Make Room For The Stuttering

Tug-Of-War

Posted on: December 6, 2010

Remember playing this game as a kid? I never liked it. I didn’t see the point, and it always seemed I got rope burn trying to pull so hard. And as the game goes, the harder you pull, the more effort the other side expends so they can win.

Speaking of rope burn, I also remember as a kid sliding down some huge slide sitting on a burlap sack. I can’t remember where , but the memory just came roaring back. That experience was like a tug-of-war too. I remember feeling gloriously free careening down the slide, caressed and stung  by the wind and having no worries during that fast and furious moment.

And then the moment at the bottom when I realized the ride was over and my butt had slid off the burlap sack and I had rope burn all up and down my legs. The price I paid for that exhilarating run. I wish someone had told me to wear pants!

I have discovered that you can also play tug-of-war with feelings. Someone reminded me that if I expect those close to me to know what I want and need without telling them directly, I will be disappointed. This is akin to mind-reading, which most of us don’t do very well.

I know this intellectually, but emotionally it is still often hard for me to be direct about my feelings and even identify what it is that I am feeling. There must be a way to strike a balance between the desire to show my feelings and pressing my autopilot button to conceal my truest self, which I did for a long time. It was my survival tactic.

Simply put, as I was gently reminded, I am not used to anyone showing care and tenderness toward me. I don’t know how to react, or how to let it in. I want to, but the feelings that rush up overwhelm me. They are a bittersweet mix of joy and sadness. Mourning, if you will, for not having felt genuine tenderness enough to know how to deal with it.

Feeling for real, and expressing how I feel, is still so foreign that I don’t trust it. I grew up thinking that if I let people know my true self, somehow they would get the upper hand, which everyone already seemed to have anyway. I have been told that this is common for children of alcoholics.  There were no emotions expressed – everything real was repressed and avoided. That’s how I got so good at covering up my stuttering.

So this tug-of-war with feelings is vexing me now. It is not as easy to hide anymore. As I heal and continue uncovering and exposing my true self, people are coming in. I have been so used to holding people and feelings at arm’s length, that usually I don’t even notice I am doing it.

Maybe I can have that glorious feeling of careening freedom again, right smack into life instead of down a slide on my butt on a burlap sack . Maybe I will figure out how to avoid the rope burns. Or maybe I’ll just figure out how to stop pulling so hard.

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6 Responses to "Tug-Of-War"

Pam, I can really relate to what you said. I spent so much time and effort trying not be hurt and protecting myself from destructive emotions that I found it difficult to feel positive emotions too. I used to feel that I was an observer of my life, not a participant, I heard someone describe it once as ‘ dancing on the edge of my life’. Having worked on acceptance of my speech for the past 5 years I do regret that, in the past, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy some of the most beautifull things that happened to me because I had dulled my emotions so much.
I am so glad that now I am begining to really enjoy life and enjoy the moment I am in because I am begining to be able to deal with the negative emotions associated with stuttering. I think this also comes with age and life experience. If there is one advantage of getting older, I think it is realising that life is to be lived now, and not putting it off until we are slimmer or healthier or more outgoing or the children are grown up or the mortgage is paid or we don’t stutter or whatever other excuse we (and I really mean me here) have for avoiding taking part in the adventure of life.

What a beautiful essay Pam. It is one you know I can relate to. I seem to find the more I let people “in”, the bigger the hurt when they disapoint me. Sadly the disapointment, and I realize this, is on my part- maybe I expected too much, maybe I was not fully prepared for unrecipracated reactions to my generosity of spirit, maybe we were just two completely different kind of people who truley can never connect.
I believe, as pws, we will always have a hard time letting people in and getting hurt in the process-we’ve had too many painful days for way too long. We CAN have those wonderful, exhilararting moments of sliding full speed into life, but we should also be aware that we may get slide-burned along the way.

Thanks Claudia for reading and commenting. One of the things I need to do for myself is really explore the things I tend to push away. Writing is very important to me, so I am challenging myself to write about some of the still difficult things, in such a way that they will also appeal to others. I think all of us are eager to understand as much as we can about why we do things the way we do, and I am finally realizing that writing about important stuff can really help.
I know you can relate to this – I bet we would have a lot to talk about. Thing is, with me, when I start to actually talk about this stuff, I end up crying, and I am still not 100% comfortable with that yet.

That was very touching and beautiful. “I am not used to anyone showing care and tenderness toward me”. That to me was the saddest line of your post because you seem like such a caring and kind person( I don’t know you that well) but you seem to be that way and for you not to get what you show now, as a child is not fair. I love your metaphors BTW;)

Thanks Bethany! Growing up like that, and not ever really finding it as an adult, makes it hard to know how to handle it when someone does try to show it to me. One of the things I am pushing myself to do is acknowledge more of this instead of hoping it will just go away. I am trying to write about more real stuff. I hope it will have an impact for others and help me as well. As they say, it is definitely a journey. :)

Pam, I go to your blog as if into a treasure cove! Every time, there is something wonderful. THis is another post I can totally relate to. But you yourself were able to discover this reluctance to express emotions and tenderness . I had to have long chats with John Harrison and NLP sessions before I realized this. I was able to start changing this after reading a book Emotional Intelligence by David Goleman. This was an eye opener. I was totally out of touch with my emotional sphere. I didn’t know how to express emotions. Now to me the ability to express emotions freely and without inhibition is an essential condition for fluency. When I block I ask myself – what am I blocking? What kind of emotions I don’t want to experience, afraid to express? The feeling of blocking is the feeling of tug-of-war. The feeling of fluency is this sliding down the slide not caring about the burns or bumps.
Anna

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