Is stuttering (stammering) curable?
Henry Ford once said something like "if you believe you can or you believe you can’t - in both cases you’re right." It's the same situation with stuttering. If you believe that it’s not curable (maybe based on your own experience) then I would leave you in this belief. It’s true for you.
But if you believe there must be another way that leads you to that emotional state of freedom where you can speak on your terms and truly enjoy speaking interaction - then stay with me!
If you think about it, you can name quite a few well-known people who stutter and who let's call it "overcame stuttering" and made their way to the top in what they do whether it's acting (Emily Blunt, James Earl Jones, Bruce Willis), sports (Tiger Woods), singing (Ed Sheeran), performing (Rowan Atkinson, Steve Harvey), and even politics (Joe Biden).
So, as a person who stutters you might think, "How can I do that?"
The first thing that usually comes to our mind is the tools. People usually expect that the cure is all about choosing the right tools. The right stuttering technique. The magic breathing or speaking exercise. The mindset shift shakes you to the core.
Give me the right one!
We try it -----> it didn’t work -----> give me the next one! Didn’t work - the next one. Worked a little bit, good stuff, but not what I want - the next one. It’s endless. At the same time, we say to ourselves, "Nothing is working... We can manage it to some extent, but it’s not curable."
Here I want to notice that in the Free From Stutter Facebook group that I run we have thousands of people and many of them share their stories and their tools. Some of them use different tools (like not even knowing about the tools that others use) reaching the same great results!
So, getting free from stuttering, overcoming stuttering, no matter how you call your goal with stuttering - it's not so much about the tools.
The real change is about the gap between practicing at home and feeling the same in real-life everyday interactions.
This whole division between curable and not curable is all about how clear you are about closing this gap between learning the tools and real life.
So, I’ll share with you three activities, three skills, if you would, that you want to master. If you do those consistently they will inevitably get you to the result that you want which is being able to use those techniques, those tools in real life so that you can feel that you can speak on your terms, you can feel that there is no anxiety, there is no pressure. You can be authentic, you can be present, and you can truly enjoy speaking interaction.
And if you’re not doing those three activities, if you’re not mastering those three skills, unfortunately, no matter how brilliant or how perfect your technique or tool is, you’re not getting any closer. So, the three activities.
I call the first one "performance." It’s basically practicing your techniques or any other tools that you’ve chosen in a public speaking environment.
For example, with my students, we have a small group where they do their assignments. And it’s already a bit of a public speaking environment. Somebody can watch you live. So even though it’s a very safe environment, you still feel that little bit of pressure.
We also have a bigger group - the Free From Stutter Facebook group where potentially thousands of people can watch your presentation. And it’s a
little scarier, but still, it’s a very safe environment. It’s a private group for people who stutter. So, if you’re not a member, you can join the group and you can practice your tools (whatever they are) in a very safe environment.
We have a Speaking Club in the group, where we get together once in a while and it’s a real group environment.
So, there are different ways how you can do that but you want to make sure that you have some secure space that is secure on the one
hand but it feels like a public speaking environment on the other hand.
What’s so amazing about this performance feeling is that you’re getting on stage, the mic is yours, and you practice your tools. But you also feel the most important thing which is that only you set the terms for how you speak. No one is pushing you, no one is pressing you. You truly decide.
It can be a tiny little introduction, just a couple of phrases. It can be a longer speaking on a topic for several minutes. It doesn’t matter, you can regulate that and choose whatever you like. And you can evolve from simple introductions to more complex presentations but you want to make sure that you’re consistently
getting to this feeling that this is your mic, and you choose, you decide.
It’s also a great way to explore the tools. It's not an exam (the feeling we often have in real-life settings), so you can see how the tool is working - what’s working, what’s not working. And yes, it’s a great test for your tools too! If you don’t like them you won’t use them.
The next activity that you want to master is disclosure.
Disclosure can be different. By disclosure, I personally don’t quite mean simply disclosure of stuttering or the fact that you’re a person who stutters. With my students, we don’t say, “I’m a person who stutters.” Instead, we say, “I’m in a speech program for stuttering so my speaking might be different or it might be a little slower.”
