Growing Up Your Inner but Hurting Child **NEW**

“Read Hazel’s story of how she utilized Neuro-Linguistic Programing and Neuro-Semantics  to re-imprint her inner child as well as her inner teenager. The original negative imprints had not served her well. Indeed, these earlier imprints which were  located in her unconscious mind led to her constantly  triggering her stuttering  speaking strategy. She had lived her entire life as a PWS. Now, Hazel is  utilizing what she has and is learning about how to run her own brain rather than letting stuttering do it for her. She is making steady progress with her speaking. But, even more important has been her launching out to area churches offering herself as a speaker to various groups sharing her life as a PWS. Her story is a remarkable one. Follow this link to her article and discover the power involved when you heal up that hurting  inner child and teenager of the past.”


Hazel Percy
Bob Bodenhamer

[PDF Version of the article available here]

I (Bob) have been working with Hazel for some time, assisting her in the healing of unwanted fears and internal hurts that she had had for many years. On December 11th 2014, I sent Hazel an e-mail, addressing various points that she, as a Person Who Stutters (PWS), had raised in previous e-mail interchanges. Some of this related to the ‘teenage 1part’ of Hazel (See “Endnotes” for a further discussion about “Parts”.).

I gave her further questions to consider, and in addition, suggested that she run the ‘Growing Up’ Pattern (Technique or Exercise). The Pattern is found at the end of this article. However, bear in mind that before she ran the Growing Up Pattern, Hazel had already done some previous work on her memories as a teenager. She did this over several weeks. This work took place during the second half of last year (2014). My work with Hazel consisted of our using both the telephone and e-mail to communicate with each other.

For example, in January Hazel said: “I’d gone through many childhood/teenage memories using the 2”Bitter Root to Jesus Pattern”, giving the pain to Jesus, with child/teenage me and the adult me forgiving the people involved. Also, during December, I had those two inner ‘conversations’ (self-talk), associated as teenage me, with Jesus and adult me. I had these conversations as a result of you (Bob) asking me the following, which related to the issue of ‘teenage me’ needing to feel good about herself:

  • What is blocking her from feeling good about herself?
  • Does her knowing Christ help her to feel good about herself?
  • Become that teenager; associate into her body, and ask her the above questions.
  • Let me know if you get anything new.


Note: In recalling a past memory, we can recall it in basically two ways:

  1. We can recall it associated”, which means that we mentally place ourselves back in that memory seeing through our own eyes, hearing the same sounds and feeling the very same as we did in the memory. You know that you are associated when you recall a memory and you do not see yourself in the memory. When associated, you are imagining yourself there in your body; thus, you are looking through the eyes of “then” and not the eyes of “now”.
  2. The second way that we recall a memory is to recall it “dissociated”. When recalling a memory dissociated, you see yourself in the memory. You are recalling that memory and visually you see yourself back there in that memory. You see the younger you from the present you. Dissociating from a memory for most people greatly reduces the emotional intensity of that memory. Likewise, associating yourself into a memory greatly intensifies the “feeling” that you receive from the memory.

So, to summarize:

  1. When you recall a memory and you do not see yourself in that memory, you are associated in that memory, experiencing that memory as if there and this for most people greatly increases the feelings that they experience from that memory.
  2. On-the-other-hand, when you recall a memory and you see yourself in that memory, you are dissociated from the memory as you are seeing yourself from the present and that allows you to be more objective about what happened. Thus, to see yourself in the memory will, for most people, decrease the intensity of the feelings from that memory.

As an example, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) happens when the soldier is triggered back to the frightful experience on the battlefield. He mentally goes back there and associates into that memory. He is telling his body that that event is happening all over again. There is no wonder that he experiences so many emotions. However, when the soldier dissociates from the memory and by doing so he sees himself on the battlefield from his present position of being safe at home, the intensity of that memory will be dramatically reduced.

Two Re-imprinting Therapeutic 3Interventions used with Hazel – “Re-imprinting” is a common term used in NLP and in other areas of psychology. An imprint is the modeling by the child of the behavior of the parents or other significant care-giver. Usually, the term refers especially to learning experiences where the child builds his or her identity. You learn how to identify yourself by the feedback from these experiences with parents and others. Regrettably, this works for both bad memories and happy memories.

Children learn by imitating others – by modeling them. New born infants can be seen making facial expressions of those around him. This can happen within hours of birth. Imprinting all happens unconsciously because the child cannot sort the good from the bad. The child experiences parental responses mainly at first through the tonality, the volume and the facial expressions of the parent and how tender or not by the parent. For the first several years of a child’s life, the non-verbal feedback from the parent has a much bigger effect on the child rather than the content of what is said.

Regrettably, a lot of children experience a lot of pain, rejection and even beatings before they are 2 or 3 years old from their parents or caregivers These experiences are deeply imprinted within the child’s brain and they are oft a challenge to fix; or, as we say, to re-imprint those old painful memories with new and more positive imprinting. Richard Bandler once said that “it is never too late to have a happy childhood”. That statement gets to the heart of what NLP and Neuro-Semantics (NS) are all about. I have yet to meet a PWS that didn’t have deeply embedded negative imprints that contribute to triggering their stuttering habit.

We will share two simple methods of re-imprinting.

I used two different interventions with Hazel, to further assist her in healing the memory from her as a teenager. The first intervention consists of Hazel’s being with God and seeing herself with the problem but seeing herself from God’s perspective. From this perspective, Hazel watches herself grow up. This first intervention involves Hazel’s being dissociated from herself on earth. She sees herself from God’s perspective.

The second intervention utilizes Hazel’s being associated here on earth. However, she utilizes her oneness with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as her number one resource in healing hurtful memories. In beginning the re-imprinting Pattern, Hazel places herself back before she was born when she existed with God (See Jeremiah 1:5 below). And, remaining with God, Hazel travels through her life with God bringing healing to those memories from the past. This is one of the best re-imprinting Patterns that I use with Christians.

Hazel continues from earlier, “I shared these ‘conversations’ in a couple of e-mails to you (Bob), in mid-December. The outcome of these conversations was that ‘teenage me’ now feels ‘good about herself’ as a person. What I’m saying is that, a lot of the hurt/pain/feelings of rejection coming from me as a teenager had already been dealt with/healed by Jesus, before I ran the Growing Up Pattern. But not quite all of it, as Jesus still had things to say to me, as I ran that Pattern.”

From our work, Hazel has a real experiential knowledge of Neuro-Linguistic Programming’s (NLP) focus on the Representational System, i.e. the Rep System (pictures, sounds, feeling, smells and taste).

Hazel thus understood how all humans use this system in the making of internal movies. I wrote up a procedure for her to experiment with. It comes from a re-imprinting Pattern that Michael Hall and I created several years ago called “Why Don’t You Just >Insert> Jesus?””.

For some years now I have been teaching clients how to do this and they have found it helpful. In this process I have altered somewhat the original Pattern spoken about above. Instead of beginning the procedure at the point of pain, I instructed Hazel to imagine herself back to before she was conceived. I pointed out to her what God said to the Prophet Jeremiah when He called him. In Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV) we read these words of God to him:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Church at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:4, NIV), he spoke of the very same dynamic that Jeremiah speaks about in his call; and, that is, that we indeed were with God before we were conceived.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

Growing Up from God’s Perspective

  • Healing through Dissociation

Here the Scriptures state that somehow, in the mysteries of God, we existed with God before we were conceived. Think of a problem or issue that you are now facing. Take notice of how you feel when you think of this problem or issue. Now, imagine yourself with God before you were conceived. In other words, you have dissociated yourself from here on earth and mentally you have moved up to be with God.

Now, from the viewpoint of being with God, see yourself down here. And, from that advantage point, out in front of you, see your mother as she carries you in her womb. See your mom as she gives birth to you; see yourself as an infant growing bigger and stronger until you are one year old. And, see “you” who is one year old become two years old and then three years old and continue watching yourself grow up through each subsequent year, all the way to the present.

During this time of watching yourself grow up, you remain with God. Now, do you remember that problem or issue that you had? See yourself out there in front of you having this problem. If you can remember the cause of the problem, see yourself out in front of you during the installation of that problem. If not, being with God, just see yourself having the problem.

Remaining there with God and seeing the “you” out in front of you and seeing that troubled you from God’s perspective, what happens to that problem? That issue? How do you feel about the problem(s) and/or issues while you are being with God practicing the Presence of Jesus?

For most people, any hurt and pain from those memories will be gone or at least diminished. If they are not gone, visualize yourself giving them to God and following His instructions as you give Him that pain and hurt. If it still isn’t working, keep practicing for in all likelihood it will go away. This is true because what happens to emotional hurt and pain in the Presence of God?

  • Healing through Association

The second intervention that I used with Hazel utilizes our abilities as humans to imagine ourselves going back in time and re-living an experience as if there. Based on how much meaning and how much intensity we place on a past experience, we will naturally re-experience it as either dissociated or associated.

When a soldier experiences nearly being killed in a firefight, that soldier will more than likely automatically recall that memory associated. He does this because of the emotional intensity of the experience. We know that the higher the emotional level when experiencing the trauma, the deeper the emotional pain. If, on-the-other-hand, he has come to terms with the experience and it carries very little or no emotion when he recalls it, in all likelihood, he will recall that memory dissociated – he will see himself in the firefight but he experiences it from being his proper age and from being safe back home.

These two neurological realities are extremely important to most people. Do yourself a favor and experiment with this new knowledge about how we perceive the past, the present, and the future. Understanding the difference between association and dissociation and being able to switch between these two mental states, could very well mean the difference between suffering greatly from something in your past; or, being able to let the hurt from your past go by giving those painful memories to Jesus. This will free up your life enabling you to enjoy Jesus in the present. I love what our Lord tells the disciples in John 10:10b (NIV): “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Healing those hurts from the past will enable you to both understand and experience what Jesus has promised you – an abundant life…”

The past is not real today – it only has the meaning that you give it in the present. Something that happened 30, 40, or even 50 years ago is not real today. You are living today as if you have never grown up enough to just learn from the past and let the hurt go. Give that painful childhood memory a new meaning. This is called re-framing. Put a frame around those old painful past memories that will serve you today. 2Give that little “you” in that memory to Jesus.  This is what Hazel did.

Isn’t it time to let go of that hurt? You may need to forgive someone who hurt you. And, you can do it. You can do it by seeing that old, probably childhood memory way back in your past. See yourself at the age you were when this painful trauma happened. These strategies that Hazel used can work for you as well and this perceptual tool could very well provide you a sense of being free with the Lord Jesus as you have never experienced before. You will be able to enjoy Jesus in the fullness of His forgiveness as well as enjoying the presence of the Holy Spirit continually. There are no more “Bitter Roots” to hold you back. You are His child. He wants you to enjoy being His child.

In the context of stuttering, a hard speech block is psychologically a panic attack experienced from a lot of pain from the past. This indicates that a lot of painful memories are recalled associated. Through years of living on an emotional roller coaster as a person who stutters (PWS), the PWS creates a very deep and powerful emotional connection with their stuttering.

Growing up being made fun of because you stutter; growing up trying to please a perfectionistic parent; growing up being ridiculed by a school teacher; growing up being a loner because of the difficulty that you have as a PWS who has great difficulty speaking; growing up being rejected by employer after employer, over and over because you stutter; when your blocking and stuttering speech strategy is triggered because you are in a context where you feel threatened, in all likelihood and unconsciously, you will recall those painful memories associated. And, because you recall them associated, this means that the intensity of the experience will be greater. Yes, indeed, it triggers a Panic Attack called a speech block.

