Oftentimes people ask me, "Do you stutter?" or "Did you stutter?" or "Have you cured yourself completely?"
And I'm always a bit puzzled because to most of these questions there's no simple "yes" or "no" answer. So, if you really want to understand how stuttering works and how getting free from stuttering happens - stay tuned!
So, first I want us all to realize that people who stutter (you and I) have a predisposition for stuttering.
That's not stuttering yet but the way our brain is wired and the way it's synchronized with our speech mechanism creates certain discrepancy - they don't quite match. To put it simplistically, our brain processes speech a little bit faster than it should and there is no easy way how to put them back, align them back together.
And yes, on top of that we have tons of physical muscle memory, the speech impediments themselves. The stuttering itself. And on top of that, of course, we have the anxiety, the hesitation, the anticipation, hiding stuttering, and general avoidance behaviors. But the basis of it, the foundation for this new state, for this new automated speaking pattern is at the brain level.
And oftentimes we don't like recognizing this. We often say, "I have the fluent part of my speaking so everything is OK with me in general."
Well, to be honest, this is a bit of avoidance. We are running away from the fact that yes, we do have this predisposition. You and I are totally sane people so when the speech impediments happen they're happening not because we're just nervous or anxious, they're not coming out of the blue, they're coming out of this discrepancy that we have.
We also want to understand a little bit the concept of neuroplasticity, brain plasticity which means that in childhood our brain holds many options but then certain neural pathways become stronger due to our experiences that we have and the other neural pathways fade away.
That's why some people who had some stuttering in childhood grow out of it but some stay with stuttering for the rest of their lives and those experiences become automated, they become an automated speaking pattern, they become stuttering as we know it.
So we mostly focus on the speech impediments, the anxiety, we usually don't acknowledge, don't see the predisposition, the very ground, the insecurity in our fluent part of our speaking.
And we also don't acknowledge avoiding, we don't see avoiding and holding back in our life most of the time.
We say, "I stutter sometimes" or "I stutter when I'm nervous." And by saying this we also don't quite feel that we're avoiding a simple fact that I have a stutter. We're trying to say that, "No, no, I have that fluent part of my speaking, I'm kind of fluent but sometimes I stutter."
And that's running away again from this simple fact that the whole speaking pattern that we have is insecure.
The fluent part of our speaking is insecure.
So first of all again I want you to see all these layers of stuttering: the very very predisposition and basic ones and the very very top invisible ones which we don't quite acknowledge, we don't quite see.
And that might sound like bad news like stuttering is much bigger than we think. But the second thing, the good news is that coming back to this concept of neuroplasticity there is a lot we can do about stuttering.
We can work on restoring the inner structure of our speaking, restoring those neural pathways that we want to restore, or even on creating them.
And it's not simply "managing our stuttering." I often hear people say when they see a person who stutters or stuttered speaking fluently they say, "Yeah, but he's just, he's just managing his stutter well, he's controlling his stuttering."
And probably to a large extent, that's true because most stuttering techniques, most stuttering treatment methods target the stuttering, the stuttering part of our speaking. They are about block modification, easy onsets, they are about getting through speech impediments easier or faster.
What I'm preaching about is a bit different. I'm preaching about aiming at the fluent part of our speaking, bringing relaxation, effortless power, expression and security to the fluent part of our speaking. Feeling the relaxation and confidence and security in the fluent part of our speaking so that there is no ground, we eliminate the ground for the disfluencies to arise in the first place.
We target the whole speaking, the whole speaking pattern this way.
And I'm also preaching about the hand stuttering technique as a firm physical ground, physical foundation for these new neural pathways that we want to create.
We're aligning these two processes: how our brain processes speech and how our speech mechanism processes speech, so we align them together on a very physical ground just pressing on our thigh producing those sounds.
First, doing it one finger - one syllable but gradually increasing the pace to a pretty much regular pace. So all we do with this is just bringing that security, feeling that inner structure of our natural speaking way batter. So we gradually create new automated muscle and emotional memory removing that physical and emotional tension that is attached to the act of speaking, bringing there relaxation, effortless power, expression, and general confidence.
We attach confidence to the act of speaking.
Does it remove all of the predisposition from the way I'm wired, from the way my brain works?
Of course, not! The predisposition, some basic level ground still stays there and I feel it all the time. I do have a lot of speech impediments in my speaking. And my wife sometimes asks me, "How can you teach getting free from stuttering if I see you stutter sometimes?" And that's the whole point about getting free from stuttering! It's not about totally being fluent, it's about developing a certain feeling attached to the very act of speaking that in general, I am in control. Again, it's not about controlling the speech impediments but it's about the general feeling that "regular" people have about their speaking, that I can come back to my confident speaking anytime.
And getting free from stuttering begins with acknowledging that "Yes, I have a stutter!"
And the first way of such acknowledgment is just feeling good about yourself. Stuttering openly, stuttering easier, doing some self-talk with yourself that there is nothing to be ashamed of, you haven't done anything wrong. And I respect voluntary stuttering, intentional stuttering, open stuttering just feeling okay about yourself. I respect this route.
The second way of acknowledgment, accepting stuttering which I'm preaching about is building that more secure training speech which is relaxing, which is powerful, which is expressive where we use the hand technique as the firm physical ground for that new more secure speaking.
Every time I'm using the training speech I'm saying to the world, like to everyone that, "Yes, I have a stutter!" And I personally got used to this type of disclosure, I'm saying, "Yes, I have a stutter!" or "Yes, I'm in the speech therapy for stuttering, so I'm using the training speech, so my speaking might be a bit slower." Even though in fact maybe it's not slower at all, but initially, of course, it is when we're building the training speech.
I got used to this type of disclosure so much that every time people are asking me, "Do you stutter?" my first instinct is to say, "Yes, of course, I stutter! Yes, I'm in the speech therapy for stuttering! Yes, I'm using the training speech."
At the same time, I totally realize that from the medical perspective it's not quite stuttering anymore. From the medical perspective when there is no tension, physical tension attached to the act of speaking, there is no emotional tension about the glitches, the speech impediments if they do arise it's not stuttering in the medical terms anymore.
And in general, I really don't like thinking and talking in those medical terms measuring the number of speech impediments. True freedom from stuttering is when you are active, open and positive about the speaking interaction, when stuttering is not holding you back, when you're not thinking about stuttering at all, when you're truly present, you're inside the moment, when you can truly enjoy it and truly connect with the other person.
For me, using the training speech was that moment of disclosure, of acceptance, of acknowledging that "Yes, I have a stutter."
So, the question I have for you - what is your way to acknowledge that you stutter? What is your way to admit it and truly accept it?
Leave a comment! I'd love to know!