Make Room For The Stuttering

Self Compassion

Posted on: August 12, 2011

I just posted a comment to my sister on Facebook that there is no such thing as coincidence, as that has been told to me many times.

I started a blog post last night on self-compassion, as I am reading a great book on that subject right now, and went back to finish the post today. I happened to check into one of the stuttering email groups I belong to, and someone asked an interesting question that I responded to. And I realized that my response to him was about self-compassion.

So I deleted what I had written and decided to post my response to his question. This was his question: “What tips have any of you used to get turned in the opposite direction from negative thoughts and start convincing the Subconscious mind to ”Believe” in positive ones?”

Here’s how I responded to his question.

It sounds like your “inner critic” is running roughshod on you. That inner voice we all have that has been with us for as long as whatever “it” is that we don’t like or wish we could change. Mine still shows up a lot too, way more than I wish she would!

In your case, (and mine) “it” is stuttering. We hate it, we fear it, we wish it would go away. We feel inadequate, inferior, guilty,shamed, and scared of how other people will react.

People who are overweight have that “inner critic” too. In that case, the inner critic says things similar to what yours has said about stuttering:

“I don’t care how much you have learned about eating better

I don’t care how much you have learned about exercise

I don’t care that you feel better when you skip desert

I don’t care that your doctor says you would be healthier if you lost even 5 pounds.”

“We know that you are a big fat loser and are never going to change, so why bother doing any of those things? You are never going to change, no one is ever going to think you are attractive, so go ahead and eat that whole pizza or gallon of ice cream. It doesn’t matter”

It is very hard to be kind to ourselves and not beat our self up all the time. I am reading a good book on self-compassion right now, which reminds us/me that the best way to turn that inner-critic dialogue around is to literally “turn it around.”

When you begin to feel hopeless or anxious or scared or angry – try to be aware of that in the moment and try to say things to yourself like,  “I know its hard for you when you stutter and you think everyone is judging you – but they are really not. It’s OK if you just let yourself stutter. You still are a good and valued person.”

Or, “it’s uncomfortable to stutter and see someone break eye contact or make a face, or even laugh. It hurts, doesn’t it? It’s OK to feel hurt once in a while. We all do. It’s OK to cry too”. (That part about crying I am still working on. I frequently have to remind myself that it really is OK.)

The more you tell yourself that you are OK and that whatever change you are attempting is going to take some time, the more practice you will give yourself  being more positive with your thoughts instead of negative.

It is by re-shaping these negative thoughts into kinder, gentler ones that we are more able to accept that there are some things about us that we may not be able to completely change, but we are still lovable.

I think that is the whole crux of the matter with stuttering  – we feel not good enough, and fear rejection. Being rejected means on some level that we feel unloved.

As hard as it is, allowing yourself to talk kindly to yourself, instead of letting that “inner critic” have free reign and hog up all the space, makes much more sense.

Having compassion for ourselves allows us to see that we are not perfect, and that we do not have to try to be. When we can be compassionate and gentle with ourselves, we then can be for others.

Huh! As I read this back, I was pretty impressed with how good that came out. I guess this book on self-compassion is really hitting some chords with me. What about you?

8 Responses to "Self Compassion"

Can I ask a serious question for a second? Why do you think PWS have such a difficult time accepting their stuttering and feeling like they’re just as worthy of a voice as everyone else? I understand that we all have those issues we don’t love about ourselves, but I’m noticing I have a hard time understanding and relating to people still paralyzed by the things that haunted them as children or as young adults. This doesn’t at all strictly pertain to PWS, but that’s the topic of convo here. Why do you think we haven’t let these things “go” yet? Why the reluctance to be proud stutterers and let ourselves be defined by other things

Ahhhh . . . . . great question. If I knew why people had such a hard time accepting and feeling worth, I suppose there wouldn’t be so many email support groups where people ask how do we do it – turn those negative thoughts into positive ones. Like I said, I check into the forums regularly and there are so many people who sttuter who just can’t get past the shame.

I think it has a lot to do with how we as a society/culture, take communication for granted so much. As our society gets more and more technically advanced, and people of all walks of life utilize social media,when we actually do have to talk face-to-face with someone, it becomes that much more of a challenge. Especially for the stutterer, who already may feel shameful and inferior.

I wrote this response to a guy who was basically asking for help. He has been intently trying all of the tools – stuttering on purpose, advertising, desensitizing, etc and still feeling that he does not measure up. I could relate because I felt that way myself for so long. In my case, it had to do with external criticism I got early on from my father and a teacher, who basically yelled at me for stuttering. A 5 year-old internlaizes that.

Its hard to let these things go. As much as I know intellectually its no good to hold on to toxic, negative thoughts, they still show up. And I am guessing that remains true for many stutterers, as there continues to be hundreds of posts asking how do we just let go and proud of who we are. Me, for the most part, I am – but I am also human, and every so often, that inner critic comes back and I get flooded with shame.

“In my case, it had to do with external criticism I got early on from my father and a teacher, who basically yelled at me for stuttering. A 5 year-old internlaizes that.”

I think that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. You’re right, a five year old internalizes that. But we’re no longer five. What makes some people able to walk away from that and know “he was wrong” and what makes others hold on to it and still see that situation through the eyes of a 5-year-old? Again, not at all true of just stutterers, but just something that’s been heavily on my mind as of late.

No idea why some hold on and some can let go. Suppose if we knew that, psychotherapists would be on the unemployment lines!

When I hear that voice say, “I am afriad that person is going to think I’m stupid, inadequate ect. I tell myself that person is going to think what they think. As much as we want to control what people think of us we can’t. If that person is going to think I’m stupid than that’s that. I have to remind myself that I won’t die from it. Let’s say I am scared to ask a question in a store because I ‘m terrified of what the clerk might think of me. I tell myself the success is asking the question, allowing that person to see me stutter, and tolerating whatever their reaction is.

Great post! My therapist (for social issues) used to end our sessions by telling me to “Go easy on yourself”. She was right.

We all hear that voice, sometimes over the stupidest things.

Another tool is to give the inner voice a name. Then you can lovingly tell it that you’re busy right now but you’ll listen to it later, or rudely tell it where to go, or something more balanced.

I’ve been working through Mark Forster’s How to Make your Dreams Come True. It’s the only self-help book when I’ve actually done any of the exercises. They’re simple and, unlike some, they’re drafts that you improve and change over time rather than today you write the values you will follow for the rest of your life so you need to get them right. One of the early ones is a daily “What was better about today”. He firmly discourages you from thinking about things that went badly or that you could have done better. It’s working.

May I suggest a further resource to learn more about empathy and compassion.
The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews,  videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.

Thanks for the link. I just checked it out, and there is an interview and video clips from Kristen Neff, the author of the book I am reading, Self-Compassion:Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.
I am really enjoying the book, and seeing way too much of myself in it!
Everybody, regardless of what flaw or imperfection we have, can benefit from learning to be kinder to ourselves.
Thanks for sharing!

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