Another point, since as humans, when we recall a past painful experience associated, our brains are telling our bodies that we are the age of the memory that we are recalling. And, when many painful memories are triggered, as in the case of blocking, we mentally respond out of the earliest memory of pain. If you are a PWS, ask yourself, “how old do I feel when I am blocking and stuttering?” You may be surprised at the answer.

We now turn to Hazel’s learning how to “let go” of those hurts, that for her, rooted both in her childhood and her teen years. This entire article draws from her experiencing the Lord Jesus in all of His love and forgiveness for that hurting child and teenager of her past.

The following is Hazel’s description of her experiencing “Growing Up Her Inner Child”:

“A while ago, you asked me to let you know how the ‘growing up a part’ goes. Well, I was finally able to do it over this weekend.

I imagined myself (associated) with Jesus, before conception. Then, in my mother’s womb (that was weird!), I grew up month by month but when I reached 4 months, I sensed fear coming from my mum. I remember her telling me years ago, that she had some organs in the wrong place in her body and because of this, there was more concern than usual over the pregnancy/birth. In the womb Jesus said to me: ‘Simply acknowledge your mum’s fear, but you don’t need to absorb it. You are safe with me. I will protect you. I am greater than your mum’s fear. My love will protect you.’

I had a sense of well-being again, so continued on to 5,6,7,8 months, then came the time for me to be born. I felt anxious – so did my mum. I felt scared, but Jesus said to me: ‘I will be with you. I will help you. I will help your mum.’ As it turned out, I was born by Caesarean and the whole procedure was filmed for medical reasons (I was an unusual birth!) Yep, I was born a film star J

After I’d been ‘pulled out’, I felt abandoned by my mum as she was asleep and I was carried off away from her. But Jesus said: ‘Even though she’s not with you, I am with you – I will look after you.’ So I was aware of Jesus’ love surrounding me.

I continued growing month by month until I was 1 year old, then year after year, without interruption, until I reached age 13. Then life started feeling like a rocky, bumpy ride and I was feeling insecure.  I imagined myself at school, sat next to Jesus on one of the chairs there. He said to me: ‘This is going to be a difficult time in your life, but I will help you through it.’ I thanked Jesus for being with me even before I was born, and for helping me through this coming stage in my life. I imagined Jesus carrying me through my years from ages 13-16. When I was 16, He put me down and we held hands, continuing on along my time-line.

When I reached age 20, that was when my mum died suddenly. He picked me up again and carried me through the couple of years following that event. I was really holding onto Him tightly during that time! Then aged 23-25 he put me down and we held hands again. Aged 26-35 I had a feeling of heaviness and frustration, weighed down by my speech problems and a sense of ‘will it ever end?’ It felt like I was wading through deep water. Every day was a struggle but Jesus continued to be with me in the deep water, still holding my hand. At age 35 (when I first joined the McGuire Programme for people who stutter), I came out of the deep water and onto drier ground but the path was still rocky.  Jesus continued to hold my hand. At age 48, I was again going through deep water (last year, 2014). Then we moved onto drier ground again and came to the present time. I paused for a moment, then continued on into the future, until my body died and I went to be with Jesus.

As you suggested, I repeated the above about 4 or 5 times in total, getting faster each time. The last couple of times, I wasn’t aware of all that detail, but was simply ‘growing up’, knowing that Jesus was with me continually year after year.

I’m not sure how I’m meant to feel after doing all that. At the moment it seems as if the young child part and the teenage part have kind of been merged into the adult me. I’m guessing that’s what’s supposed to happen? And I’m more aware than before, that Jesus has always been with me, even before I was conceived, and will continue to be with me throughout the rest of my life on earth, and beyond.

It was an interesting experience!”

The Pattern:

First, I sent her a simple Pattern for Growing Up the Inner Child being dissociated from down here and being “up there” with God. This is the Pattern we covered earlier, under the heading ‘Healing through Dissociation’. Following that, I wrote out a more detailed associated Pattern that involves her utilizing her faith in Jesus as a mighty resource to bring healing to her inner hurting child, to her teenager and to her adult.

  1. Imagine yourself with God before you were conceived. God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you and I called you as a prophet unto the nations.”
  2. Now, maintaining that sense of being with God, imagine yourself in your mother’s womb at 1 month old.
  3. Next, being in the womb with God at 1 month old, come forward with God being 2 months old.
  4. Continue doing this until you reach the 9th month (or, at whatever month you were borne). You are in the womb and the Lord is in there with you.
  5. Suddenly, you get a sense that you don’t belong in there any longer, you are ready to be introduced to the world and you with the Lord come through the birth canal and you start breathing and crying really loud. Jesus is right there with you.
  6. Now, continuing on with Jesus with you, become 1 month old, 2 months old, 3 months old, all the way forward with the Lord until you are one year old.
  7. Next, come forward in increments of one year with Jesus with you, become 2 years old, 3 years old, etc. reliving each year but with Jesus with you.
  8. When you reach the age of you as the teenager we just worked on, you may need to pause there and let the Lord do some healing with that teenage Hazel.
  9. Once she is healed, continue coming forward year after year with the Lord until you reach the present time.
  10. Pause here at the present moment with the Lord and then imagine yourself growing on up with the Lord going out into your future with the Lord as far out as you would like to go.

Watch for this – as you come forward with the Lord through your younger years, you may come to a time where you get the sense that you need to spend some time there, allowing the Lord to do some healing during that moment in your history. Remain there until the Lord gives you the go ahead to continue on up each subsequent age.

After you successfully complete this, go back to before you were conceived; when you were with God before conception. Then repeat the above but a little faster. Repeat it 3 to 5 or more times, each time doing it faster and faster. Now, as you recall that teenager, how is she feeling?

How did I utilize this procedure with Hazel? Very simply, rather than leading Hazel from the point of the pain which in her case was when she was a teenager, I asked her to imagine herself before she was conceived, with Jesus. And, being with Jesus, she maintained the presence of Jesus with her as she imagined entering her mother’s womb and becoming that one month old fetus but this time she knew Jesus was there.

Thanks for reading this article and feel free to contact us about any questions or comments that you may have:


1By “Part” I am referring to the neurology, physiology and the behavior that produces some unwanted consequences (See Luke 11:39). Indeed, based on the intensity of the “part”, it can have a life of its own. Some of these parts behave as if they are a totally different personality due to the person’s inability to control them. Indeed, when the part is created through a lot of sexual abuse, Multiple Personalities are the result. It is believed that in Multiple Personalities, the neurology of each personality is not neurologically connected to the rest of the brain.

2You will find the “How to take a Hurt (Bitter Root) to Jesus” on our website at:

3Therapeutic Interventions are about the therapist taking actions to better the patients’ health and well-being. Interventions are things that the therapist does in leading the client to make positive changes to their negative thoughts-behavior. Newberg and Waldman in their book How God changes your brain states:

“Gus’s scans (brain scans) showed that it takes less than two months to alter the overall neural functioning of the brain.  This is amazing because it demonstrates that we have the power to consciously change our brains, and improve our neural functioning, in far less time than scientists used to think. As noted in Chapter 1, we can see permanent changes in single neurons in a matter of days, and as other studies have shown, most forms of meditation (A “Therapeutic Intervention”) will create subtle but significant changes in a couple of months.”

The evidence is overwhelming that the brain creates new neural networks as it learns new things. And this “learning new things” is what the therapist seeks to lead the client to do. NLP and Neuro-Semantics offer many tools for the therapist to use in teaching clients how to “learn new things”. We seek to “intervene” in their present thinking, to challenge them to think in far healthier ways than they have been thinking. The dis-ease “part” is either deleted from lack of use or the neurons are taken over by the positive meanings applied to the negative thought.

A point to keep in mind is that the brain processes imaginative thoughts as reality. Proverbs 23:7a (KJV) states, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” This ancient Jewish Proverb goes straight to the heart of Cognitive Psychology in that man’s reality is determined by his thinking. Therapeutic Interventions are so designed to lead the client in changing unhelpful thinking to the kind of thinking that is congruent with his higher beliefs. For the Christian, it is the aligning of our thoughts about ourselves with God’s thoughts about ourselves.


Hazel Percy –
Bob Bodenhamer –

March 2015

How Beliefs and Self-image Can Influence Stuttering

by Alan Badmington, from Wales, UK

Although I began stuttering during early childhood, it is only during recent years that I have gained an understanding of how I developed my stuttering mindset.

Throughout my life, there were times when I experienced difficulty in communicating with others. I blocked on many words and struggled to speak in various situations. Each time I stuttered on a particular letter/word, I became more afraid of saying that letter/word. I also stuttered more noticeably when speaking to specific people.

As a result of the problems that I encountered, I developed certain beliefs about myself. For example, I believed that I could not use 13 letters of the alphabet and would avoid them at all costs. I adopted avoidance strategies, including extensive use of word substitution. I also believed that I would stutter when I was the centre of attention; giving detailed explanations; or addressing groups.

There were many other self-limiting beliefs that I held in relation to my speech, the most powerful being that I would never be able to deal with my stuttering issues. The latter belief remained firmly ingrained until 2000 when I met someone who had made immense strides in overcoming his stutter. This caused me to question whether I might also be able to attain some improvement. He became my role model.


Shortly afterwards, I acquired new tools and techniques that I found relatively easy to implement in the group environment in which they were being taught. Everyone was so supportive and accepting – I felt totally at ease.

Within a few days, I achieved a high degree of control over my speech, eliminating blocks and learning how to cope with the challenging words that had always held such an emotional charge. For the first time in my life, I enjoyed talking. I grew, immensely, in confidence.

But although I was able to speak well in that reassuring setting, I suspected that it would be difficult to transfer those gains into the outside world. Memories of past traumatic experiences triggered self-doubt, while concerns that others might judge my new speaking behaviours were never far from the surface.

I recognised that the acquisition of tools and techniques, in isolation, had only limited value. I knew that I needed to do so much more than simply focus on the mechanics of my speech. You see, I was still operating under my old belief system. I continued to have reservations about ordering at a drive-thru; of speaking on the telephone; of addressing an audience; and of saying those letters/words that had caused me so many problems.

Our beliefs and self-image play such a prominent part in our lives because what we believe (and how we see ourselves) colours how we think. Correspondingly, our thoughts influence our behaviours and emotions.

I set about dismantling the psychological framework that had supported my stutter for more than half a century. In order to initiate change, I first identified those areas in which I had been holding back. I then devised an extensive plan of action that allowed me to consolidate (and test) my new speaking patterns in a wide range of situations. I expanded my comfort zones and did the things I always thought I could not do. (Badmington, 2003)


Changing my beliefs and self-image was a gradual process. In the early stages, there were times when my inner critic would interrupt (while I was speaking) and say such things as “Why aren’t you stuttering? You should be stuttering. You ALWAYS have problems in these situations.”

When I initially became aware of this negative internal dialogue, I would momentarily experience the discomfort and insecurity associated with my past difficulties. I was uncertain of my identity. I felt that I should still be stuttering because that is what I had done since childhood. I did not ‘feel’ like Alan Badmington.

Gradually, the voice became less talkative and, finally, fell silent. I came to accept (and felt comfortable with) the new techniques and different manner of speaking. It no longer felt ‘strange’. I was far more relaxed, more assertive, more confident and more in touch with happenings.

I also grew accustomed to my wider self-image that incorporated many additional and challenging roles. These new responsibilities no longer felt unfamiliar. I became more adventurous with each challenge.


Persons who stutter (and, indeed, those who do not stutter) develop a mental blue-print of themselves. This personal concept is influenced by what they consider to be their failures and successes; their strengths and weaknesses; their competency and worth; and the way in which others have reacted towards them. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are consistent with that self-determined identity, irrespective of the reality of that image. Our personal opinions about ourselves are more influential than facts.

