|About the presenter: Ellen-Marie Silverman has provided clinical services to numerous individuals with various needs in diverse service environments. She has been a member of several university faculties and founded and managed a staffing services company to provide temporary staff in occupational, physical, and speech therapy as well as captioning and interpreting services. Dr. Silverman has supplemented her training in clinical speech pathology with training in transactional analysis, which forms the structure of her clinical approach. The author or co-author of 45 papers published in scientific and technical publications, one textbook, chapters for textbooks, and a novel about stuttering for children, Jason's Secret, she has been a frequent presenter at professional meetings. A Fellow of the American Speech-Hearing-Language Association she is a member of its Special Interest Division IV.|
This, the 12th annual ISAD Conference, brings to mind the 12 Labors of Hercules. Like Hercules, Prof Judith Kuster, who now has chaired all 12 Online Conferences, no doubt faced varied, real, and stark challenges to the completion of her labors. That she has prevailed annually for a dozen back-to-back years to create this unrivaled interface where we, consumers, professionals, students, and other interested parties, come together to share what we know and to ask for what we want to know or to know more completely deserves admiration and appreciation. No fair weather worker, she. So, a heart-felt "Thank You," Prof. Kuster, for providing this unparalleled opportunity for global learning, and kudos times 12.
And, Welcome to You, Dear Reader. I hope what you find here helps you unfold, Remember: Posting comments and questions can help.
WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?
We all want to change or to help someone change; otherwise, we would not be here. What we often do not fully appreciate at the start, though, is that the change we want takes real and hard work often for a prolonged, undetermined period of time for adults. But the process need not be a grim slog. It is what we make it, and that can be a bold and deeply satisfying journey, once we settle down to see clearly what needs to be done and muster the resources we possess to make that happen. By addressing our beliefs and behavior, not just one of the other, we are apt to succeed and to grow stronger than we ever imagined. That is what I have learned, and this is what I echo in this relatively brief communique adapted from Mind Matters: Setting the Stage for Satisfying Clinical Service. A Personal Essay. (Silverman, 2009).
In the West, we seem obsessed with faults. Teens, at an alarming rate, undergo liposuction and breast implantation to correct their self-perceived physical flaws and to resurrect their self-worth. Selling weight loss strategies and accoutrements continue to generate lucrative returns. Self-help books command a significant share of publishers' yearly output. And the shared message of almost all media advertisement is that we can, indeed, should improve our appearance, our fragrance, and our life style. Experiencing such pervasive, relentless, sensory bombardment to convince us to strive toward some crafted notion of social desirability and acceptance, it is not surprising, unless we are a monastic and, possibly, not even then, that we often loose sight of what is right with us. And that is Our Innate Perfection (Chödrön, 2009). Yes. Our Perfection.
Some years ago, according to Pema Chödrön (2005), Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, Zen Master, mildly amused those gathered to hear him speak at the San Francisco Zen Center by announcing,
That wry remark reminds us we all are equipped to shine, and we have a personal responsibility to do so, as the beloved gospel song, "This Little Light of Mine," gracefully exhorts. And so it is from a Buddhist perspective, an African-American one, and from Transactional Analysis which, as a central premise, asserts, "I'm OK. You're OK." (e.g., Harris, 2004), we realize we do not need to fix ourselves. We need only to grow into the fullness of our marvelous being by cultivating the strengths, talents, and skills we already possess. And I know doing so can help spring release from a vise-like grip of a stuttering problem.
Deciding whether we are flawed or complete provides a powerful place to start. Considering ourselves flawed, we will be less likely to enthusiastically and patiently commit to the tasks involved to become as we wish and more likely to feel angry and fearful than if we think of ourselves as whole. Don't take my word for it. Experience for yourself effects these beliefs may have on your thoughts, emotions, sensations, and behavior by performing the following two visualizations.
If you are uncomfortable for any reason with the thought of performing them, then, please, do not do so. You might feel like doing so another time, or you might not. That is all right. Trust your feelings.
(Hint. You may wish to record the directions then follow them as you listen, or you may prefer to follow them while someone reads them aloud.)
Find a quiet place free of external distractions, then sit erect on a chair with your feet firmly on the floor and hands palm down, right hand resting on right thigh, left hand resting on left thigh. Breathe in slowly, then out slowly. Settle.
Now picture yourself flawed in a particular way. Perhaps, you see yourself limping, stuttering, or obese. Visualize yourself that way. See yourself sitting, perhaps, on a park bench. Observe how you look. Note what you think. Experience your emotions. Pay special attention to how you feel, i.e., Do you feel your body? Are there areas that feel tight? loose? heavy? light? hot? cold?
Release that picture from your mind.
When you are ready, see yourself flawed as before but now standing, waiting for an elevator. Observe your appearance. Note your thoughts. Experience your emotions. Identify the sensations throughout your body. Release that picture from your mind.
Finally, when you are ready, see yourself, flawed as before, walking through a mall. Observe your appearance. Notice your thoughts. Feel your emotions. Identify the sensations throughout your body. Release that picture from your mind.
Sit quietly for a moment.
When you are ready, consider yourself complete. Believe you are no better nor no worse than anyone else. Now, see yourself sitting on a park bench. Note your appearance, your thoughts, your emotions, the sensations throughout your body. Release that picture from your mind. See yourself standing, waiting for an elevator. Note your appearance, your thoughts, your emotions, the sensations throughout your body. Release that image from your mind.
