Friday, March 17, 1995

To John Harrison: some points of agreement

Just when I thought that we had parted company and were merrily walking
in different directions I find you again! I agree so much with what you
said in your posting that I had a very hard time selecting just a sentence or
two for reference.

First of all, even though we don't agree on the "nature" of blocks, we
essentially did the same thing: we DIMISTIFIED THEM. You did so by
analyzing what you thought might be underlying psychological causes. I
did so by simply ignoring them, acting as if they hadn't happened and
moving on. Let me add an analogy to all your great ones.

Let's face it, we are lousy windsurfers in the "sea of speech". Fluent
folks seem to be able to navigate no matter how rough the sea gets. As
soon as a few waves show up down we go..

Now, if we really concentrate (focus on "targets" etc.) we can survive
a good wave, but, sure enough, here comes another one... and another
one. It's a lousy way to surf... no fun at all.. and pretty soon down
we go anyhow. Fortunately it turns out that in the "sea of speech"
we can do one very interesting thing: with some effort we can actually
LOWER the waves ("tension"?)! Great! So here comes a wave.. Quick.. remember
your techniques... concentrate.. LOWER the wave! Smack... you hit the
wave... sorry it's too late to do anything about it now... and down you
go. Why can't we lower every damn wave when it comes? Because if we
wait until each particular wave comes it's always TOO LATE.

What's the solution? Forget about each particular wave, look at the
whole sea, look at the sun, enjoy the wind pushing you through the
water. You CAN make the whole seascape calmer, and if you still fall once
in a while it's OK.

I found that when I switched from monitoring each single wave (word) to
monitoring the whole sea the going got a lot easier. Each block was
not an enemy to be conquered so I could go on to the next one (talk
about fatigue!), rather it was a signal, a reminder that a battle had
ensued that I wanted no part of. So I'd back off, wait for the seas/battle
to calm down, and I'd get going again. Eventually I found that I needed
fewer and fewer blocks/signals to remind me to calm the sea, and I found
that the blocks became less severe and often barely perceptible. I also
found that even the tiniest blocks, unnoticed by anyone but me, were still
very good "signals", so I didn't have to wait until major blocks to
remember to lower the waves... I could just keep them down constantly and
ENJOY my speech-surfing excursion.

What are the consequences of this view for therapy? You have just gone
through a two week workshop and you are doing pretty well. Now if you
could just keep doing the same "things" in the real world... right?

WRONG!!!!

You are not at the end of your therapy, YOU ARE AT THE BEGINNING! You have
learned to survive that big wave when it hits you, and that's a great
skill to have, but that's not speech. You have speech, enjoyable speech
(as it should be by definition) when you have learned to create the
conditions that make the sea calmer and calmer and when, in fact, the
techniques you have learned become easier.. and ultimately unnecessary.
It's no wonder to me that so often people simply tire out and "revert" to
the old ways. Techniques are not "solutions" to be harked back to. They
are temporary band-aids to get you on your way. My believe is that future
therapy will, in fact, include the much harder process of "removal" of these
band-aids... I have tried to illustrate here how I have tried to do just
that for myself.

John: I forgot I was "talking" to you... and got on my soap-box. From what
I have read in your postings, it seems to me that you removed your "band-aids"
in much the same way, and I think this is important feedback to both SLPs and
fellow stutterers.

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