Our beliefs and self-image create the script by which we act out our lives – they set the boundaries to our accomplishments. Throughout my life, everything I did was in accordance with what I believed about myself and what I thought I was able to do. These views restricted me from undertaking many things that I considered lay outside my scope.


The majority of our belief system is established during childhood and adolescence. So, regardless of your current age, the beliefs that dictate the way in which you live your life today were largely developed during those formative years. That hugely critical period will continue to dominate our current lives, unless we reassess our long-established opinions and self-worth. Account should be taken of more recent and relevant information that challenges those views, or has been acquired from experiences that bring them into question.

If we fail to confront our disempowering beliefs, they can imprison us. I admired (and had dreams of emulating) those who appeared at ease in front of an audience. Yet, I always shunned public speaking, justifying my avoidance by the fact that I stuttered. I could never envisage successfully fulfilling that role.

Persons who are of a reserved nature may claim that they have always been shy, accepting timidity as an irrefutable and permanent part of their makeup. Such beliefs confine us – they shape our expectations, influence our attitudes and limit our future attainments.

Many of us hold beliefs that are based upon inaccurate or irrational information. Even though they may not be true – because we accept them as authentic, they have a direct bearing upon the way in which we think and behave. Our screening process filters out information that is inconsistent with our innermost beliefs.

What we believe about ourselves moulds the way in which we perceive the world. It influences our educational and employment paths; it determines our relationships and social interaction. But, most importantly, when we believe that we cannot do something, then it’s almost certain that we will not do it.

The unconscious mind accepts whatever it is told. If we tell ourselves that we cannot speak in front of an audience, it helps us to behave in a way that supports that statement. We may decline invitations or (when avoidance is not an option) become so stressed that our performance is adversely affected, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If we believe that we will encounter difficulties while ordering a beer (or meal), then we may allow others to make the purchase on our behalf. If we convince ourselves that we will struggle to say a particular word, we will probably substitute it with another. If we think of ourselves as inept in a particular area, and continuously reinforce that view with negative language, we will act out that viewpoint and substantiate our belief.

Much of our belief system was inherited from those with whom we came into contact during our childhood. As an adult, the majority of our programming now comes from within. Instead of being persuaded by outside opinions, we tend to rely upon self-suggestion to determine who we are, and how we choose to live our life.

Some people routinely forecast pessimistic scenarios, reflecting their negative inner programming. We need to be diligent in recognising those harmful utterances because they creep furtively into our internal chatter without us realizing. The words become habitual – the damaging messages play over and over in our heads.


The self-image is such an important factor in determining our quality of life and in effecting change. The ability to formulate and hold picture images in our minds is, apparently, unique to the human species. In effect, we are the director, producer and scriptwriter of all the images that appear on the motion picture screen in our heads, as well as being the principal actor. To a very large extent, our achievements (or lack of them) are as a direct result of those images.

In addition to physically expanding my comfort zone, I hastened the process of changing my self-image by utilizing a technique known as visualization. By creating internal movies that depicted me speaking in the manner of my choice, I duped my subconscious into believing that I had already successfully spoken in circumstances that I always considered beyond my capacity.

Successful athletes regularly create visual images of desired behaviour to improve their performance. I built up a reservoir of positive speaking experiences (within my subconscious), thus reducing (and then totally eliminating) anticipatory fear of stuttering.


Most of the tasks that we undertake are performed unconsciously. When we attempt something new it will, invariably, feel strange. That is why so many people (not just those who stutter) avoid venturing outside their comfort zones, preferring their habitual (tried and tested) way of doing things.

But behaviours are not changed by retaining the status quo. We need to widen our self-concept to accommodate the new behaviours and roles; otherwise our existing self-image will continue to impose its restrictions.

Many of us have difficulty letting go of the past. We cling onto our old self-image because we (and those around us) derive a sense of security from the familiar face that it presents. Self-concept is at the very core of our life experience – it can cause us to resist attempts to embrace change, even though it may be to our advantage to do so. The moment I relinquished my old self-image, I discovered incredible opportunities for growth.


It is relevant to mention that I confronted my stutter on two fronts. Firstly, I consciously applied the new techniques to the physical side of my speech. The resultant control served as a springboard, giving me the confidence (and means) to address the cognitive and emotional issues. By cultivating more empowering beliefs, I gained the impetus to make things happen. I strengthened my self-efficacy by regularly using positive affirmations, while also choosing to view challenging situations as learning experiences, and not difficulties.

Although our long-established beliefs may be deeply entrenched, it is important to understand that they are NOT set in stone. The realisation that I could reappraise (and adjust) my beliefs was hugely empowering and a cornerstone of the advances I have made during recent times.

Having eliminated my negative thoughts about the physical act of stuttering, and my personal attachment to such behaviour, I no longer find it necessary to constantly focus upon my speech. By adopting a holistic approach, and working on different areas of my life, my speech improved as a by-product. (Badmington, 2001)


Thomas Edison wrote: “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

I, wholeheartedly, agree. For so many years, I was oblivious to my true potential – sacrificing my aspirations for the false illusion of comfort and safety. When I took charge of my thoughts, and systematically exposed myself to risks, I created the perfect antidote for the debilitating effects of fear and self-doubt.

During recent years I have achieved things that, for most of my life, I considered impossible. Public speaking has now become an integral and exciting part of my life. Stepping outside my comfort zone, and treading less familiar paths, has greatly enhanced my existence.



  • Badmington, Alan (2003). STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives. ISAD Online Conference, 2003.
  • Badmington, Alan (2001). Stuttering is not just a speech problem. British Stammering Association Conference, 2001.


Seven Minutes to Breakthrough (The Bright Spots Strategy)

Watch Tony Robbins do a masterful job of assisting a PWS in the overcoming of his fears about stuttering which led the PWS to unbelievable fluency. These results were obtained in just one session or demonstration to a crowd of participants. In this presentation, Tony shows his superb skill at using NLP skills in bringing about the reframing of old limiting beliefs into new, powerful resources. It is a masterpiece of work.

Why Do Stutterers Not Stutter When Singing

by Bob Bodenhamer

Over the years I have been asked many times, “how is it that a PWS does not stuttering when singing?” I have heard several explanations such as the value of “cadence” in the music makes it possible to structure the PWS’ voice with the beat of the song and this helps fluency.  I have heard others speak about the “flow of air” through the vocal cords while singing that permits fluency.

There may very well be truth in both those replies, but the following one makes more sense than any that I have heard:

“Why don’t British singers sing with a British accent?”
“Why stutterers don’t stutter when singing?”

I just found quite by accident a very interesting article entitled “Why don’t British singers sing with a British accent?”

By Joram on “Answering squeebs’s question”

It is found at:

I have copied and pasted the full article below (Bold & italics Bob’s):

“Because singing forces the singer to pronounce “true” vowel sounds.

English vowels are the same, no matter where you’re from. Speaking employs gliding vowels…transitions from one to the next. Singing is phrased such that vowels are held longer (to the note), which more or less erases regional accents. In singing, vowels tend to sound more like their true sounds (monophthongs), rather than diphthongs.

“Imagine the difference between accent disappearance in, say, an Andrew Lloyd Weber song, vs. a Cake song, if sung by the same person. The Weber track (Memory, to take an annoying example) would almost entirely mask any accent because vowels are held for a relatively long time. In Comfort Eagle, on the other hand, the words are barely sung…almost spoken over the music. Any regional accent would come through quite strongly.

“And of course, it’s possible to maintain or manufacture an accent when you sing (anyone who’s ever heard Charlie Daniels or Randy Travis knows that). But it may take some effort. The Proclaimers are a particularly egregious example pointed out by one commenter on the topic.

(Bob says, Randy Travis is a country music singer. He is from Marshville, NC about 60 miles from me. We have very similar accents when we talk. I sure wish I could sing like him.)

If Your Mockingbird Won’t Sing

by Ruth Mead

Pour la traduction française, cliquez ici

        I had a major stuttering problem until I was 33 years old.  I did not have one of those “cute little stutters.”  I stuttered violently. During those years the main thing I learned in speech therapy went something like this:  “If you work hard enough to develop speech controls, you can improve.” Developing controls meant planning how to say words before I spoke, when and how deeply to breathe, scanning ahead, switching words and talking to the rhythm of a metronome.  I was so adept at control mechanisms; I could create them in my sleep.

I wasn’t able to provide adequate pushback to their philosophy because my own reasoning was a rehash of what I’d been taught.  I edited my speech constantly and believed “my conscious mind is in control of speech” and the more panicky version of that theory:  “if I don’t work hard at various controls, I will suffer the ultimate catastrophic failure:  not being able to force a single word out of my mouth.”

I was paying the price, even then, of preferring the voice of authority to my own observations, one observation being that people who stuttered were the only people I knew who constantly thought about the mechanics of speech, leading me to conclude that stutterers insert a conscious element into speech that served as resistance to flow.

Like most people who stutter, my stuttering was situational.  I could speak perfectly well when reading aloud to myself (no one within hearing distance).  The flow was there.  However, as soon as an adult entered the room, the flow stopped, as I thought of each word I said as well as how to say each word.  Stuttering seemed to take on all the properties of a full-blown performance anxiety: the more I wanted to perform well, the more I stuttered and the more I tried to control my performance, the more stuck I became.

I vaguely knew there were two systems in the brain and that the possibility of conflict is endless between the intuitive “experiencing” System-1: the subliminal brain which is spontaneous and automatic, taking care of endeavors such as speaking and breathing without thought or effort.  And the theoretical “remembering” System-2: which exerts conscious control over the world around it, often acting in ways destructive to the best interests of natural spontaneous System-1. (THINKING, FAST AND SLOW by Daniel Kahneman).

Speech is flow, and timing between these Systems is so crucial to fluency that even one attempt to control my stutter was enough resistance to interrupt that flow. When resistance moved out of the way, flow happened.

This belief that I had to control the mechanics of speech seemed to trigger the conscious part of my brain (System-2) signaling it to do something it was never meant to do: edit the production of speech.  We know the brain automates speech, freeing the mind from monitoring what we say. When motion signals move to the motor system without interference from the conscious mind, speech becomes automatic.

I lost this spontaneous automatic aspect of speech when I tried to control speech.

My stuttering disappeared a long time before I knew exactly why, even though I had written reams of observations during the time my stuttering went away.  Later, when I read John Harrison’s REDEFINING STUTTERING I felt I had at last come home.  Harrison confirmed my own discoveries: in general, that the conscious mind, because of its inability to think of more than 1, 2 or at the most 3 things at a time, is clearly unable to do the incredible multi-tasking necessary to perform the astounding complexities of speech.  And to expect the conscious mind to do what it has no ability to do, can, and frequently does, create a state of panic.

           “Ironically blocking happens because of over-control” Harrison writes.  And Barbara Dahm, a speech therapist from Israel, concurs: “I stand in disagreement with my colleagues who argue that stuttering happens because of lack of control. They say that head jerks, facial grimaces, repetitions and laryngeal blocks are signs of a lack of control, but this is an illusion. The fact is that speaking is an automatic system in the brain. Neurologists say this, psycho-linguistic experts say this. The time has come for us to tell this to people who stutter.”

As I saw that recovery would only be found in allowing speech to function spontaneously and automatically, I was still unable to let go of old patterns. Trying to speak naturally is still trying and trying is a major form of control.    It was as if I said:  “I’m not going to let my conscious mind control my speech any longer so I will work very hard at not working hard.” I couldn’t break through. I had a long legacy of angst from years of feeling “stuck” when I stuttered.  This inability to move forward was just too hard.

