Im like a fast train driving without regress [
from the city no to the city yes
my nerves are conducting the electric flow
from the city yes to the city no.
Everythings dead in the city No
in rooms full of sadness, unbearable woe
everyone hates me and my fears they grow,
that I have to speak up and stutter h-h-hello"
if I wish to relax and let myself go
by singing a song, Ill stumble N-N-No,
if I need an advice, the answer is No,
everybody around like my pestilent foe,
hammers in my brain with ponderous blow:
In the evening when darkness hides my halo
ghost shadows are dancing at a sober tango.
Go to hell! I need a flying jumbo
to take me away from this place of woe.
Saved from this terror, Im in the city yes
and happily dwell as a bird in a nest,
the stars invite me come and be our guest"
and I joyfully answer Yes, Im coming, Yes
here I feel free and there is never a stress
and whenever I speak it is a success,
everyone in space I can quickly access
by talking or singing my verses of bless
and the wind buzzes gently through my hairtress
Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes.
But soon I get bored and I want to express
that I dont really want to always say yes
and my speech sounds dull, is not a real success,
so I wish to leave the bright city of Yes.
Thus I have to drive without regress
to and fro between the no and the yes
my nerves are conducting the electric flow
from the city yes to the city no.
Like many stutterers, I too, was living in ever-changing periods of stuttered and fluent speech, with my stuttering periods being much longer. I went through different stutter therapies, none of which brought me a lasting success. I was most successful with a therapy, based on the air flow technique (where the stutterer lets some breath out passively each time he begins to speak). This technique was effective for me at the beginning and allowed me to be fluent on special occasions like making phone calls and reading my lectures. However, I soon discarded it as unsatisfactory, as it did not allow me to talk naturally. I began to accept that stuttering is a part of me, with accidental trips every now and then to the City of Yes, where I was fluent. Just when I was nearing fifty I got contact with an unknown side of myself. I started for the first time in my life to write songs and poetry and began also performing them to my friends, at birthdays and parties. I even performed some of them in my working place, risking ruining my reputation as a serious scientist. I also started to do folk dancing and discovered great joy and fulfilment in this activity. During that creative and ecstatic visit at the city of Yes, which lasted about 3 years, I was almost totally fluent, especially in everyday contacts. My explanation for the reason of this fluency: I started to live a part of myself, which I had not lived before. However, in stressful speaking situations I had still relapses to heavy stuttering blocks. This made me realize, that I had to look for other reasons for my stuttering.
The Stuttering Hexagon
After my long flight in the skies of the city of Yes I landed on earth, but my occasional visits to the city of No were not as fearful as before. Something had changed in me. On one hand I was determined to stay in contact with my ecstatic and creative side. On the other hand I had goals to fulfil in my professional life. At that time, about 4 years ago, I discovered on the Internet the writings of two fully recovered stutterers, John Harrison and Jack Menear from the USA.
According to John Harrison' s Hexagon, stuttering is the by-product of six Hexagon points: physiological responses, behaviours, beliefs, emotions, beliefs, perceptions and intentions. Changing these elements of the Hexagon will lead us automatically away from stuttering. John Harrison describes in his "13 observations about stuttering" 13 behaviour patterns, that lead to stuttering.
Jack Menear fully overcame his stuttering problem by a independent self-analysis of his behaviour that allowed him to change to a new personality, closer to his true self.
The personal reports of these two people, and also of others, showed me, that recovery from stuttering is possible by changing my habits, beliefs, behaviours and emotions etc., that were created by my stuttering.
Changing the stuttering HexagonThe first thing I had to do was to establish the behaviour points, that are the most important reasons for my stuttering. I did that by analyzing the phases of good and stuttered speech. And I almost always found an explanation for my stuttering in my behaviour pattern. I got help by the mindfulness, which I had trained in my thirties during Zen and Buddhist meditation. My Zen master told me, that realizing Zen in meditation is not enough and that it must be realized in everyday life. When looking at reality with the Zen mind, one sees reality more as it is, and not as he'd like it to be. What I witnessed was the constant change of the lightness and joy of the city Yes and the darkness and the fears of the city No. By just watching this happen and letting go, the fears passed away. This discovery started to influence the behaviours and habits that caused my stuttering.
I found that the most important reason for my stuttering was the overstrain, caused by the following behaviour patterns:
Now: I recognize now this behaviour as a sign of weakness and I accept that other people beside me are welcome to sit on the throne.
Result: I get more positive feelings from the people in my environment, thus decreasing my strain.
Now: I recognize that I have the right of doing my things first, even at the risk of being a "bad boy"
Result:: I get more satisfaction from life because I can do the things that I want.
I found that these three compensatory behaviour patterns caused most of the strain in my life. By changing them I could be more relaxed and thus gain energy to further enable me to change the other points of my stuttering Hexagon.
The Alexander technique
Three years ago I came to know the Alexander technique which was a milestone on my way to recovering. Frederick Alexander was an Australian actor, born at the end of the 19th century. He used to lose his voice while acting on stage, which was of course fatal for his career as an actor. As no doctors could help him, he analyzed his behaviour himself and realized that the loss of his voice was caused by his inappropriate posture. He corrected his body posture and his problems disappeared. Alexander realized afterwards, that many other body and physiological problems are also caused by inappropriate body positions. He developed his technique, through which a student can achieve and keep a natural, good body posture with the help of an Alexander teacher.
Alexander made a following observation about stutterers:
In every stutterer with whom I have had experience this habit of reacting too quickly to stimuli is always associated with sensory untrustworthiness, undue muscle tension and misdirection of energy.
I began learning to practice the Alexander technique three years ago by taking lessons every 2-3 weeks from a teacher of this technique. Only after several lessons did I notice an improvement while giving public talks or talking in groups. The change towards a better use of the body and the self comes gradually and unnoticed. Working with the Alexander technique is a life-long work because of the need for conscious control to maintain a good posture, which is necessary for proper body function and fluent speaking.
The Alexander technique for stutterers is composed of the following stages:
- neck and tongue are free of tension
- back is long and relaxed
At the 6th conference of people who stutter in Ghent, 2001, I met Sam Wilson, a stuttering person, who is also a teacher of Alexander technique. He told me, that Alexander could not cure him, or other persons, from stuttering. But this technique can be one of the elements of the Stuttering Hexagon. For me it is the foundation on which my fluent speech can be constructed.
The path for my full recovery is based the experiences, described above. Expressing my change using John Harrisons Hexagon, my practice can be summarized as follows:
Thus, the points of my stuttering Hexagon are changing to enable a "Full Circle of Fluency". I am becoming increasingly myself and am not discouraged, if my stuttering and controlling mind still makes its entrance on the stage of my mind. I know that he is a visitor, whose visits are becoming increasingly rare and who is on the way of fading away. Of course, becoming a normal citizen of the cities Yes and No, I still have to travel between them:
John Harrison, Information about stuttering / Viewing Stuttering Wholistically, The Stuttering Homepage, http://www.stutteringhomepage.com
Jack Menear, Stuttering dies, see same homepage, Personal Paths towards
F.M. Alexander, The use of the self, Chapter IV, The Stutterer