Make Room For The Stuttering

It’s In The Doing

Posted on: May 24, 2011

“The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.” —Robert Cushing.

I love this saying. My friend Steve put this on our agenda for a discussion workshop we did recently with adults who stutter. We discussed fear and shame, and how we manage our stuttering in our daily lives.

Anything worth having  is worth working for. I tell my students that all the time. Sometimes we have to make ourselves vulnerable and do things we think we cannot do, in order to achieve a goal. Then when we achieve the goal, it is often sweeter because we faced up to something we might not have dared to do.

Stuttering fits in this realm. There are lots of things people who stutter avoid out of fear or shame. For some, it might be public speaking. For others, it might be answering the telephone or placing an order through a drive-through. For still others, it might be speaking up at a meeting or answering an impromptu question.

Life is full of those moments when we have to decide what is most important. Sometimes we have to dive right in and just face our fears, so that we can feel in control, rather than our stutter controlling us.

Reminds me of an upcoming event I have scheduled. Next Wednesday is our high school awards night and our Honor Society induction ceremony.

I am the one who gets to be on stage, using a microphone, explaining the functions and what the different candles we will light actually mean. Then I will call each student’s name for their award. This is always challenging!

Even though it will be my fourth year leading this ceremony, I always feel that anticipatory anxiety. I stutter more when I am reading names.

When I read each student’s name, I repeat on the first and last name, without fail. I worry because I don’t want parents thinking I am mis-pronouncing their child’s name. Getting names right are important, especially when parents will be in the audience.

This is definitely an area that I might stand at the edge and think about the danger and cold, and wish I did not have to do this. But I will. Despite my boss having made negative comments about my performance after the first time I did it. (Not sure I will ever forget that!)

I could ask someone else to do it, but I won’t. It’s my job. It invokes anxiety for me, but I am going to do it anyway. It’s worth it to me to scramble through and do my best, for myself and my students. Even if I am not perfect.

Perfection is not the goal. Just doing it is! Right? Often, the victory is in the doing.

Can you relate? Have there been things you’d rather not do, but have done anyway? Why?

3 Responses to "It’s In The Doing"

Yes, I agree. Sometimes just doing it is the success. Like today in class, I was working with someone and we had to briefly present information to the class. I could have let my classmate do all the talking, but I decided to speak up and add a little. I really struggled, but said exactly what I wanted.

Pam, I have been purposefully doing speaking tasks that I find challenging for about 2 years now, but I use various techniques. I am not talking about fluency techniques, which i don’t use now, but techniques to lessen the impact of worry and anxiety. One great book on this is “Choke” by Sian Beilock – a scientist who investigated a phenomenon of chocking under pressure (in athletes, students etc). She explains that worries eat up our working memory that we also use for other stuff including speaking. In other cases, worries make us to overcontrol our performance. She suggests many techniques to reduce impact of worries, but what i found useful is to sing in my head right before I have to start speaking. Something simple, like happy birthday. Also I try to outwardly direct my attention – focus on people, my breathing, sounds, smells etc. The goal is to replace worrisome voice in your head with anything else. Try it, it is an interesting experiment and what do you have to lose?

Another thought that popped in my mind is that even though facing the challenge may feel uncomfortable and even painful at first, but the more you do it, the more positive emotions you experience. It is like with people who do dangerous stunts – they become addicted to the feeling. Often after some difficult speaking task I feel like Evil Knievel was probably feeling after a dangerous jump on his bike. It is “Yeah!” feeling. Sadly, other PWSs are the only people with whom I can share my joy of overcoming the challenge. Others just don ‘t get it. This is why I always write to Pam to brag:) She always knows the right thing to say:)

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