Written by Matthew O’Malley
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Mainpoint: Remedying the suffering that results from stuttering should be framed with this question: “How can I meet my need for human connection?”
As humans, we have a reward system which is our evolutionary road-map to survival. When survival needs get met we are rewarded. When they do not, we are punished.
In an example, food tastes good because it is needed for survival. However, there is a flip side to every reward experience. In this case it would be starvation which brings with it intense suffering.
In most of the civilized world, we have mastered the areas of meeting our obvious physical needs. There is access to food, shelter, warmth, etc.
However, humans have other, less obvious needs that we are far less skilled at identifying and meeting. The primary one where we are unskilled is in meeting our need for human connection and attachment. Many people who don’t stutter even seem to struggle with this. However, stuttering adds a significant challenge on top of it.
When a person feels connected; feels “seen”; feels accepted; feels important to others; feels celebrated…this is meeting a deep human need. As a result, there is a huge reward system payoff. The person feels great.
As stated, there is a flip-side to any rewarded experience when a need is not met. In this case it would be disconnection, ostracism, and abandonment. When a person feels rejected; feels “unseen”; feels unimportant to others; feels humiliated (happens often with stuttering)…they are experiencing the opposite of meeting their need. As a result, there is a powerful reward system punishment. The person feels emotions like shame, embarrassment, humiliation, etc.
Many people share how they experienced bullying as a kid due to their stuttering. This is just one example, but this is a traumatic cyclical event of detachment/rejection/ostracism.
In adulthood with stuttering, this traumatic cycle often continues and repeats. A person goes to interact, stutters, and then can experience a wide range of disconnective emotions.
After many of these disconnective experiences which often are traumas, stuttering and disconnection during interaction becomes expected both consciously and unconsciously. This continues to strengthen stuttering and its accompanying disconnective misery.
Remedying this suffering is about finding ways to connect with others on a daily basis; the deeper the connection; the more authentic; the better. This is what will begin to heal some of the wounds from the journey.
The suffering from stuttering is not stuttering itself. It’s the disconnection.
Healing one’s self and improving upon this journey is about finding ways to meet one’s need for human connection. Framing the “problem” in this way can allow a person to strategize more effectively.
It doesn’t matter how you do it. Whether it’s through working on one’s speech, acceptance, both, or another strategy. The suffering is in the disconnection. The healing is in connecting.
Get connected. Get creative in doing so if you need to. Watch your life improve.