What do you know about your stammering?

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Chapter 2
You will
be surprised to know that average PWS knows very little about his/her
own stammering! All they know is the occasional strange reaction from
their audience. Most of them blink and close their eyes during
stammering- and therefore may not even see people’s reaction to
their stammer! Is it just accident or is it by some sub-conscious
design? Our subconscious mind erases stammering moments from the
memory tape and therefore we can not recall what did we actually do
(eye blinks, holding breath etc.), how did we actually feel and react
in that moment. And therefore, we are able to do nothing about it. In
fact, many of us believe that it is not something which I do
it is something mysterious that just happens to me. It is a
visitation from some kind of supernatural power- it seems. 
 
Some of
us, start projecting the entire responsibility on to outside
circumstances and actors: I was talking fine, when I saw the
teacher looking at me closely..I began stammering then
. But the
fact remains- it is something which we are doing and only we can do
something about it. But what is it that we are doing in that hurried
and blurred moment?
To find
this, you need a lot of courage to face the truth about yourself. If
you have it, go ahead and record yourself with a video camera and
review it. Here are the steps, in the order suited to most:

Step 1 (Play with a tape or a video camera)

Record your speech under different circumstances: reading a newspaper
or a book; talking to yourself or children, talking with a friend,
sharing something in a small group, talking to a “senior” on
phone, telling a joke etc. Arrange these in an order from easy to
difficult tasks, before starting (this is very important). Begin with
the most comfortable situation, like reading alone. Use a simple
cell-phone with camera or a proper video-camera on a tripod,
whichever is convenient and available. If possible, try and capture
the facial expressions and the body language as well.

For the first few minutes, you might be too conscious of the
recording but later you will get used to it and speak in your regular
style. So let the recording be long enough, 10 minutes or more. If
you are using the phone camera, you may request a friend to help. If
this friend is a PWS, all the better. Essentially it can be anyone
you trust. Save all the recordings, if possible, on a computer.


Step 2 (replay and review)

Replay the recording- listen to your speech (words, nuances, volume,
pitch etc.), study your body language, facial expressions, hands etc.
Review these even in those moments when you are speaking fluently.
Compare this, with those moments when you are having a little
hesitation or a big difficulty. As a listener now, try to guess how
you are coming through as a speaker. Confident? Comfortable with
yourself and the subject? Enjoying every moment of it? Or in a hurry
to finish? Based on what you see and hear, try to guess, and feel,
your emotional states as you were speaking those words.

Replay the moments when you think you were not very comfortable.
Pause & replay the tape frequently to see and hear: did your
pitch go up as you came across a ‘difficult’ word? Was there a
struggle to push out a difficult sound? Did your lips press together
with greater force and for longer duration than you would normally
expect? Did your head go back? Hand jerked? Eyebrows went up? Record
your observations in a diary. Make this list as exhaustive as
possible. Remember, whatever you note down here is what you can
finally change. Whatever you ignore, will stay with you-
unfortunately. So be very honest and brave.


Step 3 (get in touch with emotions)

Review these recordings over a long period: 3-6 months and try to
note down, what you do differently, in the moments of difficulty as
opposed to when you are speaking fluently. It will be even more
useful, if you could review these tapes with a trusted friend or a
recovering stutterer. You could go a step further and fake your
stutter while alone- and stay in that moment for a couple of minutes-
to know what it actually feels like, in mouth, in body and in mind.
In other words- consciously reproduce a moment of your
stuttering and hold it (freeze) there: My name is
S————-achin. I live in K-k-k-k…..Kanpur. etc. This is
Voluntary Stuttering and an important tool of knowing your stammer
and overcoming it. Yes, it is not meant for weak hearts and should be
attempted only after 3-4 months of starting on this path.

If you could do it in a normal conversation with a pet, children and
friends (in this order), you would even discover unique emotions
associated with your stuttering, but completely unknown to you till
then; buried deep in your core. So, later on, when you start to deal
with your stutter, you address not only what your mouth does, but
also what your mind and your emotions do in those moments of
difficulties.


Step 4 (wider explorations)

Meet other PWS, read their posts on chat groups, their biographies on
the web. While reading, try to compare your life with theirs; your
observations with theirs; your problem-solving approaches with
theirs. This will help you to understand that:

  1. Your
    experiences as PWS are not unique even though you sincerely thought
    so!
  2. Your responses
    to your problems are also not unique.

You can learn form their experiments. Knowing your ‘speech’ is not
enough; you must know yourself as a total human being: your attitude
towards life, relationships, responsibilities, career, recreation,
creativity – and how these have been influenced by your speech; your
deepest fears and aspirations. One way is to meet others on the same
path and compare notes and the second complimentary path is diving
within yourself: sitting quiet and reviewing your life,
contemplation, meditation. Vipassana
meditation has helped some people in this regard. Read more about it
later in this manual.

Steps 1-3
should be repeated as often as you want, with your review and
analysis becoming deeper and deeper. It needs courage, determination
and some ‘quality’ time to go deeper. Finally, a time should come
when you know your stammer so well that you can reproduce it 100% at
will in a mimicry contest among friends! This signifies complete
emotional healing- an important stage in the long journey. But there
is more to be done, so that your audience is able to understand what
you are saying. You still have to become a good communicator, if not
‘orator’. 
 
To
summarize, you can not change your manner of speaking until you know
what it looks & sounds like, what it feels like. To know that,
video-recordings and review is a very popular and effective method.
But this needs lot of COURAGE. If you have read this manual so far,
we are sure that you have that quality and commitment. So, go on-
lights, action.. and let the camera roll!

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