When I was most afraid of losing the hard-won-ground I had gained in the “spontaneous department”, my temptation was to turn back to conscious System-2 and whine: “This control-free way is too hard and scary!  I miss my old control mechanisms!”

One day I looked at my motivation for giving up control.  I was trying to stop controlling speech so I could stop stuttering.  This means I was not giving up control at all. I was simply trying not to stutter.  My friend, Sophie Sacca said “I know I must relinquish control over my speech completely if fluency results, but if my motivation is to speak smoothly, then I find myself back trying to gain control over speech again.”

Stuttering was still part of my remembered voice, and memory is hard to overcome.  Finally I was able to stop controlling speech because I saw automated speech as one of nature’s gifts, nothing I could earn or work for.  I could either take it and say “thank you” or keep on working, wrenchingly trying to manufacture something already “there.”

I also realized that most problems are rooted in this control issue, a systemic problem in which System 2 clings to the illusion it is in control and ruins our performance in sports or speech or even playing a piano.


        Powerful metaphors make the invisible visible (picture electricity as water running through a pipe.)  There was one metaphor that gave me a leg-up in seeing what was going on with both writing and verbal blocks.

The unconscious, as we know, speaks the language of symbol and metaphor. Just as “Speech is a River” went to work underground, undoing the illusion that I had to manufacture each word I spoke and each breath I took, the mockingbird metaphor that came to me destroyed the illusion that my mind was capable of controlling the mechanics of speech.

This new metaphor began with something that wouldn’t let go:  a silly little song I had played for children on my violin.  You probably know it:

“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.

Momma’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.

And if that mockingbird won’t sing,

Momma’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.”

Finally, I wrote “If your mockingbird won’t sing” in my notebook and simply waited to see if anything else wanted to be written.

A few minutes later: “This is about a mockingbird, not any old mockingbird, but what I believe to be my mockingbird…and apparently it won’t sing.” Furthermore, my stuttering problem may involve more than the fact I can’t speak fluently.  It may also involve a relationship between my mockingbird (my creative mind, or System 1) and me (my controlling mind…System 2…who discovers her mockingbird won’t sing and appoints herself as Bird Trainer whose job is to make her mockingbird perform.)

It was as if I had no understanding that birds sing bird songs because they are birds, not because they are taught to sing or choose to sing.  So I appointed myself “Bird Trainer”, as if my mockingbird didn’t know how to sing.   This meant I must teach my mockingbird to sing.  I command my bird:  “Perform!  Sing!  I demand that you sing!” (and then smugly think “There! Now my mockingbird will sing!”)

But my mockingbird just sat in his cage and gawked at me.  And now my demands get a bit abusive.  I go “Listen, Bud, you owe me a song or two.  What is wrong with you?  Have you got a rock in your craw or WHAT?”

And then I turn to threats:  “Listen, I know you can sing if you want to sing. Well, listen good…you better start wanting to sing if you know what’s good for you.”

But still my mockingbird won’t sing.

This ticks me off. This bird is NOT going to get to me.  It may be true that I can’t teach my bird to sing but a specialist surely can!

So I take my mockingbird to the most experienced specialist I can find.  I drive home alone.   I’m so relieved. The specialist wouldn’t charge so much money if he didn’t know how to teach my bird to perform, would he?  Of course not!  So I am happy and relieved. This is my answer.

A few days later the specialist calls me: “Your bird is cured!  I put him in a room by himself and he sang so beautifully.”    And I say “Wow, cool, that’s great.  I’ll be right over.”

The specialist has made a diploma ready for framing for my mockingbird, attesting to his cure.

This calls for a celebration.  I cook a special dinner for the family and light the candles.  I tie a big yellow ribbon on the birdcage, put the cage right by the table, and feed my bird his favorite nuts and fruit.

Dinner is over.  Now for the magical moment. We wait expectantly for the mockingbird to perform. (Oh no!  Not this again!) “Please!  We are waiting.  We want to hear you sing,” we plead.

My child, disappointed and sad, says “Poor widdle bird feels ‘scairt’”.  And I agree.  “That’s it!!  That’s the problem!!  My bird is afraid to sing.  Why didn’t I think of this before?  This bird needs a counselor to help him face his performance fear.”

I take my bird to a counselor.  She listens to me, then shakes her head sadly. She cannot help my mockingbird.  “Mockingbirds have no fear,” she tells me, therefore I can’t cure your mockingbird’s fears.”

“Then what is wrong?” I plead.

Caged mockingbirds don’t sing.  Release your mockingbird,” she urged.  “He has a song of his own.”

We drive home, my mockingbird and me.   I am angry at the Counselor.  She doesn’t know how much my bird needs me.  If it weren’t for me, what would my poor mockingbird do?

But I am desperate.  I take the cage inside my house. I sit beside my mockingbird, my head in my hands.   All day long I think about my bird that can’t sing songs to me.  In spite of all my efforts, I can’t make my mockingbird perform.

There’s only one thing to do.

I carry the cage of my mockingbird into the balmy summer evening and open his door. I cry as my beautiful mockingbird flies free.  I watch him soar into the sky.   Soon darkness falls and the moon rises in the sky.    Thick clouds cover the moon for a time.  I shiver all over, worrying about my mockingbird in the darkness, all alone.  I go back into my house and stand alone at the open door.

Wait!   What do I hear?  I rush through the open door, into the night air, running on tiptoe.  High above, on the tallest branch of the sycamore tree, I see the shadow of a bird in the moonlight, white slashes on the wings of my mockingbird.  When the full moon bursts through the clouds, I hear a melodic love song, the plaintive soulful nighttime song of my mockingbird.


Contributed By: Ruth Mead, USA


Sometimes We Are Fluent, Sometimes We Are Not…Why?

Pour la traduction française, cliquez ici (PDF)

Various participants have recently stated the following thoughts and wonderings to the Neurosemantics of stuttering Yahoo Groups e-mail list:

Why are we fluent in the therapist office and then once we leave we have difficulties?

How the heck does the brain know I am talking to my cat and not a live, breathing person (I stutter among all people)?

Why is it we can sing and be fluent regardless of the audience?

Myself, I can feel fluency when I am alone even before forming a word with my mouth.

…there is a blockage somewhere in the brain when talking to a JUDGEMENTAL PRESENCE. I capitalize judgemental presence because most PWS can talk to an animal and be fluent…

I am … completely fluent and relaxed when speaking to my dog or a very young child.

For persons who stutter (PWS), these real-life situations wreak havoc in one’s life and psyche.

Why do I always block when speaking to a JUDGEMENTAL PRESENCE?

Why can I be fluent when in situation A, but I stutter in situation B?

Why do I freeze up in situation C, but speak freely in situation D?

Why is it easy to speak in situation E, but almost impossible to say anything in situation F?

Why is this happening to me and I seem to have no control over it?

What in the hell is going on anyway, damn it?

I’ve struggled with those questions. I’ve anguished with them; I’ve felt utterly frustrated by my experience with them. I’ve cried as I felt helpless in the spotlight of their illumination. I’ve yelled and screamed in bitter anger at the seeming wall beyond which I could not get. I’ve walked in these shoes.

But let’s step back from that whirling vortex of energy and frustration. Let’s stand to the side in a place of safety, and observe this and talk about this some.


What is not happening here is that there is not a mechanical or electrical or digital mechanism that is firing off and “doing this to me”. There is no virus in my system, no bacteria in my blood that “causes” these things to occur (as though I could get a shot or a vaccine to cure myself).  There is no defective or aberrant gene that “makes me stutter”. There is no radio frequency chip buried in my body that receives a signal and then fires off this dreaded thing called stuttering.

At the core of what is happening is my “EVALUATION” of the situation that I have encountered. Some situations are evaluated as benign; others as “danger”. When a situation is encountered, I first sense it, then I perceive it, then I evaluate it; and all of this occurs faster than I can blink my eyelids. My “brain and being” “recognize” this situation to be “just like” some other situation that I have encountered in my life.

My brain and being “know” how to respond to my evaluation – they’ve learned this starting a long time ago, they repeat their response unwaveringly, and they have a deep and long memory of “what to do about this”. They activate this memory by sending out chemical and electrical messages to my body about how to respond: how to stand, how to hold my head, how to tighten or to loosen my thoracic muscles, where to focus or not to focus my eyes, how much to engage the muscles of what is called the Valsalva mechanism, whether to flee or fight or stay relaxed, who I am – what is my stature – in relation to what I have encountered, and on and on this goes.

When I evaluate a situation as “danger”, I have found that sometimes I have some conscious awareness of this evaluation; like if one says “when I encounter a JUDGMENTAL PRESENCE, then…” One has a little conscious awareness of this evaluation, as evidenced by labeling this as “JUDGMENTAL PRESENCE”. But, most of the time all of this evaluating takes place “within me but outside of my conscious awareness”. Evaluating happens this way many more times than the other way. That’s part of why I have cried out in anguish “why is this happening to me?”

So, let’s talk about this “EVALUATING” a little bit.

I need and desire to know what is going on in the evaluating that is occurring “within me but outside of my conscious awareness”. I approach it from the perspective that the parts of my being that are doing this lightening fast evaluating (a) are not stupid, (b) are not at war with my conscious awareness, and (c) are working real hard to achieve something that it feels is a very positive thing to be achieved for me.

So, I welcome it as “my friend”. It is part of me that is trying to help me. It only wants “what is best” for me – that is, what’s best as “it” sees it. I can trust this part of me. It is my friend.

So, I get into a quiet place, alone, and I think back to a “troublesome situation” wherein I was stuttering (actually, I do more than merely think back, I really focus on it and step back into it as though it were happening again), and I think “OK, what are you trying to do for me?”, “how are you trying to help me?”, “what do you believe is actually happening here?” I welcome any and all responses.

In my own case, I have learned that when I evaluate a situation as “danger”, then “my brain and being” try to protect me from that danger. I ask “what is the danger and how are you trying to protect me?” Protecting me from danger started when I was very, very young – even at birth. The danger might be verbal, or even physical; but it is perceived as “a danger to my safety and well being”, as threatening in every way. “My being” reacts both in ways that came natural to it and in ways that it has learned, as it tries to protect me. And “my being” has been protecting me for all of my life.

And so it continues today. At the heart of my responses to some things – at the heart of my evaluation that this situation is “danger” – is a physiological response to tighten my thoracic muscles, to engage the muscles that make up what is called the Valsalva mechanism, and to respond with heightened anxiety, stress, edging toward panic.

And guess what? When I respond in this way, it is just about impossible for me to breathe in any way that approaches “normal”. That means that almost instantly air is not flowing out over my vocal chords. And speech cannot occur if air is not flowing out over one’s vocal chords. I can fight against that all I want, but “no air out equals no sounds”, let alone any speech.

Now, layer on top of the tensed up thoracic muscles and fully engaged Valsalva muscles, some anxiety, fear, anxiousness about being unable to speak as I want to speak, worry over what others are thinking, suppressed anger over “what is happening to me”, and, buddy, you’ve got the perfect ingredients for blocking and halting and cutting off my own words…… one great case of “stuttering”. But, that stuttering is just the symptom of the real problem! The real problem is how I respond when I evaluate a situation as “dangerous”……yes?

As I began to “understand myself and my reactions” better, I also began to work on changing the seemingly “natural and immediate” response that I had to these situations. For various reasons, I had difficulty “retraining my brain and being” to respond in different ways than the ways they had learned to respond. I remember once even thinking “don’t tell me not to believe what I believe! I know what I believe and you aren’t going to change that!”

Then it dawned on me to approach this differently. Since “my brain and being” were trying to protect me from real and harmful dangers, I saw that they were simply trying to do what they know how to do; “doing that task” is their strength. They are quite accomplished and skilled at doing what they know best to do. Therefore, don’t fight that, don’t try to change that; use that strength, but try to redirect it a little. Let them keep doing what they do best, but just shift their focus.

