If you’re happy with stuttering and how you feel about speaking interaction then you have nothing to fix.
But if you’re a person who stutters and you're not quite satisfied with how you feel at the moment of speaking interaction then you've got something to fix. And it's a big question - what is it?
What can you fix? What are you trying to fix?
If you have a wrong answer - no matter how much effort you're putting you're not going to get far. You're going to keep rambling around the same spot. If you have this question answered right - everything finally falls into place.
So, let's do it!
The first strategy all people who stutter put on and try is the same. Every person who stutters tried it (and maybe that's what you still try to do). And since stuttering is something unwanted, something we don't want to have this first strategy is very simple.
So we explore different tricks and tools to increase fluency and to reduce stuttering. And maybe they help to reduce stuttering at some point, but in the long run, they just build stuttering stronger. We might believe that we have improved our fluency, but in fact, stuttering just goes deeper and if we could take it out to the sunlight and measure it we could easily find that it got even bigger.
The fundamental thing I want us to be clear about is that we (people who stutter) have a predisposition for stuttering.
There's a bit of discrepancy in how our brain processes speech, how we hear it, and how our articulators process speech.
And I like the analogy with a train that arrives at the station, people are moving closer getting ready to get on the train, but all of sudden not all doors open. What do people do? They rush to the closest open door. Maybe there's still enough time and everyone got on the train and no worries (we said it fluently), maybe there was a bit of a jam (we said it fluently but there was tension and insecurity), or maybe there's not enough time and not everyone got on the train because of the jam (we stuttered).
That's how our brain works. It's not good or bad. It's just what it is. It doesn't make us any "worse" or "less" compared to other people. There are so many talented and even genius people who stutter in every area of life - in politics, science, sports, art, etc.
But accepting the fact that we do have a predisposition is the first big step on your path to freedom from stuttering.
Once we accept the fact that we do have a predisposition for stuttering we make a big step in understanding stuttering. It gets us closer to being honest with ourselves and realizing that all our efforts to improve fluency and stutter less turn into one and only activity -
You might argue, "I'm not trying to hide stuttering!" But your body and brain do.
I remember when I was in high school a radio came to our school to interview a group of the best students. And I was one of them. So, when I came to the room and saw the big mic on the table, and heard the professional radio people introducing us in their "airtime way" where every second is precious... I got paralyzed. I got numb. I had a lot to say, but I couldn't (didn't) say a single word.
If you're a person who stutters you probably can relate. Such emotional situations happened to pretty much every person who stutters at some point.
At that point, our body and brain want us to be "normal" and "regular" and they perfectly know that I can't. So my body and brain refuse to play the game where they know I'm going to lose.
This hiding becomes the biggest part of stuttering. The invisible emotional part of stuttering. What I call the "invisible 90%" of stuttering.
So trying to be "regular" and fluent always ends up in stuttering. And stuttering is a clear sign that I'm trying to say it "regularly" and fluently.
"I'm trying" and "I can't" (I stutter). Two sides of the same coin. That's how stuttering works.
"So what do I do? Of course, I want to say it fluently!" you might say and ask.
Yes, our desire to say it "normally" and "regularly" and fluently is very natural and strong. But before we HAVE something new (long-lasting and confident fluency) we need to DO something new.
Remember the train and the jam because not all doors opened? Well, we want to open all the doors so that we could feel confident and sure. We want to align our brain with the speech mechanism. That's the purpose of the training speech. So that we could feel that speaking is relaxing, powerful and expressive.
"Awesome! Let's do it!" you might say.
But when it comes to the training speech we expect that it's like a pill we swallow in the therapy room secretly and then our real-life speaking changes all of a sudden. It doesn't work this way. It doesn't happen this way. The training speech is not about the therapy room. It's not about the classroom. It's about presenting yourself in real life in this new way.
"Oh," you might say, "But.. that's not ME! It sounds weird!"
Exactly. It sounds different.
But why is it not YOU?
What is that "YOU?"
You see before you HAVE something new (long-lasting fluency) you need to DO something new (reveal your training speech), and before you can DO something new you need to tap into BEING somebody new.
You need to tap into your new identity.
When it comes to stuttering and how to deal with stuttering there are only three identity options. And three strategies. There are variations, but they all fall into one of these three categories. So, I want you to think about it and choose yours.
1) I'm fluent. We can call it "I'm trying" to be fluent, or "I'm just trying to act normally" but in essence, it's trying to present yourself as a "regular" fluent person.
2) I stutter. It can be "I stutter and it's OK" or it can be a more apologetic feeling about stuttering.
No matter where the focus goes (to trying to be fluent or to embrace the fact of stuttering), ironically, even though these strategies seem to be the opposite, as I said, these are the two sides of the same coin: trying to be "regular" and feeling that I can't (I stutter, I'm different).
3) There's one more strategy in between "I'm fluent" and "I stutter." "I'm in the speech therapy/program for stuttering, so my speaking might be a little different. I'm not ashamed of my improvement effort, I'm proud of it!"
The other side of this coin is "I can." I can speak on my terms. I can open up and feel that I have nothing to hide.
Your identity is very much connected to your core beliefs. In our case, to your core beliefs about stuttering.
If you deeply feel that stuttering is bad and shameful (which is just a belief), then going to speech therapy and using the training speech also become shameful. We stay stuck in the "I'm fluent" identity.
If you believe that "Everything is fine with me in general, I just stutter sometimes. Sometimes I'm fluent, sometimes I get stuck on certain words. I don't know why." Well, you don't quite accept that you stutter. You don't quite accept that you have a predisposition, that you're wired this way. You're trying to be fluent, you're pretending to be fluent which goes together with "I can't" - stuttering.
So, it's not lack of effort or lack of stuttering techniques that are in your way. These core beliefs about stuttering and your stuttering identity are the major obstacles in your way. Lack of acceptance is the major obstacle. For example, in most cases, this lack of acceptance doesn't let you even get started with speech therapy in the first place.
I always say to my students that getting free from stuttering is a path of acceptance.
Oftentimes, by acceptance, we mean exclusively that "I stutter and that's OK." It is acceptance of course, but it's not necessarily the end of it. For me, it's just the beginning.
People oftentimes ask, "If it's OK to stutter then why would I want to fix or change anything?" Well, why don't we say that about any other activity? Like "I don't play the piano." Is it OK? Yeah, it is OK. Do I need to "fix it?" No, I don't need to fix it, I don't have to, but if I want to play the piano I can start doing it. I can take a lesson or two or twenty. I can buy a course or program. It's a choice. The same thing with stuttering. I can work on my speech or not.
When I go for speech therapy or program for stuttering 1) I accept that I stutter and that's OK, and 2) I accept that I want to bring change and that's OK too. When I start using the training in real-life openly I feel that I have nothing to hide, I can speak on my terms and enjoy it. That's why I like this way of accepting the best.
So, in conclusion, I want you to think about fixing not stuttering but fixing your identity and your core beliefs about stuttering.
A great way how you can get started is to fill in the strategy file that I use with my students. You can download it by clicking the button below.
Thank you so much for your attention! Talk to you soon!