Change through Acceptance

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to distinguish between the two.--- Traditional prayer



There is another tool the person who stutters can add to his arsenal in the management of stuttering: a measure of acceptance.

At a glance this statement seems paradoxical. Many people feel that the only way to change is to actively and aggressively resist the unwanted behaviour. One of the principles of personal change, however, is that prior acceptance is more conducive to change than prior rejection. Going so far as to hate your stuttering is counterproductive, as you will be hating part of yourself, thereby engendering a lot of psychological stress and increasing the stutter.

An alcoholic who wants to do something about his drinking problem usually only commences real treatment once he has faced and accepted his problem. In a similar way the PWS should to some extent reconcile himself with the disorder. Come to terms with the person you are. Accept the totality of your feelings as an inseparable part of yourself.

Acceptance, of course, is not the same as resignation or acquiescence. Accepting your stutter does not mean abandoning your efforts to work toward improved fluency.

The extent to which you will need to accept your stuttering will depend on your individual circumstances. We should not lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with a partly stress-related disorder which may be firmly established through years of conditioning. The extent to which you will succeed in managing your stuttering depends on many factors, eg the availability of quality treatment, your personality, the severity and extent of your condition, sensitivity to stress and hard work. It is a sad fact that, for many people, the effective management of stuttering will remain an inaccessible ideal. For them, a large degree of acceptance is essential. Take care not to get lost in a never-ending, soul-destroying, life-long quest for the fantasy of complete fluency if this fluency happens to be out of reach due to circumstances beyond your control. Rather adjust your life according to your unique limitations.


An inherited sensitivity to stress

We are all subject to stress, and this may trip up the PWS without warning. We who stutter have stress-sensitive vocal cords, and these will probably always be a weak link for many of us. The desensitisation steps described in the chapter ‘Applying the Technique in Real Life’ will go a long way towards helping you cope in general – however these procedures require a great deal of time and effort. Accept your blocks if you stutter. If needs be, tell the listener about your speech problem. Refuse to be upset by blocks. Instead identify the particular type of stress involved: word/sound stress, situation stress, etc.


Keep your perspective

There is more to life than speaking well. Don’t let speech and fluency become an obsession. Many people with far more incapacitating disorders live productive and happy lives within their personal limits. True, stuttering is often underestimated – it can amount to a form of mutism for some people – but even mute people can find happiness.


Listener reaction – don’t overreact!

Many PWS overreact in an excessively negative way to how they think the listener may respond. They see the listener as some kind of merciless judge who divides humanity into fluent speakers and people who stutter. All fluent speakers are acquitted – but woe betide him who fails to be fluent! He is surely damned forever.

This attitude places the PWS under much unnecessary pressure. Reality paints a different picture. People differ, and have different speaking styles. The PWS is so often very hard on himself. Stuttering may not exactly represent socially acceptable behaviour, but very often the speech of fluent people is also unacceptable – too soft, too loud, too fast, too drawn out, rude, hesitant, mumbling, too high, too low, etc. Yet, unlike the PWS, they are not overly apologetic and critical about their speech. Normal speakers who formulate their thoughts clearly and logically at all times are few and far between.

Listener response DOES pose a problem for the PWS, but this problem should not be blown out of all proportion. In most cases the listener soon notices the speaker’s speech problem and listens patiently to what he has to say. Moreover, many listeners pay little attention to how others speak. They want to hear what is said, not how it is said.

Always keep in mind that, just like you, the listener is not a perfect person. Your problem may be stuttering – his or her problems may be far more severe ...

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