You may have heard that’s its ISAD (International Stammering Awareness Day) today, a very positive day to help PWS (people who stammer) feel supported and understood and those people who don’t stammer, to learn more about it.
Although the aim of this blog is to air my own thoughts and experiences on how can hypnotherapy help stammering, I would firstly like to let you know a little more about what stammering (also known as stuttering) actually is, how it develops and the potentially devastating effect it can have on a persons life.
How stammering starts
The best way I can describe stammering is through my own experience of it. I remember my first stammer very clearly. At 5 years of age, I was simply copying the tune from Batman (na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAN!) when my Dad said to me “Don’t stammer!” and I said “What’s stammer?”, after which he gave me his definition of it. In the same instance I then tried to say “Dad” which, to my surprise, came out as “Da-Da-Dad”. That’s where it all began for me, but of course stammering can start at any age, for any reason, or for no known reason at all.
How stammering develops
Being told not to stammer on several occasions was actually the perpetuating force behind the continuation of my stammer. Because when you are told not to do something you can’t help, you tense up when you are doing it. So when a word came along that I could not quite articulate, I thought it was wrong and I got nervous and worried and my mouth and throat (and the rest of my body) tensed up, making the stammer worse. This meant that what could have been just a simple sound repetition (b-b-ball) turned into a block, where my lips were held tense for several moments before the word “ball” burst out, if indeed it came out at all. Such a display of tension during speaking naturally led to lots of (unwanted) responses from listeners: people laughing, looking away, people interrupting trying to “help”, people putting the phone down. So I now knew that if I stammered I would get bad reactions and I thought, this is simple, I would simply not say the words I knew I would stammer on!
How stammering can affect your whole life
Everyone’s stammer is different. Some people stammer all the time and some cannot hide it, some people stammer only sometimes. Stammering can present itself as a word or sound repetition, a block, a sound prolongation, facial and bodily tension and tics.
For many people who stammer, especially adults, the some of words that they always stammer on are most often the words that are important, such as their own name, their children’s names, their address, their profession, the stop they need to ask for on the bus. This is simply because these are words that cannot be changed.
For example some words can be changed. In my case, if I knew I always stammered on the word “phone”, I could always avoid this word and substitute it in some way- “give me a ring” or “pass me the thingy so I can make a call”, so the word phone is not so “feared” as I could easily replace it. However, substituting your own name for another is ridiculous, so if I knew I would need to say my name, I would simply avoid the situation altogether (e.g. not go to a party) or if I could not avoid the situation (a visitor at work asks my name) I would suddenly develop a terrible cough that would require me to leave the room…after all a cough is far more acceptable and less shocking and shameful than stammering on your own name is it not?
So perhaps you can see how having a stammer can make you feel like you’re in an awful mess (it will be easier to walk 6 miles in the pouring rain than risk stammering to the bus driver) and it can lead to immense fear and anxiety of everyday situations (such as answering the phone or ordering a drink at the café) and also those big life decisions (shall I not do a PhD as I cant do meetings let alone a public talk- perhaps I will settle for a career in data entry where I don’t need to speak much).
Plus there is the added worry of being fluent sometimes and dysfluent at other times. Many people may not even know you have a stammer so you live in fear of stammering in front of them, because how strange would it be to go from talking normally to blocking on a simple word? What would they think?
So finally, how can hypnotherapy help stammering?
Firstly, I want to banish all false and ridiculous claims that hypnosis aims to cure stammering. Stammering has no known cure.
Hypnotherapy cannot cure stammering, but from my own experience, it can do the next best thing. Hypnosis to help stammering has the potential to change your life completely, so that stammering no longer negatively affects any aspect of your life whatsoever.
Hypnotherapy, when conducted by a caring and ethical professional has the potential to help PWS to totally accept their stammer, to truly realise that it is ok to stammer and to take all the fear, anger, embarrassment and shame out of stammering- feelings that may have built up over many years. Hypnosis can complement conventional NHS or private speech therapy. Having worked on my own fears and anxieties about stammering I realised that the most powerful and long-lasting way I could use hypnotherapy to help stammering was through changing the way I felt about stammering itself, learning to subconsciously see stuttering as normal. When I started to see stammering as normal and not wrong, I stopped being scared of it. When I stopped being scared of it, I could say and do anything that I would do if I didn’t have a stammer (I don’t care if I stammer on every sound and syllable on a bus full of people, in fact I stammer with confidence, in a relaxed and controlled way and remain unaffected by unwanted reactions).
I was lucky enough to have completely reduced my anxiety over stuttering using hypnosis on myself, to such an extent that I no longer tensed up so much when I did stammer, leading to dramatically increased fluency (although this was of course not the primary aim of hypnotherapy, but rather a side effect!).
Hypnotherapy can work effectively on both adults and children to change your mind’s processing in a very safe and gentle way. It allows you to mentally rehearse all those feared situations in the safety of your own mind and above all, it can help you gain confidence and assertiveness and even as a person who stammers, to achieve the success in life that is rightfully yours.
So if you are considering hypnotherapy to help stammering, or would simply like more information, please contact me for a chat via email or ‘phone where we will begin to discuss your stammering and how hypnotherapy for stammering in Manchester can help you, in the way that you wish to help yourself.
Dr.Gouri Laher is a fully qualified hypnotherapist and Reiki Master offering combination hypnotherapy and Reiki sessions in Manchester for a variety of issues such as stress and anxiety, stammering, weight loss, stopping smoking and pregnancy and childbirth. My practice is based in The Burton Road Clinic Didsbury, South Manchester, M20 and is within easy reach of Withington, Chorlton, Stockport, Cheadle and central Manchester. If you are interested in hypnotherapy and Reiki in Manchester or simply want to get in touch and book a free initial consultation, telephone me on 07837380665 or e-mail me, in confidence, at firstname.lastname@example.org