So, I started telling myself, “You know, the REAL danger out there is not what someone will say to me, nor what they might try to do to me. I’m a grown man. I’m strong. I’m aware and alert. I can and will handle those more minor dangers. Instead, the REAL danger is that I would go into a panic, seize up all of my muscles, not be able to move, not be able to breathe, just flat out panic and turn into a mumbling ball of jello! Now that’s THE REAL danger. So, “brain and being”, protect me from THAT danger. Do what you do best and protect me from what REALLY threatens me!

My naturally learned way to respond to something perceived/evaluated as “danger” was to panic and to experience great anxiety. But now, let’s shift that around. “Brain and being”, protect me from the danger of my panicking and “doing anxiety”. That danger is the real and present danger from which you, quite skilled and able, can do a great job of protecting me.

When I sense “danger”, protect me from “the danger of panicking in this situation” by keeping me calm and relaxed. Relax my thoracic muscles. Relax my Valsalva muscles. Breathe deeply into my lungs, expand my abdomen. Stand tall. Look someone in the eye. Feel proud and strong. Think about the mental images that stimulate a feeling of strength and courage. Think about the mental images that stimulate a feeling of “relax”. Yes, continue to be my friend, my guardian, and protect me from the biggest danger that I face. And renew this mission and purpose every day. Repeat this consciously over and over; it will be good for me to have all of these thoughts fire off in the blink of an eye!

And guess what? When I evaluate a situation in this way, air flows out over my vocal chords easily and naturally. I am in a great state of mind. Speech flows easily. My “brain and being” have protected me once again. It has fulfilled its mission. It has performed its intention. It has again done what it does best.

I have found this all very useful for me. I try to focus my thoughts on these thoughts every day, instead of simply letting my mind think whatever it might naturally turn to and think about. This kind of refocusing for my brain and inner being has given me a way to move through and beyond the questions and frustrations that arise out of being fluent sometimes but not others. The tools that I use are the same tools that every single one of us has to begin or to continue the journey of changing how we evaluate situations and of creating new paths to explore.


Roddy Grubbs

July 2012

(To download a PDF version of this article click here)

My Five Stages of Recovery – How my stuttering disappeared

by John C.Harrison

Pour la traduction française, cliquez ici

People often want to know when I first became fluent, and I sometimes feel as if they’re looking for the particular moment when I could speak without blocking. It’s not like that at all. Recovery from chronic stuttering does not happen overnight, except in very rare instances.

Most people change gradually, in stages, and although you can create mechanical fluency overnight with various speech techniques, true fluency occurs when the constant fear of blocking has disappeared. Your total system has changed sufficiently so that you do not automatically default to a speech block when you are under stress.

It is not necessary to achieve this level of recovery to feel that you’ve successfully licked stuttering. I know many people who are elegant, charismatic speakers, even though they still manifest an occasional block. And I know others who still have significant blocks and yet are successful people and compelling presenters. Eloquence does not revolve around fluency. It has to do with the ability to connect with people and to say what is in your heart. It has to do with being genuine. It has to do with never compromising your convictions but speaking your mind, regardless of the circumstance. This is when chronic stuttering has truly been defeated.


The history of my stuttering can be characterized by five distinct stages: denial, acceptance, understanding, transcending, and reprogramming.

STAGE ONE: Denial.

Almost everyone I’ve met who’s had a chronic stuttering problem spent his (or her) early years in denial, and I was no exception. Why my speech would suddenly freeze up was a total mystery to me. I just knew that it happened, and I was terrified by the social consequences. I dreaded doing anything that could be made fun of, so when I blocked, I never displayed any bizarre struggle behaviors, or what the therapists call “secondaries.” I simply out waited the block until it released, and I could say the word. But those breaks in my speech were harrowing. I was very self-conscious and overly sensitive about deviating from the norm. I was your classic “closet stutterer” and distanced myself from anything that appeared even slightly out of the ordinary.

I remember one day when my father referenced the fact that I stuttered, and I immediately shot back, “I don’t stutter, I hesitate.” Though I was constantly afraid of speaking situations, such as talking in class or speaking to authority figures, I would never acknowledge that there was any problem. This mindset continued until the summer of my senior year in high school.

That summer my parents sent me to a daytime program at the National Hospital for Speech and Hearing Disorders in New York City. Not much changed in my speech as the result of my two months participation in the group since I don’t think we ever did speech therapy or modification per se. But there was one significant change in my attitude. By the end of the summer, I was willing to acknowledge that I had a stuttering problem. I could say the word “stuttering” without feeling like a pariah; however, I still had not reached a point of acceptance where I could share my problem with the non-stuttering world.

STAGE TWO: Acceptance.

Being in denial keeps you stuck, and although it may be painful to accept your present circumstances, it is essential that you do so if you want to move forward.
To create an analogy, imagine you suddenly find yourself standing in a four-foot hole. “Omygod,” you say, “I’ve really gotten myself in a hole,” as you push and struggle to climb out. But suppose you believe that smart, intelligent people should never be seen standing in a four-foot hole. Since you consider yourself smart and intelligent, and since you want people to think well of you, you immediately fall into denial about your current situation.

“Me? Standing in a hole? That’s crazy! Why would I be doing that?” you ask, but then, when you go to walk away, you find yourself strangely hampered.

Of course, the situation is absurd. Yet people cast themselves in this position all the time. Consider the individual who gets himself into a hole financially, but is unwilling to accept his current lot. “I have plenty of money,” he says. “Of course I can buy that car. Of course, I can take that vacation. Of course I can buy those new clothes.” So he spends and spends until one day everything crashes down around him.

Why would someone be in denial about his lack of funds? Because it’s scary to be in that position. If he is unwilling to feel the fear, he’ll try and change his reality into something that is more comfortable. Similarly, when people are unwilling to accept their stuttering, it’s not the actual stuttering they fear, but the feelings that are brought up when they stutter. It’s scary to feel helpless. It’s scary to feel like you’re different from other people. It’s scary stand there and not be able to talk.

But emotions are simply emotions, and choosing to experience them does not mean that you’re stuck with them forever. Quite the contrary, when you accept and experience what you’re feeling, the emotions release, and the way is open for another, more positive set of emotions to take their place.

In the fall of my eighteenth year, I left home for university.

As incoming freshmen, we were subject to various tests to evaluate our proficiencies in foreign language, English composition and mathematics. We were also called to the speech lab to see if there was any aspect of our speech that needed to be remedied. When I heard this, I was immediately on guard. My knee-jerk reaction was to hide my stuttering.

I kept my date at the speech lab and read through the required paragraph without a hitch. Had the evaluator been able to measure my anxiety level, it would have been a different matter, but I was able to pass for “normal” and left the lab greatly relieved. However, it was a hollow victory. Though I was not identified by the university as someone with a problem, in reality I very much had a problem, even though I was the only one who knew about it.

The maddening thing about my speech blocks was that they didn’t show up in everyday conversation. They only appeared when I had to speak in front of the class or in time-bound situations such as having to stop someone on the street to ask a question. This intermittent problem left me with a confused self-image. Was I a normal speaker, or was I a stutterer? I never seemed to be one or the other, and this left me in a state of limbo. I lived in constant fear of suddenly blocking with a person with whom I had been fluent up to then. I was afraid of how they would look at me. I did not want to answer their questions. And most of all, I did not want to seem strange or different.

What brought matters to a head was a philosophy class in my sophomore year. The professor, a short, intense Russian-born man, was popular among the students, and the class was large, numbering over 100. In each class the professor asked several of the students to stand and read their paper. I lived in terror of being called on, and finally went to the professor and asked if I could simply hand in the paper and not be called upon to read. He was quite amenable, but I was mortified at having to ask him to make this concession.

That was when I decided it was time to do something about my problem. The school had no speech therapist who was knowledgeable about stuttering, but I did find a professor in the speech department who said he could help me. As I recall, I didn’t see him for very long, nor do I remember much of what we did. But what he did offer me – which made a big difference in my life – was a clear and detailed explanation of how speech was produced. For the very first time, my mysterious speech blocks were correlated to specific physical behaviors. They weren’t something that struck me out of the blue. They were something I was doing, and I could actually picture how the vocal folds could close and prevent air from passing. It was the first step in de-mythifying my stuttering.

Later that year, I also took another big step in coming out of the closet. I took a public speaking class, and in one of the speeches, I gave a talk on stuttering. The cat was finally out of the bag. I still have the outline for that talk in a box of school papers. It’s one of my university mementos I’ll never throw out.

STAGE THREE: Understanding.

The seven years from the time I graduated college until I was 30 years old were marked by a dramatic increase in my level of self-knowledge. After six months of active service with the army and a two year stint working in New York City in various entry-level jobs, I boarded a plane one day and relocated to San Francisco.

By this time I was very much caught up in trying to figure out who I was and what my stuttering blocks were all about. Before I left New York, I had attended a 14-week Dale Carnegie course and had my first positive experience with public speaking. In every evening class each of us had an opportunity to make two short talks, usually no longer than 60 to 90 seconds each, after which we received vigorous applause and several positive comments from the instructor. I found out that, although it ramped up my anxiety level, I rather enjoyed being in front of people, and in the totally accepting environment of the class, I discovered I was a bit of a ham.

When I came to San Francisco, I joined Toastmasters, and eventually became president of the Chinatown Toastmaster Club. During my three years in Toastmasters (I rejoined 35 years later and am still a member), I became more and more comfortable in front of an audience.

Aside from helping me become more comfortable in front of people, these speaking programs gave me an opportunity to experiment with my speech in safe, yet “risky” situations. If you want to explore your stuttering with the intent of understanding what it’s about, you must put yourself in a variety of speaking situations. And this is precisely what I did.

I began to notice some interesting things.

I discovered that if I released a little air before I spoke, it often made speaking easier. Some years later, I discovered that Dr. Martin Schwartz had developed an entire therapy around this airflow technique.
In addition, whenever I blocked, I would also routinely repeat the block to see if I could discover what I had done to cause it. Then I would repeat the word without blocking. I later learned that this procedure is called cancellation and was a technique regularly used by Dr. Charles Van Riper.

What I have come to realize is that most of the techniques used by speech clinicians can be figured out by an enterprising stutterer who’s willing to experiment.

I was also helped by my involvement with a unique organization that helped to foster my development as a person. Synanon was started in the late 1950s by Charles Dederich, a recovering alcoholic, as a 24-hour residential facility where recovering drug addicts, felons, and other acting out character disorders could be brought back into society. It was an organization that ran strictly by the seat of its pants, without any government funding. The underpinnings of Synanon were honesty and self-reliance.

Their major vehicle for self-discovery was a group interaction called the Synanon Game. This was a group dynamic without formal leadership where you could develop proficiency in confronting yourself and others. The only rule was that there would be no acting out of feelings, except through verbal expression. People were free to run through their whole range of emotions. The game would be focused on an individual’s unacceptable behavior, and that individual would feel compelled to defend himself.

The subtle ways of getting people to see the truth was often awe-inspiring. The leadership in the group shifted from one person to the other as an individual took on the job of building an indictment against an individual for some kind of unacceptable behavior. Experienced people played the most dominant roles, and the way you gained experience and proficiency in the game was to look, listen, defend, and attempt to lead the charge in building an indictment on somebody else. People were verbally cornered into exposing their lies and weaknesses as they tried to make themselves look good.

Ironically, individuals looked the best when they were completely honest, open, candid and forthcoming. They looked their worst when they tried to defend themselves and hide. Moment by moment, it was a big verbal free for all, sometime soft, often loud, frequently funny. Any emotion was fair game, provided it stayed as an emotion and was not acted out.