Maybe it’s not slower or maybe it's not so different. But this way, we want to make sure we give ourselves permission (you give yourself permission) to use the tools in real-life settings. To use those tools with your close friend, with your family member, with your co-workers, with your boss, in a new environment - everywhere you’re able to easily disclose. It’s not a big deal for you. And yes, once you’ve mastered this skill, you don’t need to disclose anymore because you’re actually using the tools. They become the core and central part of your everyday speaking.
And if you’re not able to disclose, if you haven’t disclosed, if you’re not disclosing, if it feels like “No way! I cannot do it!” then, guess what? You automatically shift to trying to be regular, trying to be normal, trying to be like everyone else, trying to be fluent. You’re instantly shifting to the identity where you don’t belong. And this identity shift is one of the core things you want to think about.
Once you have the tools, once you’re set on this path of learning and applying the tools in real life, you’re no longer a person who stutters. You’re no longer a fluent person. Maybe that’s what or who you are trying to be, you are trying to pretend, you're trying to present yourself as a regular fluent person. You set on a middle path, not a fluent person, not a person who stutters, but a person who’s learning, exploring, and using, and applying those tools in real life.
And yes, you accept the fact that you stutter this way, you disclose this fact this way. But ironically, maybe you never stutter this way.
The third skill you want to master, the third activity you want to do is proactively creating real life, everyday speaking interactions, and recording yourself.
The magic of the recording is that you’re bringing practice mode, this learning, and exploration into real life. And real-life interaction becomes not a test, not an exam. It's not “I have to be fluent” anymore. It becomes more like, “Okay, what do I feel at that point?" You start exploring how you can bring that great feeling from your practice in a therapy room or at home, wherever it is for you, to that real-life moment of time pressure and emotional pressure. So, we want to feel the same, exactly the same way in real-life settings.
And if you’re not doing those three activities, if you’re not mastering those, if you feel like, “Oh, why would I do it? I practice at home! Please, get in my subconscious mind and change something there! I don’t want to do that performance, that disclosure, those recordings. You know, I can speak, I know how to speak! Do I really need that stupid stuff?”
So, if it feels this way for you, then in this current state, let’s be honest...
there is no cure for you right now.
And yes, I can get it. When we think about stuttering treatment it feels like we're getting to a doctor (in this case, a speech therapist) and I’m expecting a pill, a medicine. Maybe there’s a device or an app that I could use.
I have a separate video about medications, apps, and devices and why, ideally, we don’t want to give away our power to those things.
You might say, “Yeah, okay. Then give me that magic technique or give me that magic breathing exercise or something!”
Quite a few speech therapists live in this paradigm of “I’m giving you the tools. Now go! Apply those tools!” Parents, who have kids who stutter also sometimes think the same way, "What should I expect from a therapist? The tools that my kid will apply!" And yes, we (people who stutter) also think in these terms.
For example, you can take a look at a beautiful TEDx talk by Megan Washington. She’s a singer who stutters. And she says, “I know the tools, I even apply them sometimes.” And you can't imagine how many people who stutter I've seen, I’ve met who have the same idea like, “I learned the tools so I know them! I can apply them sometimes.”
And this "sometimes" is killing me because what’s the point of learning the tools if you’re not going to apply them every day in every speaking interaction? What's the point if you’re not clear how those tools become your everyday speaking?
So, this is a real question for you. Are you ready to learn, to master those three activities I told you about? Performance, disclosure, and proactively creating and recording real-life interactions. Are you ready to go on this path from learning those tools and techniques to actually feeling you’re able to speak in your real-life this new way? And to finally feel in your real-life interactions that speaking is relaxing, it’s effortless, it's expressive. Are you ready for that?
You might be very pumped up, optimistic, and motivated saying, "Yeah, come on! I'll do it!" But...
But you give yourself a thought for more than five seconds (a good reminder about Mel Robbins and her "five-second rule"), if you think about it for more than five seconds, your fear, a lot of fear, is going to kick in and it will find a million reasons why it's not right, it's not a good idea, you're not ready, etc. It will find a way to make sure you're staying stuck where you are. Because fear protects you. It wants you to stay safe.
Yet, staying safe in that bubble, in that comfort zone, in that cage is not safe at all. It's dangerous. That's what makes stuttering so powerful. This longing for safety and protection, that's what lets stuttering rule our life.
