I realized that the rock climber and the stutterer have lots in common. Both face fear and anxiety. If they let it get to them, they won’t succeed in their achieving.
You might have moments along the way where your body is scared, but you know that you can [do it]. To me it takes rationale to look at it from the outside and say, ‘I’m scared, but I’m still holding on. I’m still fine. – Alex Honnold, pro climber
I started my stuttering habit when my mother left me to work in Germany for a year. I was left with my grandparents because my mother was angry with my father. He didn’t know until recently, that I was raised by my grandparents that year. Talk about anxiety for losing my mom!
Growing up was difficult because the kids didn’t understand what I was saying. I never had many friends. If that’s because of my personality as an INFP (Myers-Briggs), I don’t know, but growing up was difficult.
There were times when I nodded instead of spoke when I had a conversation. I almost learned sign language to communicate with others. It was easier not to open my mouth; then I wouldn’t stutter.
Anxiety was a big deal for me. Every time there was a presentation I would freeze and count down till it was my turn. I had difficulties speaking to people and I had a really hard time getting a girlfriend because I felt that I didn’t have anything to give; that I wasn’t worth it. In the end, I found a girlfriend who accepted me for who I am and was, and we got married.
I felt isolated. I felt I was the only one in the entire world who stuttered. That was very depressing. It wasn’t until I moved to another city I realized that other people also stuttered. I made a lot of new friends at the speech therapy center. But in the end, the center couldn’t help me. I could only help myself.
Of course, I wish I didn’t stutter, but it also gave me perseverance, mental strength, and great friends. I am grateful and proud because I learned myself how to overcome stuttering and anxiety. But there are a few things I wish I’d known when I was younger.
Things I wish I’d known about stuttering
Here I present the 7 things I wish I’d known years ago. They may teach you a thing or two.
1. It’s a habit – change your mindset
Your stuttering is a habit. If you change your habit, then you change your talk. Years later at 24 I woke up one day and realized that I didn’t stutter in every single conversation I had. You must learn to filter out different data and focus on things that matter. Take for instance
Take The ladder of inference by Argyris and Schön. It’s about how humans make assumptions. A huge part of our assumptions is that we sort out data or information that doesn’t fit into our current assumptions about our selves. I wish I’d known that earlier, so I could make new assumptions when I was 16 years old. Luckily I figured it out on my own. I had to change my mindset towards stuttering; that I had to change how to think about stuttering and myself. It was years later that I learned about
I wish I’d known earlier that stuttering can be seen as a habit, so I could make new assumptions when I was 16 years old. Luckily I figured it out on my own. I had to change my mindset towards stuttering; that I had to change how to think about stuttering and myself. It was years later that I learned about The ladder of inference.
The main part of stuttering as a habit is that habits are subject to change.
A huge motivation for stutterers to continue stuttering is the anticipation of fear. There’s resistance to change the stutter, because of who you will become if you don’t stutter. That’s the fear of success.
Stuttering as a habit is about the perception of stuttering. It’s a metaphor for how you speak, but it’s a metaphor with an inbuilt change factor because you can alter a habit.
2. Lot’s of people stutter
Believe it or not. I didn’t know that 1 percent of the entire world population stutter. As of writing that’s around 75 million people. Exactly because there’s 1 percent it’s easy so believe that you’re the only one who stutter. Especially when some stutterers hide their stutter in different ways and situations.
The best way so experience relief from isolation is to search the internet, Facebook or meet other stutterers at your local speech therapy center.
It is really important to know, that you’re not the only one, who stutter. If you believe you’re the only one, then you feel isolated and have a tendency to give up. And you’re prone to depression and worse.
3. It’s a bigger deal for you than it is to other people
Most people are so self-occupied that they don’t give a shit about how you talk. They have their own problems and worries. It’s not that they don’t care about you as a person. It’s just that when they leave the conversation you were engaged in, they ruminate about their bank account, job, and life in general.
But for you who stutter, it’s different. Most of your thinking spins around your stuttering and all the ways you think it inhibits you from doing different things. When the other person leaves the conversation, you think about what they think of you, what they think of your speech, whether or not they think you’re stupid and a billion other things.
The sad fact is: They don’t care about how you talk.
The great fact is: They don’t care about how you talk.
4. Learn self-regulation in one area; apply it to other areas
Children who cannot effectively regulate anxiety or discouragement tend to move away from, rather than engage in, challenging learning activities. Conversely, when children regulate uncomfortable emotions, they can relax and focus on learning cognitive skills. Similarly, children experience better emotional regulation when they replace thoughts like “I’m not good at this” with thoughts like “This is difficult, but I can do it if I keep trying.” Regulating anxiety and thinking helps children persist in challenging activities, which increases their opportunities to practice the skills required for an activity. Source.
5. Use fear on itself
Never let your stuttering get in your way for all your dreams. Become the best at what you do stuttering or not. Let your stuttering journey be a force that helps you overcome obstacles. You have handled your stuttering up until now. That shows persistence and grit.
Use the fear to guide you. To do what you fear most because that’s what you got to do. And the experience from doing what you fear the most will give you persistence and grit. Use that grit to get what you want in life.
And one day you realize it’s time to face stuttering and anxiety itself. That day you will overcome anxiety and stuttering, and that day you become invincible. Nothing can stop you.
6. Accept and conquer
Rock climbers experience anxiety and fear too. Part of they success is to face the anxiety and accept it for what it is. An instinct to rescue you from sabertooth tigers and bears.
Psychologist Peter A. Levine, Ph. D. has studied fear and trauma for more than three decades. According to Levine there are three stages in any traumatic experience. Experiences which every stutterer on the planet has gone through, whether it’s panic attack at presentation, blocking while talking to someone, or complete freeze with your mind going blank.
- The event where something is happening or about to happen. It could be that you was shopping and somebody asks you a question.
- The shock which is absorbed in your mind leads to the response.
- The response takes up to three forms: fight, flight, or freeze. Fight or flight both confronts the threat of expectation about talking. Either you pick up the fight and stutter through the words, or you mumble something and quickly escape. Both responses discharge accumulated energy from the body. But the freeze response is where your mind and body are handcuffed and you can’t move or say anything.
The best way to overcome anxiety is to remember that there are times where you speak fluently. You must trust your ability and speak your mind; answer those questions and overcome your anxiety.
7. Stop negative self-talk
It’s also a great idea to empty your mind for negative mental dialogue. You know the dialogue where you hit yourself in the head for various things. “I can’t do this. I can never speak right. Who understands me anyway?” None of the negative mental dialogue helps you achieve fluency. I found that these quotes helped me.
You have to stop the negative self-talk before it activates your fear and anxiety in any given situation.
You have to focus on the task in front of you, not on the outcome. Do your best right now and stop thinking.
I want you to explore yourself
What I want you to do is to explore yourself. Don’t settle for what you can do know. Expand your abilities and learn where your weaknesses and strengths are. Yeah you might have a hard time speaking. So what? 75 million people have and I used to. I explored myself and my mind and what I was capable of. The outcome is that I don’t stutter anymore. I continue to explore myself and expand my capabilities. Who knows what I can do? Who knows what YOU can do?