The game was also very, very manipulative. Those who were in touch with their emotions and could express them easily and openly played the most powerful roles. This also helped to build skills in dealing with society at large.

As newcomers came back week after week, they, too, began to build their own skills as they dug deeper into their own emotions and peeled back the layers of their own personality. The only hard and fast rule was – no physical acting out.

Today, the concept of personal growth and development in a group setting is commonplace with many kinds of creative programs available to the public in many countries. These by and large follow a much gentler approach. (Keep in mind that the Synanon game was designed for hardcore drug addicts and other character disorders). But even today’s personal growth programs, like the Landmark Forum, which is available worldwide, have advanced programs where the environment becomes more challenging.

I should emphasize, however, that formal programs of any sort – either in speech or in personal growth – are not essential if you’re a good observer and have the willingness to put yourself at risk. But it does help to have people in your life who are of like mind and with whom you can share your challenges and successes.

When I began my involvement with the Synanon Games, I could not say more than a few sentences before my anxiety level went through the roof, causing me to become uptight and stop talking. I was totally intimidated by stronger personalities, and always felt I had nothing of value to say. It was a year into my involvement with the Synanon Games that I had my first breakthrough. One night, all the strongest and most experienced people in the Game were absent, and I found myself among the most season people present. Suddenly, my mouth became unshackled. Without authority figures in the room, I began assuming roles that just a week before I would have totally avoided. And you couldn’t stop me from having my say.

STAGE FOUR: transcending.

I stayed involved with Synanon for about three years, during which I participated in a variety of activities. They ranged from two-day stay-awake marathons that helped us probe deeper into our psyches to hawking tickets to a boxing match with nationally ranked fighters at a local sports palace. This was a big fundraiser for Synanon and a huge stretch for me who had always hated to ask people to do anything for fear of rejection. These activities that pushed me out into the larger community played an important a role in my recovery.

Throughout all this, I tried to remain a good observer of myself, and very slowly, a new picture of John Harrison began to form. I wasn’t as nice or as good as I thought I was. I saw sides of myself I wasn’t proud of. I saw how I routinely capitulated to those who I felt were stronger or more knowledgeable. And I got in touch with how much anger I’d been holding in since I was a little boy.

In this open environment, I began to understand that my speech blocks were only marginally about speech. I saw that at the heart of it, I was blocking out my own experience of myself. I was trying to present myself from knowing and experiencing ME. The awful me. The arrogant me. The scared me. The pushy me. The weak me. The strong me. All those me’s had been suppressed years ago as I tried to adapt to what I thought the adult world wanted of me.

Once the genie was out of the bottle, so was my ability to express myself. When that combined with all the work I’d done in building awareness of my physical blocking process, I began speaking more easily and with only infrequent difficulty.

STAGE FIVE: reprogramming.

As I carried what I learned into the larger world, my default behavior – the automatic blocking behavior that I had built up during my first two decades – slowly weakened and gradually disappeared. Simply understanding what my blocking was about was not an automatic cure. This was, after all, a survival strategy that had been ingrained into every muscle and fiber of my being. Even though they happened only infrequently, I still hated those blocks. I was still uneasy around authority figures. But now I knew that those fears would only go away if I taught the primitive part of my brain – the part that initiated the fight or flight response – that these were not life-or-death situations.

Chronic blocking and stuttering is like a large black spider. There’s nothing inherently frightening about spiders. After all, spiders don’t scare entomologists. There are actually people who keep tarantulas as pets and pick them up and allow them to walk up and down their arm.

So it’s not the spider we fear, but the feelings they bring up. We see the spider as a threat, and our sympathetic nervous system triggers an instant flight-or-fight reaction to protect us from a perceived danger. But if the spider is no longer perceived as a danger, the feelings are not triggered.

Changing default behavior is like anything else. It comes through practice and persistence. It’s like the martial artist student who one day is surprised that he automatically did the right thing when attacked by an opponent. The recovering stutterer discovers one day that he just spoke without thinking in a situation where normally he would have never risked speaking.

And if he happens to block, he says, “Oh look at that. I just blocked. I wonder what’s going on?” Then he can review what he experienced and what he did and heighten his awareness of his automatic fear response. In so doing, he can stop himself from slipping into a full-blown panic response.

If he (or she) has studied an approach for managing the block such as McGuire technique, air flow or fluency shaping, he can call that up to handle the mini-crisis, and then slip back into automatic speech.

By and large, for those who have beaten chronic stuttering and blocking, communicating has become fun, and they welcome any opportunity to talk. Remember that the bottom line is not perfect fluency. Some people will naturally be more fluent than others. The bottom line is whether you can say what you want, the way you want, when you want, and to whom you want. And whether you can truly show up as yourself.



As I was finishing this piece, I found myself wondering whether some PWS will take all this as a precise blueprint for their recovery.  So I would like to add this postscript.

These five stages of recovery described here are five general stages.  Your details will be different because after all, you and I are different people.  We see things in unique ways.  We have different backgrounds and experiences.  Each of us has his own personal story.

What’s important is to understand the essence of each stage so that you can apply it to your own recovery.  Through the years I’ve observed recovery as an evolutionary process. And if a person tries to jump over something that requires attention, his or her psyche will make it difficult to accommodate the change.
The only time that quick fixes seem to work is when the individual has already laid the groundwork for recovery.  Everything is in place. They are a recovered person just waiting to happen.

John can be reached at  His book REDEFINING STUTTERING is available from Amazon.  It is also a free download at

The Value of Internet Discussion Groups

by Alan Badmington

At various times in my life, I have experimented with different approaches in an attempt to deal with my stuttering issues. On several occasions, I experienced increased freedom (and fluency) in controlled environments but I could never hold onto those gains when I returned into the outside world.

The principal reason for this inability to maintain progress was that I focused solely upon the mechanics of my speech. I did not realise that, in order to achieve permanent advances, I needed to change my disempowering mindset.  Another contributory factor was the absence of support, which is so essential whether you are recovering from stuttering, drugs, alcohol, or whatever.

When, in 2000, I decided to make one final effort to address my stutter, I befriended an unexpected ally.   No, I’m not referring to the stuttering management program that provided me with a springboard for change; I’m talking about something that has revolutionised the manner in which we communicate, both individually and collectively – THE INTERNET.


At the time, I had not read any books or meaningful material about the subject that had adversely affected my life since early childhood.  I was virtually ignorant of the various therapies that were available and knew nothing about how other people were coping with similar issues in their lives.

Everything changed overnight when I secured online access. I was astounded by the wide array of information being disseminated and became aware of the existence of several international discussion groups dedicated to the subject of stuttering.

Within days, I joined several of these groups, affording me access to written exchanges between members located in many parts of the world.  The way in which these forums operate is that once an email (or post) has been submitted by a member, it is made available to everyone within the group (either by individual circulation or via a central notice board).

Should someone decide to respond to a post, then that person’s comments are automatically communicated to the entire membership.  This may, in turn, stimulate others to participate, thereby continuing the discussion, or causing the subject to develop in a different direction.

When I first joined the forums, I was surprised and intrigued by the nature of the exchanges that were taking place.  My reaction will be better understood when I explain that, throughout my life, I had met very few people who stuttered. I was also blissfully unaware of the existence of self-help groups or other supportive organisations.

After living in virtual isolation (from other PWS) for more than 50 years, I now found myself reading intimate and moving details about the experiences of total strangers scattered around the globe. It was bizarre, yet somehow reassuring, to learn that there were so many others who had experienced (or were still experiencing) similar struggles, heartaches and disappointments.

At first, I just absorbed what I was reading without making any effort to respond. Everyone seemed to know everyone else – each forum appeared to be an established social circle. I wondered how they would react to intervention by a newcomer and questioned whether or not I had anything of value to contribute. Why should someone on the other side of the world be interested in things occurring in my life?


It didn’t take me long to change my thinking. When someone recounted a particular incident; raised a specific issue; or asked for advice; I felt an urge to respond.  After all, they were talking about matters to which I could relate.  The circumstances may not have been identical but there were many similarities to the personal experiences that I had encountered.  I, therefore, felt qualified to offer my views.

In due course I submitted my first post; quickly followed by the second…and the third.  Within a relatively short period of time, I had become a regular subscriber to several different forums, spending several hours each day at the keyboard.  The subjects under discussion were varied and plentiful, creating daily exercise for my old grey matter.  🙂

Before long, I wasn’t content to merely respond to topics generated by other members.   There were new subjects that I wished to initiate myself.   I should explain that my introduction to the Internet (and discussion groups) coincided with the commencement of another very significant chapter in my life.  I refer to my decision to seek the assistance of a stuttering management program that encourages a holistic approach, including assertive self-acceptance, non-avoidance and expansion of one’s comfort zones.   As a result, there were so many exciting things happening to me.

Having been provided with new tools and techniques (that enabled me to combat blocking and deal with troublesome words/sounds), I devised an extensive and pro-active plan of action designed to challenge my self-limiting beliefs and widen my restrictive self-image (as outlined in the following paper that I contributed to the 2003 International Stuttering Awareness Day online conference) :

STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives.’


We don’t change behaviours by retaining the status quo – I knew that I needed to confront my fears and tread unfamiliar paths.  Like the turtle, we can only move forward when we stick our neck out.

My daily efforts to live a more expansive lifestyle were incredibly stimulating – I approached each day with optimism, vigour and zest. I grew progressively in confidence and stature as I fulfilled a wide range of challenges and roles.  But, although I felt considerable personal inner satisfaction, I also recognised the value of sharing those experiences with others.

So, whenever I accomplished a specific breakthrough, or completed a new venture (such as winning a public speaking contest; attending an acting school; addressing a community group; hosting a charity concert; facilitating a workshop; or undertaking a live radio interview), I didn’t keep it to myself.  I used the appropriate group as a vehicle to tell everyone else. I also drew attention to many mundane occurrences that I felt were relevant and of interest.

Relating those incidents had a very powerful impact upon me.  Each time I relived a successful incident, it reaffirmed what I had achieved.  I genuinely believe that my progress during recent years has been helped considerably by the fact that I have been able to tell myself (and others) about the positive experiences I have enjoyed.

Some people may be of the opinion (and it’s their prerogative to think whatever they choose) that speaking about one’s successes is egotistical. Well, I happen to hold an opposing view. That was certainly not my motivation for sharing.  It’s simply that re-living the successful episodes strengthened my memories of those events. (I didn’t feel too guilty because I knew that the delete button was always readily available to those who did not wish to read my posts). 🙂


Since early childhood, my stuttering was fuelled and perpetuated by the difficulties, setbacks, pain and catalogue of lost opportunities that I encountered. For over half a century, I constantly reminded myself of what I could NOT do, or the dire consequences of attempting to speak in certain situations. I spent a lifetime accumulating, recounting and giving far too much prominence to the memories of negative speaking experiences. As a result, my stutter flourished and thrived.

The more I nourished and sustained it, the more it impacted upon my daily existence. I make no excuse for having reversed that trait. The worm has turned and, in direct contrast, I now constantly remind myself of my successes. You should never shirk from telling yourself how much you have achieved.

I recently read an interesting article that appears to justify the practice I have adopted for the past 11 years. Research indicates that when we savour and foster positive experiences, it intensifies our positive responses to them. The longer something is held in our awareness, the more emotionally stimulating it becomes.

