Fear the FEAR

The other day I was talking to a young man- an IT pro, looking for a job: Actually, It was a counseling session: I was encouraging him to talk about his speech – he is a PWS. I was a little bit taken aback, when he said that his speech was fine- it was just some words (sounds) which offered difficulties. Many of us know that it is not that simple. When we are in the grip of that irrational fear, any word can become the trigger and may refuse to come out.. But of course, those who have never been to Tazmahal, will agree with you only in a vague general sense, nod their head good naturedly, when you talk of its beauty.. But they dont know. And they dont know that they dont know- what you are talking about! They have never been there.
It reminds me of a trekking trip with a group of students some years back. One girl had mentioned about her fear of dogs and I had assured her that there was no chance of coming across one in this trek. Then, against all odds, we did see a dog following some trekkers coming towards us from the opposite direction- on 4th or 5th day.
I had read a lot about phobia, panic disorders and seen some cases in my clinical years as a doctor. But what I saw now happening to this young girl – I will never forget. Being overwhelmed with fear is something to be experienced in order to be understood. Stammering is a similar experience. It is like sudden drowning. But many of us devise defenses and work around. We minimize the whole thing and see it as just a peculiar problem with a few words only. The underlying fear is much more generalized- not just to communication, but to other areas of life as well.
What is the way out? Instead of just worrying about ‘Chandigarh’ and ‘University’ (ie. how to say these words)– we should take a serious look at our fears. And deal with them directly. It reminds me of a story about Swami Vivekananda. One day he was walking through a lane in Varanasi, as a young itinerant monk. There was a pack of aggressive monkeys sitting right in the path. There were walls on both sides. No way to escape. The pack made a gesture of rushing at him. He was scared for a moment. Then he heard an old man sitting high on the wall, say: “March towards them. Dont turn back.” This is what he did, and the pack of monkeys, dispersed. This is a great lesson of life for us. Coming to stammering, many of the therapy approaches are based on this principle: like bouncing, voluntary stuttering etc. These approaches help us to explore our speech related fears, change our attitude to communication and remove our fears for good.
For starters, try bouncing or faking a mild stammer with your boy (or girl) friend today, just once and then observe.. (Dont try it on your boss yet!)

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