it, you can say it properly. And you prepare, you prepare, you prepare. And then you feel the tension growing, and you get stuck. Or you know your presentation perfectly. You rehearse it. You say it to yourself, you say it to the mirror several times all perfectly - you feel great. Then you get to the spotlight and you feel the tension growing, you feel the tension growing, and you get stuck.
You don’t know where exactly this tension is coming from.
What exactly am I doing differently right now compared to the rehearsal so that I feel the tension and stutter now?
It feels like some invisible force coming from out of the blue is acting upon me. And it’s invisible mostly because we see, we feel, we sense the speaking interaction and the signal goes bypassing the "thinking" regions of the brain right into this tension, it transforms into this tension directly.
It’s similar to when you see a shark, you don’t go thinking, ‘Okay, this is a shark. That’s dangerous.’ Right? There is no time for thinking about it. You get an instant, an automatic response from your body. The same thing happens here. Speaking interaction is a button – boom – and we get a result, we get this tension.
What is that program that brings the result? What is that signal that our body gets that causes tension and stuttering?
We don't see it and we want to make it visible. Let’s do it now! Shall we?
Here it is. Just two ingredients form this invisible signal:
1) I am not in control!
2) It’s so bad!
I wish I knew that back in the day because this knowledge does two things.
First, it deconstructs, dismantles, demystifies stuttering. We can clearly see what’s going on. And second, the opposite is also true. If I feel in control and if I feel good about it, then I’m free!
Let’s dive deeper into the next 9 items on the list that are inevitably going to get us to that freedom!
When I was starting to feel the tension as a kid, the first reaction to that tension was, "Come on, you can do it! You can do it!"
But the more you try to say it fluently and be in control the less you feel in control.
The more force you’re trying to put, the more tension and stuttering you get.
I wish I knew back in the day that I don’t have to lock myself into that state of tension.
We want to transform this tension into relaxation. Especially it applies to the first sound and each of the stressed syllables of the phrase. We want to land into those stresses and feel how our body relaxes.
I wish I knew that back in the day when I was forcing myself into that lock, feeling the panic in my body trying to get more control. Growing stuttering bigger into that invisible monster.
I thought that since I don’t stutter alone then everything is fine with me in general. So, I should be able to speak fine in general. There is only some anxiety that I feel, some nervousness that I want to remove. Some little things that I need to just take away.
And after years and years of working with people who stutter, I see that this is maybe the #1 thing that’s stopping us, holding us back from actually taking action. It’s amazing but we expect that we somehow magically could remove this anxiety and all of the sudden feel confident, powerful, and just relaxed.
Oftentimes blaming ourselves for not making it right like, "You should have done it fluently! Why couldn’t you say it fluently?" Each time being surprised for not doing it perfectly right. We want to admit and acknowledge that yes, we do have a predisposition for stuttering. We have a mismatch between the way our brain and the speech mechanism process speech, they’re not quite aligned.
We are absolutely sane people and this anxiety, this nervousness, this tension, they’re not coming out of the blue.
They’re coming from the real fact, from the objective ground, from the way we’re wired.
And we can choose to hide and run away from this fact or we can choose to admit this fact and start working on the very structure of our speaking.
And I wish I knew this before because it could have saved me years and years and years of rambling and rambling and rambling waiting for this magic to happen.
In the Free From Stutter Program, we’re learning new skills. The relaxation, effortless power, expression, feeling the structure in our speaking. And of course, we start at a slower phase, dismantling our speaking into those fundamentals.
As we put those fundamentals together and create a training speech we start making disclosures. And first, we start with one close person.
One of my students told me this story. She’s coming to her mom saying, "You know, this is the new way I’m going to speak. It’s going to be a bit slower first and then we gradually increase the phase. Don’t be surprised."
Her mom is looking at her and says, "How many times I've told you to slow down before! And you never listened to me! And now somebody is telling you to do that and you do it!"
This story perfectly shows how "regular" people think about slowing down. They often say to us, "Come on, just breathe, just slow down. Relax."
And we, people who stutter, also oftentimes follow this line of thought. We see somebody in the speech program using some weird techniques speaking kind of slow and we go thinking, "Yeah, that's what I should be doing! Slowing down!" And that was one of my initial lines of thought as well.
