Michael and I both overcame our stuttering habits. We often talk about how we did it. According to him contractions in the throat wasn’t the only issue. His belief system played a big part too. His beliefs held him back. Often it’s not only the anxiety itself, but the fear of anxiety. And it was not only the stuttering, but also the fear of stuttering. To overcome his anxiety, which of course is a psychological issue, he learned a lot from the Stoics. Michael’s favorite philosopher is Epictetus. Epictetus writes:
Remember that foul words or blows in themselves are no outrage, but your judgement that they are so. So when any one makes you angry, know that it is your own thought that has angered you. Wherefore make it your endeavour not to let your impressions carry you away. For if once you gain time and delay, you will find it easier to control yourself. (Handbook 20, trans. Matheson)
“It dawned on me, that I could chose how I felt. That I could chose to accept my situation and tell myself that it would go away. That was something.”, Michael tells me.
Anxiety affects your stuttering habits; becoming fearless
Anxiety manifests itself in two ways. Psychological and physical. Worry, fear, and nervousness are the main parts. It affects your mind and your body and your behavior. It feeds on your doubt. Change your beliefs and you will succeed. There’s hope for you.
Anxiety feeds on your doubt.
Science validates Michael’s experience
I thought it would be exciting to look at, what science says about stuttering and anxiety. It’s very common to experience anxiety to some degree. Research show that people who stutter are generally socially anxious. They also have higher levels of anxiety (Craig, 2000). This increased anxiety is a normal reaction to the difficulties people like Michael has.
[…] the majority of people who stutter (and attend clinics to see
a speech pathologist) believe their anxiety plays an important
part in their stuttering[…] (Craig, 2003)
Anxiety affects people, when their speech block or when they repeat sounds. It leads to awkwardness, disappointment, and avoiding. With avoiding, we are back in the vicious circle. Next time you meet people, your anxiety will be higher. You will stutter and you disappoint yourself etc.
[…] research suggests that as one grows older the continued negative influence of a chronic speech disorder such as stuttering can be debilitating socially and psychologically. We argue
that this potentially negative influence throughout childhood
and adolescence and into adulthood can result in
raised trait anxiety levels. (Craig, 2003)
Anxiety is part of stuttering habits, but there are also other factors affecting your stutter.
[…] one should not be surprised that people
become concerned and distressed about a disability that
can be socially and psychologically limiting. Although
severity of stuttering most likely plays a major role in
determining higher levels of trait anxiety, it is also more
than likely that a complex interplay of factors predisposes
a person to develop high levels of anxiety. (Craig, 2003)
Getting through the day; step by step
“Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them.” — Epictetus, philosopher
“People don’t just get upset. They contribute to their upsetness.” — Albert Ellis, psychologist
While one tool may not be enough, it’s a step in the right direction.
Stuttering Habit Tool: Problem-solving
Case studyMichael went to a party with a lot of people he didn’t know. This made him anxious. He decided to use a problem-solving approach to the problem.The problem: I have to speak to a lot of people I don’t know. Then I will stutter.Solutions: Don’t go. Only talk to people I know. Isolate new people and then talk with them. Only nod and say “mmh” when in groups. Selected solution: Isolate new people and then talk with them.Action: Went to party and isolated new people. This reduced anxiety and also his stuttering. Sometimes he got into a group, which increased his anxiety and stuttering habit.Review and iterate: Work on isolating people and what you think about yourself.
All in all
Where to go from here?
To achieve normal conversations I suggest you begin reading: