The Thought of Stuttering

In Honor of John Harrison
March 3, 2022
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The Thought of Stuttering

Thoughts have power! They are the energy that propels us through life. Our self-esteem is driven by our thoughts about ourselves. I once worked with a young man who, in addition to stuttering, was born with a deformed spine and had a severe limp. He was bright and talented and lived life to its fullest. During the course of treatment (which greatly helped him to speak freely) he shared that everyday he looks in the mirror and tells himself, “You are a prince”.  He was also a happy man because of his thoughts.

Are you aware of the thoughts that may be powering you to hold back from speaking naturally? It’s true that stuttering has a neurophysiological causation that may be genetic. However, thoughts can greatly change the course in the way speech production develops.

So, let’s look at thoughts and how they can help or interfere with speaking. Are any of these scenarios familiar to you? 

  • You have a meeting coming up and know you will have to introduce yourself. Your first thought is, “Will I stutter?”.
  • You are invited to a party; you think about how the people you will meet there will react to your stuttering.
  • You’re going to work and you wonder if this will be a good or bad speech day.
  • A friend asks you a question and you know that hard word is coming up. The thought flashes through your mind that you hope you can get the word out. 

You might be aware of your thoughts, or they may be hidden below the surface. Some thoughts are fleeting and don’t have a pervasive effect on our lives, but others are repeated so often that they are accepted as truths rather than thoughts. Some are so repetitive that they become our attitude in life. 

I am often asked what are the criteria for success in therapy. Is it age, gender, severity or type of stuttering? In my experience of having treated many thousands of people who stutter, the criterion that has the most influence on how successful therapy will be is how often the client says or thinks, “Yes, but….” So, I believe it is the person’s thoughts that matter more than anything else.

Honestly, learning to speak freely is not so hard. There’s no new skill to learn; there’s nothing to consciously monitor. It’s basically a process of giving up doing all the things that interfere with speaking. The hard part is not the process of speaking. It is changing your thoughts, attitudes, perspective and allowing yourself to let go of all the speech controls.

Maybe you believe that thoughts don’t really drive your stuttering. But look at the power of thoughts. The other day I was out with a friend and we were enjoying the atmosphere of the flowers in the garden we were in. She started to mention something that her deceased father had told her once. And all of a sudden her smiles and laughter turned to crying. The thoughts of the flower brought smiles and good feelings; the thoughts of missing her father brought tears.

The same thing happens to you when you have a thought about speaking. The thought is going to affect the way you process your speech. It’s going to affect the intention of your brain to create speech. So, if you want to help yourself change the way you speak, I suggest you become aware of the thoughts that are going through your mind.

Here is something you can do to help yourself change the way you speak……..

Take the time to let your subconscious thoughts rise to the surface. Then look at a thought and ask yourself if there is another way to think that would benefit you more. Decide if this thought makes your life, your speaking, your existence better for you or not.

To make this exercise a little bit more specific, it would be great if every day you wrote down or spoke into a voice recorder three thoughts related to speaking that went through your mind during the day. At the end of the week look at all these thoughts and see how many of them you can imagine would help you to express your thoughts freely and how many of them help you to hold back, to plan your words, and, in general, to control how you’re speaking.

Be careful not to confuse thoughts with truths. They are not always one and the same. You may think that people are impatient to hear what you have to say because you stutter. That may be true, but it may also be your thought. Maybe they are just distracted by something in their life. You may think people don’t have the patience to listen to you speak. Maybe they are impatient people, or maybe it’s you who thinks that you’re taking too much time to talk.

Some people think there’s nothing that can be done about the way they think, but that’s not true. We have the ability to change our thoughts. It does take introspection, and sometimes we are influenced to change our thoughts from reading, from listening to a YouTube video, the advise of someone we respect, or maybe by just realizing that we all have the power to think in the way that will help us.

Take an example from those who have used the power of their thoughts to help them get through imprisonment, torture, illness, loss, and disappointment. Each one of us has the ability to either stay stuck in old thoughts or to gently let them pass through us as visitors only. Take your power to control your thoughts.

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