Make Room For The Stuttering

Self, Divided

Posted on: February 22, 2011

A friend suggested I read the Charles Van Riper classic, “The Treatment of Stuttering”. It’s a text-book, so not one that I would happen on or that would catch my eye.  I was intrigued, however, as my friend talks frequently about the need for a “whole person” approach for those who stutter. And he thought I might find much that would resonate with me.

So I went looking for the title on Amazon. I found a used copy, for 8 cents and $3.99 for shipping, so the hardcover book cost all of $4.07!  I got it in less than a week, in perfectly good condition. I started reading. My friend was right. I owe him a beer!

I have often wondered if there was any explanation as to why I sometimes feel I lead two separate lives, that even I am two separate people. I felt like that most of the time when I was very much covert about my stuttering, always trying to hide it or play it off as something else. I felt like I was one person on the inside, and that I presented a very different person to the outside world.

Even today, when I consider myself mostly overt, I still feel like I am not in balance sometimes. I still sometimes get surprised when I find my “one person”  looking down at my “other person” in wonder and asking “who is she?” or “how can she do that?” This usually happens when I am talking freely about my stuttering, either casually with a small group or doing some type of presentation.

Because I still have some shame surrounding stuttering, my inside and outside selves still feel very divided at times.

My friend urged me to read Van Riper’s book in order, from beginning to end, and not to skip around. I began that way, but admit that I jumped ahead to see if there was anything that could explain my not being “one whole self” when it comes to stuttering.

And I found it. Van Riper talks about the whole idea of integration of self, the need for the person who stutters to reconcile with that and allow stuttering to co-exist within our very being. I have heard of the phrase “fragmented self” associated with stuttering and the fact that we very often allow our stuttering part to be separate from our “other” self.

I do that. I have felt fragmented. I have experienced that very weird feeling when you are in control and speaking fluently for a while and then suddenly, out of nowhere, a stuttering streak takes hold, and I feel disassociated from “me” when that happens. I tend to drift away a bit in that moment, especially when its a block or when I feel I have received a negative listener reaction.

In a way, it was helpful to read a very matter-of-fact clinical account that indeed people who stutter do experience this division of self, and that we need to integrate our self to feel whole.

Its one thing to talk about our stuttering and hold it out there before us and say we are ok with it. But it is something else entirely when the feelings take over, and try as we might, we feel we want to push that one part of ourself away.

Has anyone else ever felt this divided sense of self?

9 Responses to "Self, Divided"

I most certainly did, back when I thought of my stuttering as something that “got” me, another “thing” that had been dealt TO me, that I had to “fix” so that I would be “better.” I tried so very hard to get fluent–I went to a speech camp at Central Michigan University where I met not only other stutterers, but even another female (I was 11 at the time)!!!! This was an utter revelation to me, that not only there were others “like me,” but that there were others who stuttered “worse” than me. Egad!!!! I am ashamed to admit I felt relieved I “wasn’t so bad.” I could be in a place and talk and people listened. Those two summers at speech camp saved my life and gave me back my self-esteem, and helped me realize that my stuttering was, truly, a unique part of me–and I began to embrace it–yes, that is the truth.

Now, I have tools to meet each block–and God knows I know them all—but the best tool was the minute I accepted stuttering as a part of my true self. I stopped fighting It, and actually enjoyed it–I leaned into It, like I lean into the mountain when I ski and into the hills when I run up. Acceptance is a beautiful experience. And..I have an amazing vocabulary for all the times I would dodge the bugaboo words–hahaha!!!!!

Yes Van Riper is my favorite too , a man that really understood what is stuttering.
Could you tell me the exactly specific pages in the book, where Van Riper write about this topic?

Hi Ari, I don’t have the book with me, at I am at work, but I believe it was in the second section, Design of Therapy, a couple chapters in where he is writing about motivation and desensitization. He talks about the need for the integration of self. It makes sense to me to read that others often think of themselves as fragmented, as two parts. I have been working on that for quite a while. When I get home tonight, I can find the speciific page numbers and send them to you.

Thank you so much!

Ari – I did not write the specific page numbers down when I went to write this, but I was struck in general by pages 226-236, where he seems to talk about a divided self, esp on page 226 where he references Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I have often felt like that, almost using the same analogy in my head to describe the feeling of being two separate persons, in many situations. ~Pam

For me it is such a pleasure to read this book,i read the most of it.
The points that you mention are very important ,and it remind me one more time that i am a normal person,
and that a lot of stutterers react, to living with stuttering in similar ways.
Thanks for your help,i defiantly will read it.

I have stuttered as far back as I can remember and I am now almost 59 years old. Along with being a stutterer, I am an alcoholic–God willing, will celebrate 15 years of continuous sobriety on March 21st. I have always wondered if there are other stutterers out there who have struggled with addictions or alcoholism? Many thanks, Peggy

Peggy, Thak you for reading and leaving a comment that is so personal about you. Yes, I know there are other stutters out there who have struggled with the darkness of addiction. Listen to the episode “I Am Enough” for insight on that issue from an amazing woman that stutters, Nora.
I am the adult child of an alcoholic, so I know. My mom celebrated 30 years of sobriety in January this year. It was huge for her, but I still have issues that I need to work on surrounding my childhood. She was drunk for all of my childhood years and did not find sobriety until after I left home for college. My sister is also in recovery, after several relapses. It is a tough road, but you are not alone. If you would ever like to share your story on the podcast, “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories”, let me know. Your story of addiction, recovery, triumph, and stuttering will touch many, I am sure. Thanks again and welcome to this safe place!

[…] and one who is sometimes fluent. Interestingly, I wrote about this six years ago in a post titled Self, Divided. I talked about how I often felt that I lead two separate lives – one being a covert […]

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