Monday, March 27, 1995

Response to John Harrison regarding psychological factors in blocking

In response to John's complaint that the list has been unwilling to consider his proposed explanations of stuttering blocks.


I think you are being unfair. Many of us have spent a great deal of time
discussing this issue with you and, speaking for myself, learning a
lot in the process. I am not sure why this wouldn't qualify as "willing
to explore it" with you, but, whatever it means to you, have you done
so with the "opposite" view?

I have learned the following from your view:
1. Individual word "fears", conscious or subconscious, could play a role in
increasing the tension that makes our speech machinery "break down" (I already
held this view, but you have certainly strengthened it).
2. Dealing with these fears in a psychological context can help "dimistify"
blocking behavior and bring our attention to the whole of speech where it
can be of most use. I would never have thought of doing this. Now I would
consider it a good bet in helping some people.

Now, have you "learned" anything from the "genetic view"?

In response to John's bemoning of the fact that many people "latch onto" timing problems, that we can do nothing about, because they would be genetic in origin.

"Genetic" BY NO MEANS means that you cannot do anything about it! Genetics
is only the initial blueprint. It is followed by an embriologic stage AND
by several developmental and learning stages. One CAN intervene and modify
the "natural" development of any of these stages if one knows what one is
looking for! Even when one misses the developmental stages it is sometimes
possible to find chemical, surgical and yes, psychological "fixes" too.
Treatments for depression come to mind as a good example. We are also seeing
the dawn of genetic engineering. Again the key is to find exactly what we should
be looking for.

My interest in the genetic cause is simply due to the fact that I think
it will ultimately illuminate the most productive course of action in
eliminating stuttering. And NO, John, I am not afraid of appearing
psychologically "weak" by not viewing blocking behavior as essentially
psychological in origin. You can bark all you want but it's the wrong
tree. I really don't give a damn about showing chinks in my armour. I am
afraid of snakes and hights. I have had to admit to myself and others
traits in comparison to which "the psychological load" of particular
words or situations absolutely pales.

In response to John bemoning his own perception that many seem reluctant to explore other non-speech related factor that may be relevant to the problem

Do you really think that people, like many of us, who routinely get up in front
of people "confessing" to be stutterers, would have a hard time admitting
(to other PWSs and SLPs) that some words or situations are psychologically very loaded to them? Loaded enough to cause approach-avoidance behavior? Please
give "us" more credit.

I am glad that you pointed out that none of this means that stutterers are emotionally or psychologically different from fluent folks.... now I can come out and stop this silly
denial game! Come on... do you really think "genetic weakness" is easier
to "accept"? Down (sp?) Syndrome is genetic, and so is a myriad of other
mental and physical conditions people are not particularly proud of.

John, I understand how frustrating it is not to have convinced the many
of us who have discussed this issue with you. I know it is frustrating
to me that the opposite hasn't happened, in spite of the flow of much more
eloquent statements than my own. But, please, simply accept the fact that
your arguments, although eloquent, spirited, and rooted in years of great
introspection, have met their counterpart on the other side. For you
to seek solace in the notion that we are in denial or "afraid" to look at
possible psychological factors, would be the real denial. I am confident
your practice at introspection will prevent you from falling into that

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