Two faces of stammering

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Last week I had a chance to interact with two young pws in a counseling context. I received two very different reactions; So much so, I was quite puzzled and kept on thinking about the incident for quite some time.

Amit, the first pws was 13, a class eight student in a village. His father is a tailor and had an unnoticeable stammer- he seemed fine with it. They both drove about 60 km from their village on a borrowed bike. Amit was teased in class, as was to be expected. The teacher too was sometime impatient with him. But he did not seem to have those lasting emotional scars which many of us accumulate as we grow into adults.

I suggested to the father that sometime he should go to the school and talk with the teacher about it or let me have his (teacher’s) phone number. I discussed stammering in general- and shared my own experiences to help both of them understand that it was not the end of the world and things could certainly improve with some practice. I showed Amit the PTV video about stammering (Julia Irani). We discussed the positive body language and the courage demonstrated there in. Amit went along appreciatively; answered questions with open-ness and finally, practiced some bouncing, eye contact etc in a Q&A session. I hope father and son will return in a few days’ time for a second free session. They both seemed satisfied.

Virendra, 21, the second pws also came with his father, from a village near Paonta sahib. He was brought to my place by P, a pws friend who lives in Herbertpur and who has been a regular member of TISA since beginning and therefore has a good grasp of acceptance and “forward” communication, despite difficulties.

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Virendra has done Diploma from ITI etc. but is jobless. I discussed and shared all the relevant things about stammering- some techniques, some background etc. etc. He read out a book and practiced a little bouncing somewhat reluctantly. His face did not lighten up. Finally he said something brusquely to his father, who turned to me and said: He is asking for the medicine. The discussion went something like this:

Myself: There is no medicine. If there was, will I waste your time? Or mine? There is none. He will speak a lot better if he can practice these techniques, look for a job and..

Virendra: I have done all this. My last “therapist” made me do all this. This does not help. Give me medicine.

Myself : Did you not see P, who brought you here? He was bad but now he speaks fine..

Virendra : What are you talking? P still stammers! He is not fine.

Myself : But he can be understood fine. He does not keep quiet. He communicates and gets the job done. He is working as accountant in this big hospital. He went to Goa and..

But Virendra’s face remained dark- like a thundercloud in monsoons! When he looked at me- his face had a sort of reproach: You sh*t of a doctor! You refuse to give me the medicine..!

He suddenly got up and left with his father, who understandably looked apologetic, as he followed his son, out of my room. I tried to say to the father: I know he is upset now. Do come again..

Virendra is 21, young man. Had a strong physical structure. One of those young men, who I am sure, feel in their bones that they have the physical power to do almost anything! I am sure when he is in a block, he struggles much – operating on the same principle – that he can FORCE his way out of anything, even a block. How long will he take to discover that FORCE, GRIT, POWER etc. are not going to help where just a little humility is needed?

Looking back, I realized that at 21, I was no different. We all have believed at some point in life that stammering is a physical problem that can be conquered through “physical” means. Even when I read somewhere that stammering is what we do to avoid stammering – that I must stop fighting it, should rather accept it and leave it alone – it seemed like a meaningless riddle. It was only when I tried some Voluntary stammering – when I put it in my mouth and consciously TASTED it, like a candy – THEN, only then, that riddle made some sense. I realized that I cant conquer it because I myself am supporting it. It is a civil war: no matter who wins, it is a defeat for the country.

Now, it seems that conceptual (brain based) understanding of any issue does not help much. Only when we learn through “whole body immersion”, do we understand it correctly and find a way out. It also reminds me of Zen tradition, where a student will often be given a Koan – a paradoxical statement (like “clap of one hand”) to meditate on. Sometime years will pass- and then one day, suddenly the logical brain will crack open and a deeper intuitive meaning will dawn and the student may laugh out suddenly – a satori moment! I hope and pray that all of us will have our satori moment soon..  before this year goes out! Happy new year in advance. Wherever you are, get together, celebrate and let the intuitive meaning of stammering dawn on you. Stop fighting yourself – just because world wants you to!

1 Comment
  1. Profile photo of Sachin Author
    Sachin 8 months ago

    Miracle! Guess what? Virendra returned after 5 days- smiling sheepishly! This time we have made some progress. How? His body language was relaxed; face – not more like a monsoon thundercloud ! And he shared that he gets very angry and frustrated when he has to talk to a girl. I said – “yes, me too” – and he looked into my eyes and smiled. But CHANGE is a long road- I have told him so and given him some home work.

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