by John Harrison

Over many years of self-observation, and after years of rubbing shoulders with members of the National Stuttering Project, I've noticed some recurring characteristics among people who stutter. Of course, not all of the following applies to all people within the stuttering community, but I have seen these commonalities more often than not. (This list originally ran in the January 1982 edition of Letting GO.)

  1. We have difficulty in letting go, not just in our speech, but across the what we feel and in what we're willing to risk.

  2. We are not grounded. We don't have a strong sense of who we are, because we are overly concerned with other people's opinion of us.

  3. We are overly concerned with pleasing others. We worry about what people think of our behavior...our thoughts...our wishes...our fact, everything concerning our personal identity and self-worth.

  4. We have a narrow self-image. It does not encompass all of who we are. And we constantly try to squeeze ourselves into this narrow self-image. Not only is this self-image extremely is also very rigid.

  5. We lack self-assertiveness. We see every self-assertive act as an aggressive act, and this helps to create a stressful world. Because we're not assertive, we see ourselves as without rights. So when we do feel ourselves on top of the world, we always see ourselves there at someone else's expense (because on our mountain top, there's always only room for one.)

  6. We have a great deal of misinformation about what constitutes acceptable speaking behavior. It's okay for someone else to speak forcefully and dynamically, but when we speak with any aliveness in our voice, we see ourselves as coming off too strong, too overpowering and too visible.

  7. Hand-in-hand with our fear of looking too powerful, we see ourselves as powerless. As victims. As helpless.

  8. We see life as a performance. This is related to our need to please others.

  9. Because we see life as a performance, we are afraid to make mistakes because of how we might be judged.

  10. Because we're afraid to make mistakes, we're afraid of responsibility and making decisions.

  11. Because we've run from ourselves, we have little self-knowledge. Consequently, we tend to obsess on what is visible -- our imperfect speech. And we tend to blame all our problems on it.

  12. Because of everything previously mentioned, we see ourselves as basically different from other human beings.

  13. Thus, it is not surprising that we've had few, if any, positive speaking experiences.

added with permssion, June 1, 1998