If you’re a person who stutters or stammers, a key thing to recognise is that events that happen to you, which involve stuttering, either in the outside world, or thoughts you have in your mind do not cause you to have unhelpful emotions such as anxiety. It is your interpretations and meanings you have given about the events and your thoughts about stuttering, which impact how you feel. However, your interpretations can often contain errors, which mean that the meanings you attach to your experiences where you may have stuttered previously, or might stutter in the future are not always correct. This is useful to know as it provides the basis to overcome negative thoughts about stuttering or stammering.
Errors in Thoughts about Stuttering
When you get involved in incidents where you stutter and have thoughts in response to those incidents, and when you think of stuttering incidents at a later time and again feel negative emotions inside your body, the thoughts you have seem so real. After all you feel their effects in your body. However, the truth is that the thoughts you have often contain lots of distortions and errors. Usually you don’t see these errors, unless you actually take time to analyse your thoughts. Below you will learn about 5 types of errors you can have in negative thoughts about stuttering. Each error is explained with an example, along with some tips on how you can overcome these errors.
1. Making it Personal
With this type of error, an incident occurs where you stuttered and you end up taking the result of it personally rather than looking at the incident objectively, to see if other factors might be playing a part in what happened.
Jamie works at a local charity shop and a customer called Maureen who is a person who stutters often comes in to chat. Jamie has been very busy today and is feeling quite stressed. When Maureen comes into the shop, and tries to start a conversation with Jamie, she starts to stutter when she speaks. Jamie doesn’t talk much and Maureen perceives him as being impatient because of her stuttering. When Maureen leaves, she blames herself for Jamie’s behaviour and tells herself that Jamie became impatient because I was stuttering. This type of statement is an example of making thoughts about stuttering personal because Maureen has incorrectly assumed that Jamie was impatient because of her.
How to Tackle Making it Personal
In order to handle negative thoughts about stuttering where you’ve been personalising, think of alternative explanations of situations and events that have nothing to do with you, or your stuttering.
2. Rejecting the Positive
Rejecting the positive involves taking an event or situation where you stuttered, which is actually positive, but where you discount the positive aspect and make it into a negative event.
Rachel has just given a speech at her public speaking group. While delivering the speech, Rachel stuttered little. During the coffee break, a fellow member Beverly comments to Rachel how she thoroughly enjoyed her speech. Rachel believes Beverly only said this because she felt sorry for her because she stuttered during her speech.
How to Tackle Rejecting the Positive
To work on this type of thinking error, you can consciously make an effort to acknowledge positive comments made about you where you may have stuttered, by putting yourself first and believing that indeed a positive compliment that someone gives you, is because of you and not because someone is taking pity on you.
3. Strong Language
Strong language means the use of words that can affect you strongly emotionally, often in unhelpful ways. The words you use can either cause you to feel bad about yourself and your stuttering, and other people, which can then impact whether you can tolerate certain situations, or are able to react in calmer ways.
Phil is going out with his friends Grant and Ian. Grant tells Phil that another friend called Max is also coming. Phil doesn’t like Max because Max is very confident and when Phil is around Max, he feels insecure and stutters more. Phil says to himself I’m worried of Jack. He’s just so confident and I feel insecure around him. By using the emotive word worried, Phil creates a lot of anxiety in him, which then results in him staying at home. Instead, if Phil had said Jack is just being Jack. It’s the way he is. He’s never really judged me because of my stuttering; he would have felt far less emotive and would still have been able to go out with his friends.
How to Tackle Strong Language
When you think of scenarios where you might stutter (either in the past or in the future) and find yourself talking about them out loud or talking to yourself about them, be mindful of the words you say and ensure you refrain from using terms that will inflame the way you are feeling. Instead, use words that will help to describe stuttering events in the most neutral and objective way possible.
4. Using Feelings
Using feelings means when you use your feelings as evidence for why situations where you stutter, people who are around you when you stutter and yourself as a person who stutters are the way they are. However, it is important to remember, that just because you feel something, it doesn’t make it a fact.
Suresh is a person who stutters has just come back from work. He remembers an incident at work earlier in the day when he was a business networking meeting. He noticed there was another delegate at the meeting who he heard stuttering. Suresh avoided speaking to this man as he was worried it would trigger his own stuttering. Suresh now feels very guilty for avoiding this other man and concludes that he is a very bad person.
How to Tackle Using Feelings
If you notice your thoughts about stuttering being taken over by strong feelings, a way you can deal with this is through noticing thoughts you have, which cause you to state certain facts. For instance this could be, ‘I’m feeling fearful that I might stutter, which means I’m a weak person’ or ‘I’m angry with myself because I stuttered while talking with the assistant in the shop. If you find yourself having such thoughts, which evoke strong feelings inside you, acknowledge that just because you are feeling certain emotions, it doesn’t mean they represent facts and the truth.
5. Jumping to Conclusions
With jumping to conclusions you can create a negative interpretation of an event where you stuttered without there being any facts that can act as real evidence for doing so.
Jasmine is out shopping and comes across a friend called Rick who she hasn’t seen for a while. Jasmine and Rick start chatting and while Jasmine is talking, she starts to stutter. Rick has a facial expression on his face. Jasmine perceives this look to mean Rick thinking she is weird. She concludes that the friend looked at her in a strange manner because she started to stutter. In truth, Jasmine’s friend was thinking about getting home to his dog who hadn’t been well.
How to Tackle Jumping to Conclusions
If you find yourself coming to a conclusion about how someone perceives or feels about you and your stuttering, ask yourself how you really can be sure if this is the truth, or if it isn’t just something you have imagined in your mind? Consider how realistic this conclusion really is and whether there any are real hard facts to support it.
Conversely, if what you are concluding is about an event where you might stutter in the future, then remind yourself that you are creating a fantasy about what might happen. You can never know what will happen for certain until it happens, which will always be in the present moment and not in the future.
Bodenhamer, B.G. and Hall, L.M., 1999. The User’s Manual For The Brain Volume 1. Carmarthen, Wales: Crown House Publishing.
Are you interested in how NLP can help you to overcome the anxiety of stuttering and help you to increase your self-confidence? You might want to take a look at the NLP coaching I offer for people who stutter, or stammer.
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