Make Room For The Stuttering

The Blame Game

Posted on: April 17, 2012

Do you ever blame yourself for stuttering? Why do you suppose that is? Is it because of how other people react to us?

My stuttering is very variable. Sometimes my stuttering is hardly noticeable, other times it seems I stutter or block on every other word. I have had people comment to me something like, “do you know just now you didn’t stutter at all? How come you can’t do that all the time?”

I can’t do that all the time because it takes too much energy and time to think about breathing and light contact when I am ready to speak. I just speak, like everyone else. And sometimes my words don’t come out smoothly or at all for a moment (or few.)

What about stutterers who stutter severely – with struggle behavior and blocking on every word, all of the time? What do you think listeners think when listening?  “Damn, they’re just lazy. If they worked on their speech, they wouldn’t sound like that.”

Does a listener listening to stuttering think we can turn it off and on with ease? Or does the listener think we could if we tried harder. You know, tried our “speech tools” or our “targets.” Practiced more, focused more, concentrated on being fluent.

A friend shared recently that he blames himself for stuttering. “Why?” I naturally asked. “People look at me and judge me and think I’m messed up because I stutter.” (he actually used a stronger word than “messed up”)

He thinks he could have, or should have, done something about “it” – and because he didn’t or couldn’t, it’s his fault that he stutters. He’s to blame!

He said, “people don’t look at people in a wheelchair and think if they tried harder, they could walk. But they do think that about stuttering – if I went to therapy, I wouldn’t stutter like this. It’s my fault. I blame myself for stuttering.”

Should we blame our selves for stuttering? Should blame even enter into conversations about stuttering?

What do you think?

11 Responses to "The Blame Game"

To anyone who might ask me why my stuttering varies, I’d say, “Because that’s how my speech mechanism works.”

Your post is timely for me because I am in a period of a lot of stuttering and I don’t mean easy stuttering. It’s been a couple weeks. Even George is noticing. Because I’ve been a PWS who some people don’t believe stutters at all or who would say “your stutter is not that bad,” I kind of feel like, “See, told ya.”

I think because I used to be more covert and tried so hard to hide it, for me, at this time it is more important to just live with it and observe my own reactions when it is happening. More people are hearing me stutter. I’m not caring. I’m not spending time worrying about, “I just stuttered with so and so…..”

I spent much of my life torturing myself with self-blame. No more.

I don’t think we ask people with other disabilities to change as much as we ask PWS to change.

George has an arm that doesn’t swing when he walks. Yesterday he said he thinks it’s nerve damage. If he thinks about it, he can make it swing. I started lecturing him with the same rhetoric we sometimes hear about stuttering. “If you work at it, you can change the neurological pathways so your arm will start swinging again.” We had a good laugh about that.

I think blaming ourselves is unhelpful and can damage confidence and self esteem. I think taking responsibility for your own happiness is however important to learn. If that means going to speech therapy and involving yourself in self help then thats what we have to do. Some people are happy stuttering openly and others aren’t.

This is something that i have been thinking about loads lately. I like everyone else on this earth is attached to my speaking voice, despite the fact that i may not like it sometimes. Therefore the hardest thing is changing how we speak, this is why i think PWS are some of the most couragest people on earth. Your friend is making out like it is too late for him, its not. I think we need to affirm ourselves everyday that we are worthy human beings, and this is how we look forward and move on.

I dislike the word blame, but we are responsible for our own happiness. We need to tell ourselves this everyday that we deserve forgiveness and that we do the best we can in certain situations. Your friend clearly didn’t feel ready to go to speech therapy and put in the work, thats ok. We are all human, no one’s perfect. Something that i am working on is forgiving myself everyday for stuttering or not stuttering.

I think we are too hard on ourselves. Let me ask something, would you blame your 5 year old self for stuttering? why blame yourself now?

