Make Room For The Stuttering

The Devil You Know

Posted on: October 8, 2012

One of the papers on this year’s International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) online conference resonated strongly with me. ISAD 2012 presentations can be found on The Stuttering Homepage.

The paper is titled Relapse Following Successful Stuttering Therapy: The Problem of Choice, by Ryan Pollard. In it, he discusses how difficult it is to change our identity, even after successful therapy for whatever the issue is-stuttering, overeating, or leaving an abusive relationship.

I commented on Pollard’s paper with a post that I titled “The Devil You Know.”  People often stay in bad situations because we believe what we know may be better than the unknown. Change is scary, as is uncertainty and second guessing whether we can survive whatever change it is that may (or may not) need to be made.

I went through all of that, 3 and 4 times over. I am an adult child of an alcoholic, and as with many ACOAs, it was hard to let go of invalid beliefs, self-criticism and the constant need to please others.

I also began my journey to accept myself as a person who stutters several years ago, after spending a lifetime trying to pretend I didn’t stutter and denying how much it bothered me that I wasn’t being true to myself. As I grew to like myself more, I grew more confident and began to shed the need to defer to others and pretend to be someone I was not.

And I stayed in an abusive relationship for many years, as I thought I couldn’t ever leave and be happy, or that I just couldn’t make it on my own. I preferred the devil I was living with to the devil I didn’t know yet.

All of this leads to this: just knowing the alternatives we have in our life is often not enough for a person to make a change. I knew there was help available to leave a bad relationship, but I stayed. I knew my parents’ alcoholism was not my fault, yet I believed that for many years. I knew I could learn tools in speech therapy which would greatly minimize my stuttering, yet I chose to allow myself to stutter openly.

I remember several years ago writing a piece about “my arrival.” How would I know when I had arrived at the place in life where I would truly be happy. I also wrote about changing, and asked myself 2 questions: “what if I didn’t like the person I might become if I changed? what if I didn’t even recognize her?”

Sometimes if easy to see why we might stay with the devil we know.

What do you think?

3 Responses to "The Devil You Know"

some thing I totally understand….what if the person you are happy being, isn’t the person others want you to be. Sometimes we have to also be prepared for people to walk away from us. we have changed and become people they do not recognise. i changed from a quiet girl who did what she was told into…well not someone who was going to just do what she was told!

my group of friends changed, my marriage disentegrated and i found myself with a whole new life, totally different to what i thought. a few years on, i realise that everything happens for a reason.

I am now happy. and i never thought i would be able to say that and mean it.

Wow, Pam, I think you described the way I used to be to a T. This is an excellent paper. And I DO believe we stick with the “devil we know” because we think “this is just the way it IS. Everyone has to put up with this stuff….and I’m no exception.” And then thankfully the light dawns. This paper should help that light to dawn for others out there.

Pam, this is very familiar. My way of battling it is to slowly expand my self-image. When I became the toastmasters club president, I started experiencing more struggle, however, all I had to do is to keep getting used to this new role and accepting that it is me doing this. I still do not believe entirely when people tell me that I am a good speaker, but I just keep doing what I am doing. In about one week I am competing in the division level humorous speech contest, in two weeks I am conducting a theater workshop for kids toastmasters club. I don’t feel comfortable doing this and often have dreams in which i stutter just as badly as before and it feels very comforting – like a blanket. But I know I just have to keep doing what feels uncomfortable and new.

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