The innate emotion at the base of all anxiety is fear. We don’t have to learn
what fear is, as our brain is programmed to recognise what is a threat to us, and to trigger various reactions in the brain, to cause us instantly to react, to remove us from the stimulus causing the fear. This can be a physical threat, or an emotional threat to our wellbeing. It can be real and/or it can equally be perceived. Either way, fear will cause a reaction in our brain, and that reaction will cause both a physical and mental response in our body. As people who stutter, this reaction heightens our anxiety to some extent, either mildly or severely, but what is known is that that heightened anxiety, contributes to our degree of stuttering. If we realise then that fear leads to anxiety (or even panic), which in turn leads to increased speech dysfluency, then it is natural that to reduce fear, will result in less anxiety, and less dysfluent speech, and of course a more enjoyable existence. So if fear is at the route of our speaking anxiety, then how can we replace it with an emotion, that is more resourceful to us? What is a feeling that we could engender within our self, that would help to replace feelings of fear? What are we fearful of when speaking to other people? For various reasons, too complex to go into here, we are fearful of how we are being perceived and judged by others, and what that may mean in our life, and how that makes us feel in that moment. In most cases it is illogical, that we have fear when we are about to speak to another person, so if there is no logical reason to fear others, then we need to learn to get ourselves into a state which is as far removed from the state of fear as possible.
Many would argue that the opposite of fear is courage, but from a spiritual point of view, the opposite of fear is love. When you are in a state of love there is no fear, and the same can be said for the many degrees of love. You feel a closeness towards that person, a feeling of mutual respect, admiration and trust. In this true state, there is no feelings of judgement, only acceptance for each other.
So how can we invoke this state, when we have allowed ourselves to develop a mind-set, where we feel everything except love towards our fellow man, especially when we are required to speak to a stranger, or person in perceived authority? Can we change that mind-set? Do we want to, and why should we? Can we afford to, or do we open ourselves up to having our feelings hurt if a more open, interpersonal relationship in our communication style is not reciprocated?
From a spiritual point of view many would argue that we are all connected, and that we all share a spark of the supreme soul, but I do not want to go into that in this post other than to say, it will be resourceful to you to try to look at other people, who you are about to communicate with, as though they were your very best friend, or even your lover. It will be resourceful to you, to look beyond the face, or the tone of the voice of the person you are speaking to, and try to see the soul behind that individual. Their soul that is pure love. Now you may argue, that some of the people that you have to speak to, show a nature that is the furthest thing from love, and some even border on pure evil. Well that may be the case on the outside of a hardened persona, but deep down there is a person inside all of us, that just wants to be loved. Look for that, and speak to that in the people you speak to, and it is very likely that it will be reciprocated, and at the very least, it will lower your anxiety about speaking to that person. Now whether you accept that or not is irrelevant. What is relevant, and will be very helpful to you, is to try to approach every person you speak to, as though you are going to talk to yourself in a mirror, or about to talk to someone who loves and or respects you for who you are. As mentioned above, you will find that you approach the communication situation, in a totally different state of mind. A state of mind where fear is gone, or at least minimised, and as a result your stuttering and speaking anxiety, will be greatly improved, whether it is a one on one communication situation, or communication to a group. Why would your mind be consumed with thoughts about how others are judging you, if you have flooded it with thoughts of love for all who you speak to.
How can I feel that way towards all people, you say? Why would I want to? You have not met my boss! You have not met my father! You have not seen how they laugh at me! It is not about giving the other person something that they have not earned, or are not entitled to, … your love. It is about you freely giving yourself the same thoughts that create a feeling of love, instead of freely giving yourself thoughts of fear, which your mind is going to use, to subconsciously govern your body to act on, and throw you into a state of anxiety, where your body believes you are going to either have to fight, or flee, from this other person or group of people.