Pam, it seems to me that whether we blame ourselves or not depends on our worldview re stuttering. If we think stuttering is genetic, we don’t blame ourselves. If we think speaking is done with the effortful “trying” part of the mind, then we think we haven’t “tried” hard enough (and therefore blame ourselves.) I, personally, found I was over-thinking my speech, so I dealt with that. I found that the reason I was over-thinking speech was because I lacked trust in my own natural ability to speak without constant interference from my conscious mind. So I began to deal with trust issues….which is probably not “blaming myself” but rather understanding what was going on. RUTH MEAD

the health and heart comment is me btw, lesley kodom-baah 🙂

An interesting question, Pam. Not sure how to answer it.

I suppose when I was younger and more self – conscious, I may well have apologised to people who were patiently waiting to hear what I was trying
to say. Is that blame, or more a cas…e of what you Americans would call our “British reserve?” We Brits must be the only people in the world who when someone bumps into you in the street apologise to them rather than expect
them to apologise to us. I know that when I was a child, my mother was
inclined to blame herself for my speech – she seemed to think that it was somehow her “fault” that I had a stammer. Work that one out

If you can’t deal with my stuttering, I blame *you* for not being a fully developed human

The reality is that no-one understand what we feel when we stutter.
People just hear weird speech ,sometimes they notice that the we
speak faster than regular,so they say “speak slower” thinking that the reason we talk like that is because our rhythm.
Also speaking by nature is automatic process ,so it is very difficult to control it all the time and even most of the time.
So i don’t think that we need to feel blame, because we don’t control it,and i don’t think that people understand the meaning of controlling our speak.

If people have a problem with my stutter, I just try to think about it for what it is: their problem (^_^). I know, easier said than done. And it’s not always easy when you have to talk to people at work who don’t feel comfortable with it. But that’s the way I try to think about it. I’m proud of being a person who stutters.

Hi, Pam,
Always enjoy your tought provoking topics. I guess I felt like you describe most of my life. I had no idea that such was my father’s attitude, until soon after I started applying NLP techniques and going to toastmasters and all that stuff, I told him what i am trying to do. And he said with visible irritation (couldn’t help it as it seemed) – “You could stop this stuttering long time ago – if you woudl work hard, saying thousand tongue twisters every day…” My jaw dropped open. I had no idea that was how he felt. I guess my guilt about my stuttering was because I picked up such vibes from people who surrounded me. Now I know that even though there are people who were able to reduce or even eliminate their stutter – it is not an easy journey. I had to change how I felt, how I thought, what i believed about stuttering and speech. And I still am not completely fluent. Certaintly saying thousand tongue twisters wouldn’t help. I know it now and I don’t feel guilty when i some times stutter. I also never think that those who stutter severely are lazy. Many of them put years of work into their speech. many just gave up. Many stopped caring. It is a heavy burden – we all deal with it differently.

I feel bad telling professors that I have a stutter, or asking for an alternative assignment to an oral presentation (only in cases where severe stuttering would detract a lot from the education value of a long oral presentation). It doesn’t feel like a “real” disability, at least not as real (as you said) as paralysis. It’s the same way when people try to help me in the middle of the block, telling me to slow down, take my time, “spit it out,” like I’m not trying hard enough. It’s frustrating, even when people are just trying to let me know that I don’t have to worry.

I don’t think we SHOULD blame ourselves; I know deep down it’s not my fault, that I can’t help my anxiety levels in different situations, but it’s hard not to feel guilty sometimes.

After a really long journey with this heart breaking condition, i have 3 pieces of advice for every PWS:
1. Slow down. It’s not easy, but the more you slow down, the better you get.
2. Never ever try to ELIMINATE stuttering. The goal should be to stutter smoothly. Not easy, i know, but what else can you do?
3. ACCEPTANCE is the only way out. If you get bad blocks, just say that you stutter and try again, slowly. The other person has to wait, if he can’t, s/he doesn’t, they are either ignorant or just too immature.

So, slow down and accept that it is something you have to live with. Therapy helps.

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