When we focus on positive happenings, it increases our positive emotions, which correspondingly generate health benefits in relation to our immune system and stress. Other long-term advantages of positive emotions are that they lift your mood and increase optimism, resilience and resourcefulness. They also counteract the effects of painful experiences, including trauma. So, you see, it appears that I was right all along. 🙂
Another spin-off (of speaking about our successes) is that it can encourage others to emulate the challenges that we have fulfilled. I frequently receive feedback from people (both within and outside the stuttering community) who generously confide that my revelations have influenced them to confront obstacles in their own lives.

From a personal point of view, learning about a PWS who successfully embraced public speaking had a huge impact upon my self-concept. Until I heard him speak (in early 2000), I truly believed that such a role lay outside the scope of someone who stuttered. I was inspired by his activities and wanted to tread a similar path. That fortuitous occurrence sowed the seeds of an empowering belief that was to subsequently change the course of my life. After more than half a century of self-doubt and holding back, I finally allowed myself to entertain the thought that I could do something meaningful about my communication issues. The rest is history, as they say. 🙂

I cannot overemphasize the immense benefits that I have derived from participating in online discussion groups. Perusing posts submitted by my fellow members rekindled memories of earlier events that I had long forgotten.  Each time I composed a response, I continued to travel that mental journey through time, jogging additional recollections from the past. When we start thinking about one thing it can trigger a chain reaction – creating links to similar occurrences.  That’s how memories are stored in the brain. I never cease to be amazed by what the sub-conscious can unveil when it is stimulated or interrogated.

Fear and self-doubt figure prominently in the lives of many people, not just those who stutter. They can sabotage hopes and aspirations.  When left to our own devices, it is possible that we may never summon up sufficient courage to confront the issues that are impeding our progress.  However, as a member of an online forum, some people gain confidence and encouragement by leaning upon the knowledge, camaraderie and collective support that are present within that group.

I have witnessed this on many occasions, particularly in two of the forums to which I subscribe. Those who invite guidance and suggestions from others in advance of an upcoming event (maybe a job interview or public speaking engagement) report positive outcomes. But, of course, prior consultation does not always guarantee success.

Following a highly successful work presentation, one member of the Yahoo neurosemanticsofstuttering group wrote:

“Thanks for your very kind messages. Not being alone is very important. Of course, when we are in speaking situations, it’s up to us and we are the only one who can do something. But I believe in the effects of “coaching” and positive speech. You know, for this oral presentation, I feel I was prepared like an Olympic athlete! Best coaches (and champions) in the world had provided me the best advice. I have been very lucky.”

Online discussion groups represent different things to different people.  You’ve probably heard it said that we are all unique.  Well, that really is the case. We originate from different backgrounds; are subjected to different life experiences; and accumulate different degrees of emotional baggage.   We commence from different starting lines; operate in accordance with different beliefs, self-concepts and values; and possess different aspirations.

The desired aim of one person is likely to differ appreciably from the expectations of another member. While some hope to deal effectively with their stuttering issues, others may not believe that this is possible.  Those who wish to adopt a more expansive lifestyle will, undoubtedly, welcome tips on how to achieve that goal, whereas less ambitious members might be content to follow a less-risky passage.


I have found that online groups vary considerably in their objective, format and content of discussion, as well as the composition, age, attitude and behaviour of members. Some forums tend to fulfil the role of a support group, while others have a more specific agenda.

For example, the Yahoo neurosemanticsofstuttering group was set up for the “primary purpose of helping and working with PWS to overcome stuttering, utilizing Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Neuro-Semantic tools and other cognitive methods to help achieve that outcome.”

Another forum caters wholly for those with covert issues, while a separate group exists to assist parents of children and teens who stutter.  Some stuttering management programs also offer online support for clients, incorporating the written and spoken word.

The National Stuttering Association provides a network of online meeting places to facilitate interaction between members of its local chapters (self-help groups), as well as an additional group that allows delegates to keep in touch between annual conferences.

The websites of several forums also contain a wealth of useful reading material, together with links to podcasts, videos and other online resources.

I think it is relevant to highlight the fact that, whereas the majority of online discussion groups restrict access to its members, some allow the written exchanges to be viewed by the public. I add this cautionary note because there may be occasions when a subscriber might unwittingly furnish personal details that he/she would not wish to be read by all and sundry.

Another point to be considered is that the exchanges may, occasionally, become a little heated as members write about matters of an emotional nature.  Freed from their customary struggles with the spoken word, some PWS adopt a more assertive (or even aggressive) role and communicate, with passion, exactly what they want to say. Words are plucked from the extremities of their vocabulary without the usual anticipatory fear associated with stuttering.

For so many years, transferring my thoughts to paper was the only effective way in which I could meaningfully express myself. My past oral exchanges were littered with words that I considered to be inferior or, in some cases, totally inappropriate. I succumbed to mediocrity simply because I did not want the listener to see/hear me stutter.

Whilst it is heartening to see members letting go and giving vent to their feelings, it is important that the rules of netiquette should always be observed. We can be both assertive and respectful at the same time. Thankfully, personal attacks are infrequent and can be quickly nipped in the bud by the sensible intervention of the moderator(s).

There are forums to suit everyone – it’s simply a case of trial and error to determine which satisfy your individual needs.  If you find that a particular group is not providing what you require, then simply transfer your attention elsewhere.   That’s exactly what I’ve done.  At one time, I held simultaneous membership of no fewer than 11 groups. (No wonder my wife used to complain that I was spending too much time online.) J

Today I am far more selective and restrict my contributions to only two groups.   As stuttering has ceased to be an issue in my life, I have greatly reduced the number of posts that I now submit.  Although I no longer find it necessary to publicly reinforce the memories of my positive experiences, I still occasionally share details of such occurrences. My principal purposes are to illustrate how such challenges can be created; reiterate the value of exploring uncharted waters; or to demonstrate a particular point.

Nowadays, my limited participation is generally confined to subjects that ignite my interest, or in responding to specific questions that are posed by others.  Due to fluctuations within a group, it is not unusual for certain topics to be resurrected from time to time, as new members join.


I have gained varying degrees of benefit from virtually every forum to which I have subscribed.  We can all learn something (however small) from each other’s stories.  Diversity encourages different perspectives. The Internet has become such a valuable asset in enabling those who stutter to communicate with each other.  Over the years, I have developed some close friendships that now extend outside the parameters of those groups.

Reading about the lives of other PWS can provide an interesting insight into how they deal (or have dealt) with their respective difficulties, as well as offering reciprocal inspiration. It can also alert us to possibilities of which we were previously unaware – in relation to therapies, techniques and opportunities that allow us to unearth our true potential when we are prepared to expose ourselves to uncertainty and change.  In effect, it can open our eyes to possibilities that we could never have imagined.

As a result of these online interactions, and the revealing evaluations that we have retrospectively conducted in relation to past (and more recent) events, many of us now possess a far greater understanding of the issues that shape our lives.  We are also better informed about how we (and others) react to the diverse challenges that confront us, and have discovered that there are exciting and fulfilling paths available for us to tread.  But, perhaps, most importantly, we know that we need never again experience the isolation of walking those unfamiliar paths alone.


Many PWS find it difficult to talk about the issues that affect their lives, even with friends and family members. Yet, many who subscribe to online support groups confide that they are far more at ease when discussing such matters within that environment.  Divulging even the most intimate details to “total strangers” can sometimes be less challenging than revealing them to someone you know.

Greater openness about my life-time struggles has proved invaluable in helping me to overcome my previous embarrassment.  Revealing my “darkest secrets” (both online and in everyday situations) has greatly aided the desensitization process.

In conclusion, I have no hesitation in declaring that, without participation in Internet discussion groups, I would not now be at such a favourable position in my life.  I view my involvement as yet another important piece in this complex jigsaw that we know as stuttering.

How to Create a Good Dose of Stuttering

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D.Min.
Pour la traduction française, cliquez ici

In the field of Neuro-Semantics we recognize the cognitive-behavioral principle that every experience has a structure. The facets of our mind-body-emotion system come together as variables in a system. This has many ramifications.

For one thing, it says that we can model the structure of experience. After all, if we can identify the component elements, arrange those variables in a sequence, identify the feedback and feed forward loops of the system, we can replicate that experience. Modeling in this way lies at the heart of NLP/Neuro-Semantics.

This explains why we can replicate excellence in communication, relating, managing, leading, inventing, creativity, and thousands of other experiences. This focus on modeling also means that every behavior and experience is a skill. Though it may be painful, harmful, and destructive (like manic-depression, schizophrenia, etc.) it has a structure and by exploring such experiences of pain has a structure and strategy that makes it work.

Does it suggest anything else? Yes. It also suggests that by curiously wondering how something works we are able to thereby enter into that experience and be inside that matrix of frames. And it is in this way that we can develop many more choices about changing and transforming an experience.

Therefore to work with the mind-body-emotion system of human beings which we call the Neuro-Semantic System, we begin with that system and watch how it works (See Figure 1). What follows here begins with state and then adds state upon state to create the experience that we call “stuttering.”

In the field of stuttering, John Harrison (2002) has provided a basic systems model for six of the key variables or factors. He calls this system, “The Stuttering Hexagon.” The six factors that he has highlighted are: physiological responses, physical behaviors, emotions, perceptions, beliefs, and intentions. He has noted that in a system every element is influenced by the other elements, positively or negatively (vi). Harrison has also noted numerous other systemic factors about the stuttering hexagon:

  • As a system, stuttering involves the entire person and is not just a speech problem.
  • Once operating as a system, it has a life of its own (p. 3).
  • As a system, the stuttering system will have default settings.

“A permanent change in your speech will happen only when you alter the various default settings around the Stuttering Hexagon.” (106)

  • Change a critical factor in the system, and the entire system changes.

“Stutter on purpose, openly, consciously…. deliberately. Instead of escaping from each block as quickly as possible, you want to give yourself the luxury of extending the block as long as you can make it interesting to do so. When you block on purpose, you are in control. Find out how good it feels to be holding the strings. Sure, your heart may be pounding away. You may get all flushed. You may feel silly and stupid.” (34)

If there’s a structure to experiences, then we cannot just create a good batch of “stuttering” on the spot. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, we have to have the right ingredients and we have to mix them in the right order in order to create this skill. Not everybody can stutter. It’s a skill that necessitates a certain way of thinking and believing, a certain way of looking at and perceiving speech, self, others, etc. It involves a specific use of fear and apprehension, a certain attitude about how to cope and respond and it involves coaching and training the muscles and breathing.

What we are calling an attitude, Harrison calls a mentality.


“You have to change to another mentality, the fight should be against the stuttering mentality that creates it, not the symptoms.


This means that there is a non-stuttering mentality just as there is a stuttering mentality. In what follows we have used the 7 Matrices of the Mind Model, a Neuro-Semantic model developed in 2002, that structures the NLP and NS patterns. We use this model for coaching, counseling, modeling, and neuro-semantic profiling. Accordingly, we here use it to make explicit the stuttering system to provide systemic understanding of the semantics (meanings) that get into the body and nervous system (neuro-) to embody “stuttering” so that it becomes part of physiology and a style of moving through the world.

Figure 1

Meaning Table for Creating Stuttering:

#1 Meaning/Value – Meaning Determines the Matrices C 1. Classification of non-fluent speech as blocking/stuttering
2. Associating
blocking/stuttering with fear and shame
3. Evaluating
blocking/stuttering as bad and unacceptable
4. Framing
blocking/stuttering has having the following meanings in the other matrices:
#7 Intention/Self #7 Intention/Power #7 Intention/Time #7 Intention/Others #7 Intention/World
(Attempted solutions that make the problem worse)
I don’t want to look like a fool?I will not show my vulnerabilities or weaknesses.

I will play it safe and create a sense of security because I am not like others. I am more sensitive.

I can’t handle criticism well.

I’ve got to stop this.

This shows me to be inadequate and flawed.

