There are some experts or gurus who say, "I'll heal your stuttering in several days." There are some conventional speech language pathologists who say, "You can just learn something to ease your stuttering, but there's no effective treatment for it." I tend to disagree with both of them.
I believe there's one critical thing that is overlooked by both gurus and conventional speech therapy.
What is that? Let's find out!
I sometimes see comments in the Facebook groups and forums people make about how they bought a very expensive stuttering treatment promising total cure in several days. "We'll teach you how to pronounce and say it right or we need just to remove something in your mind, the obsession, we'll increase the confidence, etc. We know how to do it."
And people say, "At first it helped but then all my stuttering came back."
We always go thinking why people buy? And the answer is simple - we look for stuttering treatment. And it's pretty natural that we do.
We have a perception of stuttering as a medical category: "speech therapy," "speech language pathologist," etc. So we believe that like we go to the dentist to remove our pain now we go to someone to remove our speech impediments. Sounds reasonable.
But stuttering is by far a bigger thing than just speech impediments. Stuttering is an automated speaking pattern. And our speaking pattern consists of several layers: the very, very physical ones and the psychological, mental, emotional ones. Stuttering is even more than an automated speaking pattern, it's a state holding tons of our muscle and emotional memory. It's not in the past, it's all here, accumulated, and now we feel all of it in the present.
So, is it possible to change our automated speaking pattern in a matter of days? I don't think so. We can shake it, but our stuttering is like a tree with deep roots. You can shake it, but it stands the same. We come back to it.
There is one critical thing that is missing and that we want to add to our speaking exercises.
Let's take a look at these people: Ed Sheeran, Emily Blunt, Bruce Willis, Samuel Jackson, Nicole Kidman, Elvis Presley, and we can continue this list on and on. Please guess what is the common thing for all these people?
They all stuttered but they found a way to get free from stuttering. They regularly present themselves to the world, they regularly get to that feeling of interacting with the world. This is the one thing that is outside the conventional speech therapy and that is overlooked mostly by the "gurus and experts" who promise those cures in a matter of days.
I call this one thing the "performance."
Whether it's a presentation at work or an oral answer at school or just meeting friends to socialize, each time we perform, we present ourselves, we interact with the speaking environment. Our speaking more than anything else is that interaction with the speaking environment.
That's a big problem because we're scared to speak, we're scared to present ourself, we're scared to perform. And you might ask me, "How do I go performing if I stutter?"
I have one practical suggestion for you.
With this performance thing we want to move step by step building our confidence.
Before going speaking like in the Speaking Club I would suggest just record yourself, just say something looking at the camera. And find a place where you can upload it so that it becomes a form of interaction with someone who might watch your video. You can go to Free From Stutter Facebook group and post it there.
For that, you don't need a fancy camera, you don't need to look right, you don't need to speak much, you can just say "Hello everyone! Just hey there, have a good one!" It can be just a couple phrases, just one phrase it can be.
But this is a real performance. It's not quite real life. You don't feel the pressure of the real life because if you don't like the video you can shoot it again, but still when you think about uploading it, if you think that you address it to someone, you start to interact, you start to present yourself, you start to perform.
The cool thing about shooting a video is that once you start doing it you start thinking about all the layers of the speaking pattern: how you need to relax, how you need to put power to your speaking, how you want to be more expressive, more engaging with your speaking, what kind of message you want to pass there, what kind of emotions, what kind of positive emotions you want to share. And where do I get those positive emotions?
You come to speaking exercises with a different approach, it's not a stuttering treatment approach, not like, "Please remove my pain!" It's an approach where you take full responsibility for your speaking.
In Free From Start Program, for example, we first learn the hand stuttering technique where we learn to make our speaking more powerful, more expressive and get a very physical support to say it without speech impediments. But this is just the beginning of your journey to freedom from stuttering. Then you want to show up for a constant regular performance. And it becomes something that you really want to do, that you enjoy rather than something that you "have to do."
These are the types of speaking "performance" that we do in Free From Stutter Program:
- recording and posting your video, playing with some phrase, phrases or going for a short speech;
- video calls, speaking to other participants of the call while still learning the hand stuttering technique; it's a comfortable setting of the learning environment but here you already speak to someone else;
- emulating public speaking going live in Free From Stutter Facebook group with short speeches and discussions; the anxiety grows here big time;
- real-life phone calls asking for a particular book, how much does it cost, when do they close, etc., just some random phone calls; great way to practice "real-life;"
- short real-life situations like asking strangers directions, going to the supermarket asking where do they have a particular item in the store, etc., it can be just one phrase, but it's also the essence of the interaction - you need to start that interaction, to attract, to draw attention.
So, these are the types of performances, of speaking settings, speaking interactions that we want to create. And this is a step by step sequence, you want to start with the first one gradually building your confidence. And we want to go in parallel with improving our speaking skill, doing speaking exercises, restoring the inner structure of our speaking. Just "going for it" is not as bad as skydiving without a parachute, but again, we want to "skydive" with a parachute feeling the foundation, the support for our speaking.
There is a huge separate topic about our self-esteem, how do we get to the point where we actually present ourselves even though we're not perfect. There's a huge topic about how we deal with failure because we'll never get from the first go to the point where we satisfied with our speaking. If you stutter, that's okay. If you don't stutter, awesome. The most important thing - you begin to dismantle the core of the stuttering iceberg this way.
So that's the one thing which gurus and experts overlook and that's the one thing that is usually outside of the scope of the conventional therapy. And that's the thing you need to do. So when you feel that you are getting into this trap of stuttering treatment mindset, when you feel like you expect someone to come and take away your pain, get off that road.
Again, speaking exercises are awesome but you need to understand that most of that journey, most of that journey to freedom from stuttering are your steps of showing up and performing, presenting yourself.
What do you think? Please leave a comment, I'd love to know!