An excerpt from the book Self-Therapy for the Stutterer
By Malcolm Fraser
The third therapy guideline calls for you to adopt an attitude of being willing to openly admit and not hide the fact that you are a stutterer.1 You may ask why you should do that when you are trying to not be one.
In order to make headway, it is advisable that you first adopt an attitude of being willing to talk frankly to others about your problem. By doing so, you will be lessening the fear of difficulty you have when talking.
As has been explained, if you are like most stutterers, you are ashamed of the fact that you stutter. As a result you try to keep others from finding out that you are a stutterer. This feeling of shame tends to build up a fear of having difficulty when you are called on to speak at certain times and under certain circumstances.2
This fear of difficulty usually builds up tension or tightness in your speech organs which aggravates your trouble. Unfortunately, one’s speaking apparatus operates in such a delicate, complex and complicated manner that it is most difficult for it to operate under tension. So the frequency and severity of your difficulty is usually in proportion to the amount of fear and tension you have.3
To combat fear and tension — your worst enemies4 — it is necessary to torpedo a lot of your shame and sensitivity. The amount of energy a stutterer may spend in hiding his disorder can be tremendous. Some devise intricate strategies of avoidance and disguise or may even assume some kind of masquerade in the hope, usually a vain one, that the listener won’t recognize them as a stutterer. This burden just makes communication more difficult.5
Where does all that anxiety and worry get you? Nowhere. It only makes matters worse since it just builds up more fear and tension. So what can or should be done about it? Even if you are not obsessed with hiding the fact that you stutter, it will be helpful to get rid of what worry you do have on this point.
The answer is simple but not easy. You can counteract a lot of that worry and concern by just telling people that you are a stutterer and stop pretending that you are a normal speaker. You should not shirk this assignment. Make occasions to freely admit to those with whom you associate and with whom you normally talk that you are a stutterer and be willing to discuss it with anyone.6,7,8
This will take courage on your part, but it needs to be done to reduce your sensitivity.9 Changing the mental approach toward your problem cannot be done easily and quickly, but the more you work at it, the more you can accomplish. It will pay off to do so. It is no disgrace to be a stutterer anyway. You may think so, but you are wrong if you do. Please don’t allow your feelings to defeat your efforts.
Start on this assignment by talking with people you are close to and then later with strangers with whom you have conversation. As one person expressed it, “I’m letting the cat out of the bag right away. I’m telling him I’m a stutterer.
I used to try to hide this because my greatest fear was having to reveal myself when I met someone. This way, I take the fear out of the situation right away.”
Another remarked “It took me twenty years before I would admit to myself, or anyone, that I stuttered. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was different. Yet that is precisely what I needed to do in order to take the first step toward forging a new and more fulfilling identity.”
For example, you might say to a friend something to the effect that “you know that I am a stutterer and frankly I have been ashamed to admit it. I need to be more open about my problem and may need your help.” Any real friend will appreciate your frankness and will feel closer to you as a result. Besides you will find that people are interested in stuttering. Teach them about it.
Complying with this assignment will reduce your tension, and it will help you accept your stuttering as a problem with which you can cope with less shame and embarrassment.10 This can make a world of difference and enable you to adopt a more healthy, wholesome and objective attitude toward your difficulty, something all stutterers need so badly.
You may think it will hurt your pride to frankly tell people that you are a stutterer, but it is more likely that you will be proud of yourself for doing it. Besides there is no use spending your life pretending.11
Of course you can’t accomplish this goal in a day or two. It will take time to make contact with people you know and carry out this recommendation. No matter how long it takes, it will help reduce your tension and fear if you cultivate an attitude of being willing to talk about your stuttering.11
Can you do so? As the fellow said “it ain’t easy”—and that’s putting it mildly. But this is a most beneficial step toward relieving you of much of your fear and tension.
When working on this third rule, it is suggested that you be willing to try experimenting with stuttering voluntarily. Stutterers can usually get some relief from fear and tension by doing this. If you deliberately stutter, you are directly attacking the tension which is aggravating your problem by voluntarily doing that which you dread.12
Voluntary stuttering, sometimes called fake or pseudo stuttering, should take the form of easy, simple repetitions or short prolongations of the first sound or syllable of a word or the word itself. It should only be done on non-feared words in a calm and relaxed manner.
Do not imitate your own pattern of stuttering but stutter smoothly and easily in a different way.13,14 Later you will be asked to study and learn about your own pattern, but it is better to stutter in an easy and relaxed way when doing it purposely.
