Written by Matthew O’Malley
I want to start by saying, I am still in the process of building an effective treatment regimen for dysfluency. Below, I list a few of the ideas I have come up with or use with the current state of my regimen. Feel free to take advantage of what you think might be helpful.
I am continuing to perfect and modify my treatment regimen. I hope to end up (I don’t know how long it will take) with a highly effective treatment regimen for both improving fluency and recovering from stuttering related anxieties etc.
A few ideas I have come up with based on my understanding of stuttering are below:
Sync your body and mind into the present moment. Your body is incapable of escaping the present moment. However, your mind is capable of projecting itself into the past and the future and it does this quite often. When your mind is projecting into the future or going over past memories, it is not in sync with the body. I believe that syncing the mind with the body in the present can improve fluency. Ideas for achieving this include:
- Throughout the day ask yourself, “Where am I?” and answer yourself “Here.” Also ask yourself, “What time is it?” and answer yourself, “Now.” This will bring you out of our head and into the present moment. This simple exercise a few times a day can bring your mind and body more in sync with the present moment.
- Meditation: Meditating and focusing on your breath brings you into the current moment. As you meditate, you will notice your mind drift into past and future. When you notice this, do not ridicule yourself. Simply bring your focus back to the breath which is happening in the present moment.
- Mindfulness: As you do activities throughout your day, focus on each individual action it takes to accomplish the task and feel the sensations of it. For example, when you brush your teeth, first you have to walk to the sink. Notice and feel each step. Then you have to move your arm to get your toothbrush. Notice this and feel the toothbrush etc. This not only aids in bringing you out of your head and into the current moment, but it also teaches you that all things in the physical world happen in a sequence; something that is necessary for speech. You must sequence your speech movements to make speech sounds. You cannot communicate whole words in a single moment. Mindfulness is good for teaching this as well I believe.
In a previous post, I talked about how part of the reason we block is because we must do a physical act (speaking) to express the metaphysical (thoughts, words, ideas). In other words, we must move our speech mechanism (lips, tongue etc.) in order to express thoughts, words and ideas which have no physical form. Below are some ideas to allow your mind to better separate physical speech from metaphysical thought:
- Spend time in silent meditation observing the metaphysical nature of thought. Observe how thought is completely in the realm of mental processes and consciousness. It is completely separate from the physical world.
- Let thoughts bounce all around in your head without moving the speech mechanism. Observe how your thought still exists and does not need the physical body. Make your body completely motionless while thoughts move around at different speeds. Let thought race and say all kinds of words in your head without moving a muscle.
- Execute thoughtless physical speech movements. To experience speech movements that are separate from thought, speak in non-words. Basically, babble. Move the articulators and activate vocal folds while expressing no meaning. The actual movements and sounds the speech mechanism make are completely meaningless. Demonstrate this to yourself by executing thoughtless speech movements. Observe the meaningless nature of your babbles as you execute them.
In explaining treatment ideas that come next, I must get a bit theoretical first. This is a very brief explanation but here it goes. In my view, there are two parts to a human being. One is the metaphysical soul or the consciousness. The other is the physical body. At your essence, you are only the consciousness. The physical body is something you inhabit and is simply a means and a tool for you to access the physical world. You are intimately attached to the physical body and are its controller, but the body is not you. YOU are consciousness. YOU are the soul/essence that is inside the body and is operating it. You move the body through your will.
Before I continue to the treatment ideas, I must explain a key difference between YOU (consciousness/soul) and the physical body. The nature of consciousness (you) is unlimited and boundless. However, the body is limited by the physical laws of the physical world. As a result, the consciousness and the body can conflict. Your consciousness (which is limitless) can try to operate the body as if it has no limits; as if it is limitless like itself. This is a problem in stuttering. It can manifest in trying to say whole words at a time instead of sequencing speech movements over time through movements of the body. Below, I make suggestions on how to counter this:
Accept struggle and limitation. Limitation and struggle are a part of life. Often times we resist these things with all our will, all the time. If you can have an attitude where you can accept that there will be some struggle and limitation in how you speak and in life in general, the result paradoxically (as is so often the case) will be an increased sense of freedom and usually higher fluency. Yes, by accepting limitation and struggle….freedom, joy and fluency usually increase. Below are a few notes on this.
- The physical body is limited. Consciousness (you) is unlimited. In operating the body, you must accept its limitations. You must not operate the body nor speech mechanism, as though it is like consciousness; as though it is limitless. The speech mechanism is part of the body. It is limited. You must obey its limitations in order for it to function properly.
- Accept struggle. Interactions will not always go as planned. You will fail sometimes. Sometimes life is painful. Accept it. You will never be perfect in this life. You are always a work in progress.
- Accept that you might not be at the level of speakers who have been fluent all their lives at this point.
Another treatment idea is to fully separate consciousness from the physical body. Work to fully realize that you are only consciousness and the body is something you simply control and command. Physical speech (the movements that result in sound) is a completely physical act that is totally separate from thought and consciousness. Do anything you can to fully realize this truth. It will contribute to eliminating dysfluency.
I’d like to share one exercise I implement to separate my consciousness from my body and speech mechanism. Spatially, where does it feel like you reside in your body? For me, it is behind the eyes and between the ears. This is likely because we receive an abundance of sensory data from these places so it feels like the bulk of our consciousness resides here. To further explain, “I” do not feel like I reside in my legs or my feet. I feel like I reside behind my eyes and between my ears.
Building off of this, the goal is to separate myself (which I am the consciousness inside the body) from the body and particularly separate my consciousness from the speech mechanism. This may sound like an odd exercise but I think it aids in separating your consciousness from the speech mechanism. Wear a disk that goes all the way around your head. Put it under the nose so the mouth is below it and have it go all the way around your head so the eyes and ears are above it. Once it’s on, perform speaking exercises like reading out loud while wearing this. Because your consciousness mainly resides behind the eyes and between the ears, this disc serves as a physical barrier reminding you that you are not your speech apparatus, you are simply the being/soul that is operating it. It may seem funny but I think it can be effective.
The last idea for treatment I will list is to speak on automatic as much as you can. If you read fluently by yourself, do it as much as you can. If you speak on automatic fluently with certain people, talk to them a lot. When you do this, your subconscious observes how possible it is for you to implement automatic speech. It also may serve to strengthen neural networks for normal automatic speech.