And yes, as I said we are all looking for some tools and they do matter. But it's like 10%. We're finding the tool and it's not a magic pill. It's more like a huge, nice doorway. And you open it expecting like, "What is there? What is there?"
And there is just a path, and a sign which says "Go there!"
And you go like, "Really? Where is the miracle? Where's the cure? No, no, no!" You close the door, you go to another one, you open that one and there is a path and a sign, "Go there!" And we can keep closing those doors and look for another tool, another thing that can change our speaking. But the truth is what makes stuttering curable is that process, it's that path that you need to go through, go along from learning the tools to actually applying them easily in real life.
And there are three major things that are stopping you from actually going that path.
The first thing that is stopping us from going on that path is disbelief in the process. Like I'm giving you the bricks and I say, "Okay, let's lay the bricks and build this beautiful building together." And you look at the bricks, you look at the building. You say, "The bricks? The building? No way! Give me the building!" We don't believe how it can be that simple like, "I'm just putting the bricks together?" Yeah! And you create that building.
All people who I worked with, they're amazed at how simple the tools are. For example, I'm teaching the hand stuttering technique. So when we recognize this fact how simple that is, this protection mechanism works like, "No way! It cannot be that simple. It should be complicated!" Our brain wants to protect us and keep us in the box of our comfort zone. So we tend to overcomplicate things because if it's that simple then... it's all about me doing that work and exposing myself!
The second thing that is stopping us from going this path is disbelief in ourselves which is basically fear. So you imagine how you need to present in front of other people, how you need to go live and everyone will see you... No way! You imagine that you'll need to disclose. No way! You need to approach strangers and record yourself. No way! We feel deep inside that we simply cannot handle it. And you might think that you're the only one who feels this way, but you're not alone. Every person who stutters feels the same way. It feels absolutely impossible. It feels like I'm simply going to die...
A great analogy, a great example where you can experience the same feeling is a cold shower. And I'm preaching about cold showers, I'm asking my students to do it and I tell them how to do it step by step. It's amazing how you can proceed on this path. You start with just your feet, then you move on to your ankles and to your knees. And that's the moment where you feel the threshold, you feel the limit, it feels so cold, it feels impossible to go any further. So what do you do? You stop there. And that's OK, that's your limit now.
But as you do cold showers a bit longer, as you proceed on this path for some time and get higher to your thighs, your core, and finally to your head and whole body then when you get back to your knees you realize that you feel nothing about the knees anymore. Compared to your whole body your knees feel like a breeze.
The same goes for speaking and creating speaking interactions. The first live presentation, a tiny short introduction, a couple of phrases - it feels like such a big deal! The first disclosure feels like my heart is going to jump out of my chest. The first approach to strangers feels like I'm going to die. But once you've done it and you don't die, once you've done it several times, you go to the next level and you look back at those initial interactions, those initial things that seemed totally impossible and now you don't feel anything about those things anymore.
So, those internal invisible walls are very real. Fear makes those walls very real.
When you're in a dark room and you think about the monster - it's going to be there as long as the room is dark. The monster is going to be very real for you as long as you don't turn on the light and see that there's nobody there.
The third thing that is stopping us, that is standing on this path from learning the tools to actually using them freely and easily in real life is your ego.
And that's maybe the biggest one. Because you can accept everything but then you go like, "Who are you to teach me how to speak? I know how to speak! I can speak! Just get into my subconscious and fix it!" No, there is no cure. And I cannot fix anything in your mind, in your brain. We tend to be a little of perfectionists. Looking for that perfect technique or perfect tool. It simply doesn't exist.
And yes, we tend to overcomplicate things. "Give me something magical! It cannot be that simple!" Yes, the process is very simple. Just practice consistently those three activities that I gave you. And I guarantee you're going to get the end result that you want.
The process is simple but I'm not saying it's easy. Disbelief in the process, your fear, and your ego - these are very powerful. More powerful than you think. Letting go of those can be a truly life-changing experience.
Thank you so much for paying attention! Let me know what you think! Is stuttering (stammering) curable? What is your experience? How are you closing the gap between your home practice and real-life time pressure?
If you have any other thoughts or observations, or anything that comes to your mind - let me know in the comments!
And I'll see you soon!
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 video training - 4 Steps To Freedom 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!
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