Finally, see yourself walking through a mall. Once again, note your appearance, your thoughts, your emotions, the sensations of your body. Release that image from your mind. Draw in a deep breath. Slowly release it. Return to the present.
Perhaps, visualizing yourself as flawed, you had difficulty attending to sensations throughout your body because you were so busy thinking about being accepted. Maybe you did feel your body and noticed that in some areas or throughout, it felt constricted, heavy, even cool or cold, quite different from when you visualized yourself as complete. Then you may have noticed areas that felt warm, light, at ease, even spacious. And your thoughts and emotions may have tilted from uncertainty and anxiety toward confidence and enthusiasm when you saw yourself as complete rather than as flawed. This brief, directed experience may have revealed or confirmed the reality that beliefs about who we think we are generate associated thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and sensations ultimately compatible or antagonistic to desired change.
Consider the history-making 2008 USA presidential campaign. By adopting the galvanizing slogan, "Yes We Can," Barack Obama, with his soaring rhetoric, inspired young voters, who previously had considered themselves politically insignificant, to believe they were powerful. When they enthusiastically and tirelessly put the belief that their voice mattered into action by organizing, phoning, staffing offices, etc., they helped change the world.
Many of us who have stuttering problems often concentrate on what is wrong with us. Just ask, and we will readily tell you:
But, if a therapist surprises us by asking what is right with us, we may become dazed. We may need time to answer. We even may need coaxing. We labor under the belief life for us goes wrong, not right. We are, after all PWS's, People Who Stutter. Separate. Different. Eventually, we may recognize that perceiving ourselves as outsiders constitutes much of our problem. When we begin seeing ourselves as complete, no better nor no worse than anyone else, we can begin to erase it.
When we think stuttering marks us as damaged goods, our response to further stuttering becomes resistance, avoidance, and struggle, reactions which do not end our stuttering problems but grow them. Anger, resentment, regret, bitterness, and, even, cynicism increase. Our stuttering behaviors layer more intricately. And, typically, we talk less. So, I prefer a self-view based on the recognition of our shared humanity. This perception supports greater understanding of and confidence in who we are fundamentally, more space within which to function, and a distinct platform from which to select helpful strategies for change. From personal experience with this orientation (Silverman, 2005; 2003), my preference for deep healing (e.g., Das, 2003; Weil, 1995) involves meditation, specifically a combination of vipassana, or mindfulness, practice (e.g., Kabat-Zinn, 2005: Kornfield, 2003), shenpa practice (e.g., Chödrön, 2003b; Silverman, 2005), and tonglen practice (e.g, Chödrön, 2003b). Mindfulness practice heightens our awareness of our bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions as they arise. Shenpa practice teaches remaining with, rather than resisting, unwanted, unpleasant circumstances. And tonglen practice, at the simplest level, allows us to affirm our shared humanity, especially with those feeling embarrassment, shame, and fear wherever we are and whenever we wish. Altogether, they provide coherence and power to our change process because they stem from and reinforce the belief we are complete in our essence.
Carl Gustav Jung, the pioneering psychoanalyst, when questioned toward the end of his life whether he believed in God, responded smiling somewhat enigmatically, "I do not need to believe. I know. I know." (Whitney, 1985). And so it is with us. When we change our behavior to coincide with the belief we are complete, we no longer need to believe that is our identity. We know.
Does that mean we never relapse? Of course not. We do. The most basic trigger for stuttering, beyond linguistic and social uncertainty, seems to remain unknown, but our habitual avoidance response to it, made strong after years of practice, may persist for some time. But, continuing with vipassana, shenpa, and tonglen practice, we can say to ourselves following a moment of stuttering, "NO BIG DEAL!" just as we can after engaging in a brilliantly successful conversation or making a well-received presentation. We are, after all, beyond all that. We are perfect.
I would like to express my appreciation to Cindy Spillers for reading and commenting on this manuscript.
Chödrön, P. (2009). Perfect Just As You Are. Boston: Shambhala Audio. (Audio CD)
Chödrön, P. (2005). Practicing Peace in Times of War. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc. (Audio CD)
Chödrön, P. (2003b). Meditation for Difficult Times. Awakening Compassion Through The Practice of Tonglen. Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True. (Audio CD)
Chödrön, P. (2003a). How We Get Hooked/How to Get Unhooked. Shambhala Sun, March.
Das, S. (2003). Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be. New York: Broadway Books.
Harris, T., (2004). I'm OK. You're OK. New York: Harper Paperbacks.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to Our Senses. Healing Ourselves and The World Through Mindfulness. New York: Hyperion.
Silverman, E.-M. (2009). Mind Matters: Setting the Stage for Satisfying Clinical Service. A Personal Essay. Charleston, South Carolina: BookSurge Publishing.
Silverman, E.-M. (2005). Stuttering, Shenpa, and Me. Presented at the 8th Annual ISAD International Online Conference, October.
Silverman, E.-M. (2003). My Personal Experience with Stuttering and Meditation. Presented at the 6th Annual ISAD International Online Conference, October.
Weil, A. (1995). Spontaneous Healing. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Whitney, M. (1985). A Matter of Heart. The Extraordinary Journey of C. G. Jung Into the Soul of Man. New York: Kino International Corp. (DVD)
Copyright 2009 by Ellen-Marie Silverman
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