Of course, there's something to genetics, neurology, and psychology, but all these are just vague concepts.
I want to talk about two direct causes of stuttering tension, stuttering anxiety, stuttering anticipation and stuttering state. Two real causes of stuttering actually.
We can clearly identify them. And we can affect them effectively. So, let's get started.
What happens when you touch a snail? It tenses up and locks up. Well, it says about stuttering pretty much everything. Because the same thing happens to our body when we stutter. We tense up and lock up.
Now, why is this all happening?
Speech impediments are neutral, they don't bear tension. So where is it coming from?
There are two reasons why they bear tension: 1) helplessness our body feels, and 2) the negative feeling we have about it.
It's a concentrated negative feeling about stuttering, speech impediments and speaking and then communication and then... Well, it gradually starts to affect all areas of our life.
Three things I suggest doing:
1) Write down how stuttering made you a better person
If you're struggling with this, take a look at these 10 facts that make you more positive about stuttering. It's just good food for thought.
2) Open up and engage
Join Free From Stutter Facebook group and make a post. You can just post about yourself or make a video. Shooting a video is a great exercise. It's pretty "safe" but at the same time, it feels very much like a real interaction when we have an intention to post it to the group.
3) Write down 10 things that you want to do but you're afraid of doing
Leave your comfort zone. It can be something that doesn't involve speaking at all. It's a great challenge for me for example to go and do two pull-ups when there are girls and masculine guys watching me. Those tough guys do 10 or 20 pull-ups and I know I must be looking stupid. But I want to go there and do it. And enjoy doing it because that's what I want.
So, we become more positive about ourselves, our speaking and even speech impediments. Awesome! But the tension doesn't go away. Why?
We say that stuttering is a concentrated negative feeling about speech impediments and we become more positive about them, why then the stuttering anxiety and tension don't disappear?
Well, our behavior is directed not only on a conscious mindset level. And to demonstrate that I suggest you image you're in the water and you see a shark in front of you.
How do you feel?
My instant reaction is to freeze. And I believe that's the reaction of most people. Before I got to my conscious "thinking" level my body has already given a very direct and fast response.
Same happens with our speaking. Before we even start speaking our body tensed up and we get into the stuttering state feeling stuttering anxiety and anticipation. It has become an automated muscle and emotional memory. It has become a very stable neural pattern.
So where this helplessness is coming from? Well, we don't put enough substance to our speaking. And I want to give three examples proving that.
1) SpeechEasy devices and other delayed auditory feedback devices and apps. They give feedback to our ear that we're a bit further along the way, that it takes a bit more time. So it feels that we're on the right track, in the right spot, that we're putting enough to our speaking. Yet, in fact, we don't of course.
2) Singing. We definitely feel we're putting enough to our speaking. We feel the rhythm, the melody, we are clearly guided to put enough substance to our speaking. Unless it's a fast singing or we don't utilize the diaphragm and just don't quite sing properly.
3) Performing. Actors, singers, and public speakers and other performers are allowed to be somebody else. They are allowed to express themselves. And every time we do that we get to the stressed syllables gaining support and putting confidence in our muscle and emotional memory.
Three things I suggest doing on this physical level to make sure we tap into that direct subconscious response of our body and put enough to our speaking:
1) Doing speaking exercises feeling the airflow
I suggest doing a couple of speaking exercises that aim at relaxing the vocal cords, giving us a feeling of confidence and developing the diaphragm. I also suggest playing with phrases to feel how we can start the phrase and say any phrase in one breathing out.
2) Using the hand stuttering technique
When it gets to real-life speaking and real-life anxiety all our preparation, all our speaking exercises, and the best techniques collapse.
So the hand stuttering technique provides us very physical support right at that moment when our body wants to tense up. This way we tap into this direct physical response our body is giving to the speaking situation. And we replace helplessness in this direct response to confidence and feeling that we're putting enough to our speaking.
It's simple math. If we use our training speech only 10% of our speaking and the other 90% we just let it go as it goes we instantly get back to our default speaking which bears insecure speaking with tension. We might even be fluent but it's still a very insecure speaking and speech impediments with tension may come up any time.
We want to make sure that we use the training speech on a consistent basis.
This way we profoundly create new neural patterns, upload a new feeling of confidence to our muscle and emotional memory. And eventually, we start feeling differently about the speech impediments.
We start feeling OK with them. And it's not only the mindset game, now our body is OK with them. Our body doesn't see any danger in those speech impediments. Like regular people. We have the same neurology, psychology, genetics, and everything, but a different feeling about the speech impediments. A totally different feeling about speaking.
So, the key takeaways from this article: 1) it's OK to stutter, 2) there's a lot we can do about stuttering. For me, "it's OK to stutter" means self-acceptance which in turn means taking responsibility for your life and your speaking. It's not the end of the road, it's just the beginning of it.
Would love to hear your comments. Do you see these two causes of stuttering in yourself? How do you deal with them? Please share how you reduce or eliminate stuttering tension and anxiety.