Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering double life

I know someone who stutters who refers to himself as someone who stutters “some of the time.” He mentions this in email and Facebook posts every time he comments about something stuttering related.

He’s right, you know! All of us who stutter only stutter some of the time. We generally don’t stutter when we’re alone and talking out loud. We usually don’t stutter when talking to children or animals. And most of us don’t stutter on every single word when we stutter.

This individual often brings up the notion of the “fragmented self” that pioneer speech therapist Charles Van Riper coined. Basically this means that those who stutter see themselves as two beings – one who sometimes stutters 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 stutterer and the other passing as fluent.

I really don’t do that anymore. Since “coming out,” I largely stutter openly and do not attempt to “pass” as normally fluent. I’ve shared before how liberating it is to not worry about being found out or exposed as a stutterer.

I wonder how you feel about this. Can you relate to the notion that we can be people who stutter some of the time? What does this mean in terms of how you see yourself?


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?

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2022.
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