Friday, February 09, 1996

J. Harrison's "bobulating" and organic causes

Fine word, but John, I'm gonna say something I've been meaning to say for a
while ... it really confuses the issue. This is why. I feel it gives you a way
to "partially agree" when in reality your disagreement is more profound (and so be it). When you divide up stuttering into behaviors fluent people experience, such as bobulating, and those of stutterers, such as blocking, it allows you to say "some stuttering (i.e. the bobulating part) can be organic in origin", but that doesn't amount to much.

The fact that some people may have more of a predisposition to "become discombobulated" when tense, doesn't interest me any more than saying that some people have a tendency to blush or sweat more than others. When I (and probably most others) debate on the etiology of stuttering, I include "ssssssssssan Francisco" as well as silent blocks as THE essential part of the phenomenon.

So let's call spade a spade. You believe that stuttering is essentially a psychological problem. It's OK. You are not the only one. But it is important to note that when people present evidence for organic causes they are talking about Stutering (capital S), not bobulating.

John says that there is no "need to resort to a mysterious genetic predisposition to explain why a block occurs".

You can probably dissect any particular block and find some reasons why that block, in particular, happened, but I believe that the general tendency to block requires an organic explanation. It's like having a car that stalls a lot. Any particular stalling event might have an explanation of "no spark" or "not enough gas" but the real underlying cause is a badly designed ignition system. There are SYTEMS at this level as well at the level you usually refer to.

John thinks that blocks can be explained as "a programmed, habituated response".

I agree that some of blocking behavior is reinforced by a programmed, habituated response, but what gets habituated is the fear and probably accompanying maladaptive behaviors, such as tensing up. We also agree that we can work at changing the program (and we both have, in ways that seem dissimilar, but are really not) Where we don't agree is that I (and others) think that

1. Blocking behavior (i.e. Stuttering) could only get started and become established enough to begin creating secondary reactions (fear etc.) because of organic reasons The above explanation accounts for its getting a firm hold of our speech system, and even making the problem a lot worse.
2. An "unlearning" process for "un"monitoring and "un"controlling your speech, while almost always helpful, will not necessarily lead to the complete elimination of Stuttering.

My own personal suspicion, is that, in fact, we may have not been as responsible for our "cure" as we think we are. "Organic" doesn't mean perennial. Our body changes and, by the time we find our way back from our maladaptive behaviors, we find the organic core isn't really a big deal any more, or that it's gone altogether. Alternatively, we may find that the organic core continues to overwhelm the speech system and no amount of "unlearning" will do the trick. Basically this is how I explain both your success and mine (more moderate) as well as as the difficulties others seem to keep having.

John claims that being aware of the particular circumstances of any particular block allows him to "let go" and can't understand why we are odds about this... (hence his belief in a psychological root to blocking)

We are at odds partly because I came to the same ultimate conclusion (let go,
zen, etc.) precisely by NOT analyzing my blocks and NOT even considering any
approach avoidance issues, but by taking a holistic view immediately). Any rare
residual blocks I have are complete surprises and appear to me completely
devoid of psychological loading (in the past you have asked how I can be so
sure... I guess I just am... that's the best I can do).

John feels that the incidence of stuttering in some families can be due to other common family circumstances rather than genetics... (the old "nature vs. nurture debate").

If I didn't believe in an organic cause, that's how'd I'd try to explain it too,
but my impression (somebody correct me) is that genetic connections are drawn beyond the immediate family. Aren't there studies about twins raised in
different families too (somebody help)? My stuttering relatives were a cousin
(now in his 60s and still stuttering) and an uncle, now in his 70s, whom I
actually never heard stutter, but who told me he did as a young man (he, by the
way, never claimed any particular insight or effort ... it just went away).
Both people are from my mother's side of the family. All families were quite
different as far as I know.

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