Whatever type of easy stuttering you decide to use, you must be sure to keep it entirely voluntary. It is not advisable to let it get out of control and become involuntary. Experiment by talking slowly and deliberately with easy repetitions or prolongations that differ from your usual pattern. It will give you a sense of self-mastery when you can control the uncontrollable.
Start when alone by reading aloud and calmly, making easy repetitions or prolongations. Then later, work it into conversations with others. Make up assignments for yourself in which you are required to stutter voluntarily.15 For instance, go into a store and ask the clerk the cost of different items, faking blocks on some words. Make the blocks easy but obvious. Maintain good eye contact while stuttering and be sure to purposely stutter only on words you do not fear.
Voluntary stuttering can help eliminate some of your shame and embarrassment.16 The more you can follow through and practice doing this, the easier it will become. Aim toward the goal of being willing to stutter without becoming emotionally involved.17
Work at it for several reasons. It is one way of admitting that you are a stutterer. It is also a way of finding out how people react to stuttering and will help you realize that they are usually kind and tolerant. And it will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you have the courage to tackle your problem in an obvious way.18
It is also helpful if you inject a little humor or even are willing to joke about your stuttering.19
Doing this also helps reduce sensitivity. For instance, occasionally you might advertise the fact that you are a stutterer or make some joking remark about your stuttering20—such as explaining that if you didn’t talk you wouldn’t stutter—or announce “there may be a brief intermission due to technical difficulties.” These remarks aren’t very funny, are they? Probably not to you as a stutterer, but they may be to others.
It is helpful to develop a sense of humor about your difficulty.21 At the same time, do not go overboard and laughingly and fraudently pretend that your stuttering is funny, as some stutterers have done, while feeling terrible about it inside.
1 You will remain a stutterer as long as you continue to pretend not to be one. (Sheehan)
2 Stuttering is one thing that gets a lot easier if you don’t try to hide it. (Guitar)
3 It is surprising how much just the mentioning and demonstration of these and other corrective techniques can add to your ability to use them and how much they can increase the speaking comfort of both yourself and your listener. (Vinnard)
4 Many stutterers learn that their greatest enemies are fear and tension. (Aten)
5 No problem is solved by denying its existence. (Brown)
6 Whenever you have an opportunity to discuss your stuttering with someone, do it! (La Porte)
7 This involves telling friends and colleagues that you are a stutterer working on your speech. (Guitar-Peters)
8 Stutterers must freely admit their problem to associates who may not be aware of it. (Bloodstein)
9 At some point in the therapy process the stutterer must become desensitized to his stuttering. (Kamhi)
10 When you begin to really accept yourself as the stutterer you are, you are on your way to much easier speech and most certainly to greater peace of mind. (Rainey)
11 Your fear of stuttering is based largely on your shame and hatred of it. The fear is also based on playing the phony role of pretending your stuttering doesn’t exist. (Sheehan)
12 When the stutterer does voluntary stuttering, he can say to himself, “I am doing the thing I fear. Also I realize that I can change my speech; I can tell my speech mechanism what to do.” (Gregory)
13 Deliberately stutter! Yes, stutter on purpose in as many situations as possible, but stutter in a different way. (La Porte)
14 Even if he feels beforehand that he can speak without stuttering, the stutterer is encouraged to pretend or fake stuttering—but to do so in a way different from his usual manner of stuttering. (Barbara)
15 One means of satisfying the fear of stuttering is to stutter voluntarily on nonfeared words in all kinds of situations. This has the effect of helping you reduce the pressure that you feel when you try to avoid stuttering, and of enabling you to handle your speech more effectively. (Sheehan)
16 We took Patricia out into a variety of public situations and demonstrated that we could fake stuttering without becoming upset. Gradually she was able to do this herself, first with us along, and then alone…. In this part of the treatment we saw significant changes in Patricia’s attitudes. She seemed to be seeking out stuttering instead of avoiding it. (Guitar-Peters)
17 Now I am going to ask you to do a strange thing: to stutter on purpose. I know it sounds weird but it works. Why? Because it helps drain away the fear (what have you got to hide if you are willing to stutter on purpose?) and it provides a lot of experience practicing the act of stuttering in a highly voluntary and purposeful manner. The more you stutter on purpose, the less you hold back; and the less you hold back, the less you stutter. (Emerick)
18 By gradually learning to stutter on purpose and without pain (the stutterer) will lose a lot of the negative emotions that color his disorder; when this occurs, he’ll find great relief. (Van Riper)
19 Consider humor as you look at your mistakes in speaking. Many things about stuttering can be funny. (Neely)
20 One way to make your listener feel at ease about your stuttering is to tell an occasional joke about it. (Trotter)
21 Make fun of your stuttering and yourself. The best of all humor is self-directed. (Emerick)