Yes, slowing down helps. But it doesn't change the way we speak.
When we increase the phrase to the normal phase we get back to stuttering because we speak the same way. Slowing down doesn't change the structure of our speaking. We start learning new skills at a slower phase but the key words here are "learning new skills," not "slower phase." I wish I knew that back in the day.
Now, this is really mind-blowing. And it took me quite a long time to realize.
We logically think that we want to stutter less.
We say that we have "good days," we have "bad days" meaning that on good days we stutter less and on bad days we stutter more. So, we go thinking, "Okay, today I stuttered like 50%. Tomorrow I'll try to stutter 40%. And then 30, 20, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!" And then a stressful or hard situation happens and I stutter like crazy in every single phrase.
So, this whole concept of stuttering less is an illusion. I can be 99.9 % fluent. But if I’m not feeling I’m in control stuttering is still there, it stays intact.
Getting free from stuttering is not about stuttering less. It’s about feeling more in control.
And you might ask, what’s the difference between feeling in control and stuttering less? What's the point? What’s the difference?
You see, "control" doesn’t mean fluency. It’s not like, "I want to be in control! I want to say it fluently!" Control means that you decide, you choose, you lead, you feel truly present.
For example, intentional stuttering - you stutter, but you stutter on your terms. You choose, you decide, you set the terms on which you stutter. You’re in control! Or while using the training speech you also decide, you choose, you lead.
And yes, when you use the training speech the point is that you don’t stutter, you say it fluently. But the key element, the key ingredient here is feeling in control, feeling that you set the terms on which you say it. Not the fluency element.
I wish I knew that back in the day when I was trying to stutter less.
Reading out loud, breathing exercises, meditation, talking to the mirror. I did all that back in the day and these are awesome.
But guess what is missing?
The interaction is missing!
So, if you’re doing those - reading out loud, talking to the mirror - I’m not saying you stop. These are awesome but I want you to think about the next step, the next level because speaking is interaction. We want to bring relaxation into the actual speaking, it’s not the relaxation before it. No, the very act of speaking should be relaxing.
Speaking should be the source of relaxation.
How do we do that? It all comes down to some tools, to some techniques, stuttering techniques. The main goal of stuttering techniques is to bring some anchors to our speaking so that we could feel more structure. So that we could feel more in control.
I personally use the hand stuttering technique. That’s the technique I use myself and I teach my students. That’s the technique that helps us align all the processes that happen when you speak.
Honestly, back in the day, I didn’t quite see the difference between the speaking exercises that we’re doing at home and the stuttering techniques that we use while we’re speaking. I wish I knew that difference before!
It took me 10 long years between learning about the speech program I wanted to participate in and actually going for it.
I learned everything about it. I loved the idea of the hand stuttering technique. I tried it, I liked it. Yet, it took me ten whole years! Because the first reaction I had was, "I know the technique, I can do it myself!"
And it’s also an illusion because this DIY do-it-yourself concept comes down to practicing with yourself something which is not quite the technique that you want to learn. And then trying to take it out of the pocket and use it in "hard" situations.
But there is a huge gap between practicing with yourself, doing it yourself, and trying to use that technique in "hard" situations - a huge distance. It’s like trying to jump from one floor to the next floor instead of going up the staircase.
You want to develop the training speech and most importantly you want to consistently create speaking experiences where you actually use the training speech.
Where you choose, you decide, you lead, you feel you’re in control. Where you set the terms on which you speak.
That’s what we dread and that’s what we skip in the DYI (do-it-yourself) mode.
When I finally got to the speech program, I also discovered that the technique I was trying to apply was quite different from the actual technique we learned in the program.
I wish I knew that before, it could save me those ten precious years.
When I finally took the speech program, the first reaction I had was, "Whoa, whoa whoa! That’s not me!"
All those relaxation exercises, slower phase, using hand to synchronize our speaking with moving our fingers. All that seemed so weird!
I literally saw some other guys in the program quitting on the first day saying, "This is crazy, I just want to speak normally. That’s not me!"
And I can get it, I totally get it. I felt this way. I oftentimes feel this way to this day. But I guess it was Albert Einstein who said that
"It’s insane to do the same thing and expect a different result."
Yet, that’s what we’re doing. We are trying to be fluent, we’re trying to say it fluently, we’re trying to say it fluently getting the same result. Tring over and over again, doing the same thing.
So, we really need to make a choice - who is that "me?" The person who doesn’t want to change or the person who wants to bring change. And if you want to bring change then we want to accept, we want to admit, we want to acknowledge (and that's a huge topic of acceptance here) that we are already weird, that’s the way we’re wired.
It’s not that this weird training speech makes us weird. No! It just reveals to the world, it opens up that we’re weird. This whole topic of acceptance is all about opening up and saying, "Yes, I’m weird!"
And there is nothing to be ashamed of!
So, when we say, "that’s not me" in fact we’re running away from ourselves, we’re hiding from ourselves. We’re not accepting ourselves and our desire to change. When we say, "that’s not me" in fact we’re closing the door, we’re not giving ourselves a chance to change. And just the opposite - open use of the training speech opens the door for such change.
When we’re working on our speech we oftentimes focus on fluency. But I found that the most important exercise we’re doing over and over again is disclosure.
That’s the exercise to open up and to be real you. And yes, when you’re openly using the training speech you’re disclosing not only your stuttering but also your desire to change. And both stuttering and your desire to change are not something to be ashamed of. It's something to be proud of.
You should be proud of your desire to change.
I know this is hard, this is uncomfortable. But I know for sure that this openness when there is nothing to hide - you’re proud of yourself, you’re active, open, and positive about speaking interaction and yourself - that’s what brings real, true freedom.
I wish I knew that back in the day when I was in my speech therapy not being a very good student. Yes, I was ashamed big time of the training speech and it took me a while to realize this major truth about openness, shame, and what really makes us truly free.
People oftentimes listen to me talking about this openness, about using the training speech, and they go saying, "Yeah, that’s all great. But what do you think about this technique? Maybe this technique is better than that one? Maybe we should use belly breathing, not coastal breathing?" And so on and so forth.
You see, the truth is all the techniques are out there you can find any technique.
But "IT," the technique, doesn’t work without YOU.
Many people say, "I tried that technique, I tried this technique, it didn’t work. This helped me a little but still didn’t work." And we’re hopping from one technique to the other trying to find some other magic technique.
You can get to your freedom from stuttering using absolutely different techniques.
It’s not about the technique so much. It’s about you actually going that path, that journey step by step. And this going consists of creating positive speaking experiences. And when I say creating positive speaking experiences the keyword here is "creating." Not "positive speaking experiences" as we might think. It's crucial that you decide, you choose, you lead, you speak on your own terms.
This creating doesn’t come down to only creating speaking experiences. It’s also creating a new feeling attached to the act of speaking. As a big ripple effect, you feel that you are creating your life. You feel that you’re not drifting in the default mode.
I wish I knew that back in the day when I was also quite a bad student not quite trusting the technique, not quite trusting myself. And not quite giving myself enough time to actually go that journey step by step.
I wish my parents knew something about stuttering. I love my parents, they are awesome. But back in the day when I was a kid, they had no clue about stuttering, what to do with stuttering, how to react to stuttering, how to deal with it.
The seed of stuttering is the way we’re wired, the predisposition, but then the stuttering grows as the muscle and emotional memory accumulates.
So, parents want to have clarity about how to bring security and support to the child’s speaking on the one hand, and not build the shame and guilt and unrealistic expectations on the other hand.
The faster, the earlier they have this clarity, the easier it is to deal with stuttering as it starts to develop.
I personally see stuttering as a big gift for myself. I learned a lot, I developed a lot on this path. Helping people who stutter became the central theme of what I’m doing these days.
Yet, I totally understand that it doesn’t necessarily feel like a gift for many other people. I wish parents had more clarity on how to help their kids so that their kids could experience, explore and develop other gifts in their lives.
Thank you so much for tuning in! I'd love to know about your stuttering journey and your discoveries on this path!
If you are a person who stutters,
and you're not quite satisfied with how you feel at the moment of speaking interaction
I invite you to my free training where I share my view on getting free from stuttering.
And for more interaction,
join the Free From Stutter Facebook group.
Please, don't stay isolated! It's crucial to feel you’re part of the community!
If you have thoughts or observations, anything that comes to your mind - let me know in the comments!
Thank you so much! See you soon!