You must understand, that you do not know how the other person is judging you. You think you do but you don’t. What you are perceiving are your own thoughts, so why not have loving thoughts in your head. It will certainly drive out fear in many areas, other than just thoughts that relate to speech. It is something worth trying. What have you got to lose, really? It is an approach to life that, like the other vines that hold your stuttering persona in place, will not only benefit your speaking anxiety and speech dysfluency, it will improve the whole way you see the world, and the way you move through it, with ease and grace. What I am saying is, that rather than try to put yourself in this alien state of love and appreciation for the other person only when you feel anxious, you need to try to remain in this new state as much as you can, which will mean that you need to be conscious of your ongoing emotional state as much as you can be.
So how do you achieve this? Well these tips will help.
1) Always smile when you go to speak to another person.
2) Look into the other person’s eyes, and try to see the loving soul that resides within.
3) If you experience less than a loving reaction from the other person, accept it, and realise that it is more about them, and their concept of how the world is in that moment, rather than about you and how you, and your perceived influence on others, and how you believe your expectations should be met.
4) If you experience a less than loving reaction inside yourself, and less than loving or accepting judgemental feelings towards yourself, as a result of the interchange, try to see the other person as having helped you find your own triggers for negative emotions, and use those experiences to work on changing your emotional reactions to others behaviour, in such a way that such perceived negative behaviour, does not influence your internal chemistry, in a way that negatively effects your anxiety level and feelings of love towards all other people. See those who help you find your emotional buttons, as your teacher, not your enemy.
5) Try to look for the good in all people.
6) Try to respect that everyone has the right to control their own emotional reactions, whether it be negatively towards others or positive, and that you have no influence over their behaviour, only your own thoughts and resultant behaviour.
7) If people laugh at you or mimic you from time to time, realise that it is only their reaction to something that puzzles them, and is in no way a true reflection of how they see you, as a fellow human being.
8) If people finish your words or sentences for you, realise that communication is all about getting thoughts from your head into the other persons head. It is only natura, that when people believe they have the message, they react on it. People are not obliged to wait for you to finish, when you are obviously showing signs of difficulty in getting the words out. You must love and respect all people, and not judge them for the way they appear to you, otherwise YOU are being the judgemental one, in being upset that YOUR expectations have not been met by that other person.
Allowing fear to take control of any part of your life, is not the way our creator meant for us to live our lives. This is born out by words in the Bible, where it is said that “through fear, all our lives we are subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:15).
Anger and Expectation
Anger is an emotional response that all of us feel from time to time, but it is not a state that we should choose to go into if we can help it, as it will rob us of rational thought, and control over our stuttering behaviour, and consequently our ability to communicate well with others. If you are trying to work on controlling your stuttering, anger may give you a level of short term fluency, but it will ultimately lead to increased dysfluency. So what leads to anger.
Two of the main causes of anger are:
1) A feeling that our ego is under attack.
2) Our expectations not being met, and our frustrations about that.
We all know that our ego can sometimes get in the way of engendering harmonious relationships, but we are not always aware that unfulfilled expectations are one of the main causes of frustration, that can lead to anger. Our expectations of what other people should do or say, will rarely be met, as we are all different, so to allow the fact that your expectations may or may not be met, to rule your emotions, is allowing anger to enter into your life more than it should, and interfere with your quest for calmness and awareness of mind, and fluency of speech.
Finally I would like to add, that harbouring anger, and failing to forgive others for their failings and indiscretions in communicating with you, will not only cause increased anxiety in you, but can also lead to dis-ease! Just remember that.
Now that was all a bit controversial, and everyone may not relate to or agree with what I have said, but I wanted to write that anyway for those of you who can appreciate and learn from that wisdom, as I have. In future posts I will get back to talking about more main stream approaches to treating the symptoms of severe and chronic stuttering. In the meantime, I again urge you to subscribe to my RSS feed or email notification, so that you do not miss posts about subjects and content that you will not read anywhere else. If you found this post useful or thought-provoking in any way, please make a comment.