I will “block” myself from stuttering!

I am going to try to control this?I am going to try to control every word that comes out of my mouth.

I need to change.

I must not stutter.

I have to catch this.

I will do that by becoming very self aware of my speech.

I have to try really hard not to block and stutter or I will look foolish.

I am going to not repeat the past.I am not going to make a fool of myself with my speech anymore.

If I block any emotion in this moment, it will give me more control.

I’m afraid this will be permanent so I will try hard to not to continue stuttering so I will “block” more.

I am not going to attract attention.I am not going to let others see my vulnerabilities.

I will not give others to chance to laugh at me.

I will not let them see me struggle.

I will avoid any situations around people or groups that will expose this weakness.

I will try to cover the stuttering up.

I will not do anything that will draw attention to me in my work, career, etc.I will avoid speaking situations that will attract attention to me.

I will try to be successful by avoiding  all opportunities to speak.

#2 Self #3 Power #4 Time #5 Others #6 World
I am flawed. (“There is something wrong with me.”)I am broken.

I am not enough.

I am inadequate.

I am flawed.

I am foolish.

I am worthless.

I am insecure.

I am timid.

I am shy.

I am anxious.

I am tense.

I am “shamed.”

I am “possessed.”

I can’t be enough.


I am ashamed.

I am angry.

I am abnormal.

I can’t be enough.


My value is in my performance.

Unique (I stutter – I am special.)

Loss of controlFrustration

Lack of Protection Perceived hurt.

I need to change.

I can’t be enough.

I am terrified of speaking to ____________.

I need to be respected and loved in order to speak fluently. (Other)

I should be doing better.

I got to do something.

I got to get it done.

“It” (becoming fluent) works for everybody but me.

I cannot speak─

In public

On the phone

On stage

I cannot order in a restaurant.

I cannot introduce myself.

Hesitation is a sign of weakness.

Hesitation is a sign of fear.

Hesitation means you are not sure.


It has always been this way.

I am not making progress.

I got to do something.

I got to get it done.

I can’t take my time  to say what I want to say (sense of being rushed).

It is not OK to stutter.Fear (of being rejected)

Expectations from others

Inability to measure up to expectations

Hurt (not being validated)



Protection – (From getting involved in a relationship.)

I am less than.

I look foolish.


People validate or determine my worth.

What people say about me becomes the truth.

People judge the content of what I am saying.

I must protect myself from being hurt by others.

I must conceal my emotions.

I am doing something “bad” to them if I stutter.

I should be doing better.I got to do something.

I got to get it done.

“The whole issue revolves around ‘caring how I talk.’”

I wont succeed.

I am out of control.

Note: In the above table we are illustrating how after the PWBS punctuates/classifies non-fluency as stuttering, the individual will associate fear and shame as to what stuttering might mean. The PWBS evaluates blocking/stuttering as bad and unacceptable.  Obviously, the person does not want to block/stutter so an outcome (#7 Intention) of not stuttering becomes priority. The person fears what stuttering may mean and thus creates a driving urge to not stutter.  Thus the person attempts to “block” stuttering because he/she has defined stuttering as being bad in each classification of his/her concept of self, of his/her relationship with time, of his/her relationship with others and how he/she views the world (Is the world safe, unsafe, friendly, not friendly, etc?). You will note that in the attempt to solve the problem of stuttering by attempting to block the stuttering, the  person in fact creates blocking/stuttering.

We have included the matrix of frames from two actual case studies.  Click here to access a a graphic file of each case study depicting the frames matrix that activated the blocking/stuttering – (Case Study #1)  (Case Study #2).

Another Visual – The Stuttering Iceberg Click Here

Read on─

Step 1: Call Stuttering Into Existence as a Reality.


First we have to punctuate the non-fluency of speech in which a person might be searching for a word or repeating a phrase or sound so that you stammer, hesitate and halt, and then try to stop or block oneself from hesitating, and then stutter. When this happens, we need to call this “stuttering” and do so with a certain disdain and contempt in our tone or attitude. By making this distinction, we thereby call into being such a “thing” as stuttering. We classify certain verbalizations as “stuttering” and so it comes to be. All we have to do then is to attach negative thoughts, feelings and attitudes to it and about it. Punctuating “stuttering” calls it into existence, gives it attention, enables you to pay attention to it, and become conscious of it.


Harrison (1989/ 2002) notes this very thing in his work:

“When I stopped observing my problem through the narrow perspective of ‘stuttering,’ the stuttering per se was gone–that is, I stopped seeing behavior as something called ‘stuttering’ – and in its place was a handful of other problems in a unique relationship that needed to be addressed. By individually addressing these issues, the actual physical blocking behaviors slowly diminished and disappeared over time.” (220)

Wendel Johnson (1946), as a general semanticist, noted the same thing in a chapter entitled, “The Indians have no word for it.” For there to be an experience of stuttering, we have to classify and categorize it and if we want the experience to be negative and painful, we have to add massive psychological pain to it: embarrassment, sense of inadequacy, flawed, etc.


We use our first and primary matrix to do this, the Meaning Matrix. We create meaning in several ways, one by classifying or punctuating an event in a certain way. The term “stuttering” calls it into existence. Without a term that identifies and classifies it in this way, it doesn’t exist. Then only non-fluency exists. Secondly, we create meaning by associating certain feelings to the classification. Then we frame the associated class and create higher level meanings.

Step 2: Contemptfully Fear Stuttering


What does it take to create a strong and lasting case of “stuttering” or blocking? Typically, we need a strong personality of a parent or teacher, someone who can raise their voice, yell, insult, punish, embarrass, or give hypnotic suggestions to set the meaning frame for “stuttering” as a bad thing. It doesn’t matter what semantic (meaning) frame is set so as long as you feel fear about the existence of this thing that you call “stuttering.” In this way you can develop a sense that to say words in a halting way is a negative, scary, and threatening thing. As the sense and feeling of fear grows, then you can attach that fear to more and more ideas thereby creating layers and layers of negative and fearful meanings.

What will you hear when you ask anybody who stutters in a state of self-consciousness?

Do you like stuttering? Do you enjoy it? Do you practice it? Do you feel skillful, masterful, or powerful when stuttering?

If they stay around to answer you, they will tell you that they do not like, enjoy, or want it. They will tell you that they hate it, reject it, feel embarrassed by it and try their best to stop it.

This highlights the fact that they have moved in their minds to a higher level meaning as they have take a thought-feeling state (in this case, “fear”) and applied it to the classification of stuttering. This frames the facets of stuttering in a way that makes these components seem dangerous and threatening. This seems natural. It seems intuitive. If the experience embarrasses and brings forth unpleasant social experiences, it’s easy to attach negative feelings and meanings to it.

This explains why it is so counter-intuitive to welcome it, embrace it, accept it, and practice it. Why make friends with “the enemy?” Why kiss the dragon? Yet, this is precisely what the so-called “paradoxical intervention” from Logotherapy and Brief Psychotherapy invites. And it is precisely what we do in Neuro-Semantics to straighten out the meta-muddle of setting the negative semantic frames in the first place.

Harrison recommends intentional stuttering:

“Here’s the irony, the harder you try to solve your stuttering problem, the more you’re establishing its presence.” (30)

“Just like fighting the gang reinforces its presence, focusing on the speech block—resisting it, fighting it—only further entrenches it within your psyche.” (31)

Step 3: Become Afraid of what Stuttering Means


To create a good dose of stuttering, but we next have to buy into the negative meanings and move to yet a higher level as we add a good dose of fear about what the stuttering will mean. Expressing it in this way may seem weird. Yet we are a class of life that can become afraid of what something may mean.


In Neuro-Semantics, we see this all the time. We even elicit this structure in our trainings. I regularly ask, “Do any of you have a bad relationship to an idea? To criticism? Rejection? Discipline? Authority? Approval?” It’s amazing the things we can fear. We can fear concepts and ideas. We can fear what something could mean.


With shuttering, we give it such negative meanings and then feel threatened at the level (or within the matrix) of self, resourcefulness, relationship, and the world of career. Yet anything that creates a basic existential threat to some highly valued set of ideas or frames will put us in a fear state. What works best is to feel fear that it could, might, or does mean one of the following. Stuttering will now come to mean─

  • In the Self or Identity Matrix: I am inferior, flawed, inadequate, bad.
  • In the Other or Relationship Matrix: No one will like me. I’ll be rejected, disdained, alone, mocked, embarrassed.
  • In the World Matrix of Life and Success: I won’t be able to succeed: my future success in business and relationships are endangered.
  • In the Power or Resourcefulness Matrix: I will be out of control, dis-empowered, unable to handle things, unable to cope, etc.

At this level the system oscillates back and forth between Fear and Meaning. First the state of fear, then the state of meaning, then back to fear, etc. In this step, we use the Meaning Matrix and apply it to the foundational Matrices of Self, Power, Others, and World so that each of these become fearful. Each seems dangerous. Each seems dangerous because we map things as fearful now and in the future (the Time Matrix).

Step 4: Get the Fear Looping


Once our mind-body-emotion system classifies an event and then fears it, we can then become afraid of ourselves and our entire experience. That is, we can move up yet another level and fear our fear. We can fear our entire neuro-semantic system.

As we then fear what the stuttering might or could mean, we fear our fear, we fear that it does mean personal inadequacy and more. After the looping back and forth between awareness of personal inadequacy and the state of fear, first one then the other, then the first again, your mind-body-emotion system oscillates in a closed-loop so that every time around the loop the fear becomes stronger and more intense.

This indicates a higher level move. The fear moves to a meta-level to become about the meanings. In this way, the fear becomes the frame and governs and self-organizes the fearful meanings. The meanings become fearful, dreadful, terrifying. The fear permeates into the meanings so that the very idea of the meanings set off “semantic reactions.” Primary state “reactions” are those built in reactive patterns to triggers. Semantic reactions are higher level ideas, meanings, beliefs that similarly “rattles the nervous system” and what happens when someone “pushes our buttons.”

This explains why fear in one’s stuttering mind-body-emotion system can so easily spin out of control. It explains why it seems so real. Inside the body-mind system, it is. Then the fears multiply. In this, the Meaning Matrix uses fear of fear to begin looping round and round. As we attempt to stop the stuttering and the fearing this intention operates paradoxically to add fuel to the fear. This activates the Intention/ Purpose Matrix and actually makes it all worse.

Step 5: Outframe with even more fearful and dreadful frames


As the fear of stuttering becomes fear of what it means, the fear rises to a higher level. Later this turns into yet another higher level fear… fear as judgment, shaming, angering, guilting, etc. This operates to solidify the system and to close the feedback loops from the outside world where new information and data can enter. This outframe may take various forms.

This is the way it is.

This is all genetic and physiological and nothing can solve it.

Once a stutterer, always a stutterer.

It’s no use going against the grain, might as well settle for being mediocre.

Step 6: Set Up a Closed Looped Contemptful Self-Consciousness

With all of the above in place, it will be easy to access the Self Matrix and bring a sense of painful self-awareness that you can then fear and attach dread and terror to. You will experience the painful self-awareness as self-consciousness that again believes that you are inadequate and flawed.

Step 7: Access the Time Matrix to Amplify the Painful Fear


Finally, recall any and every historical reference that confirms and validates this internal experience of shameful contemplate about stuttering … bring it to this present moment to anticipate that it could happen at any moment, and project this into the future so that you anticipate it repeatedly over and over throughout all of the coming years. This will construct anticipatory fear of this whole matrix of fearful meanings in this moment and every step of every moment into the future.

The finale: A Fully Developed Stutterer


Set that system into motion and in the end you will create a human being who can semantically over-load speaking and verbalization. Speaking up suddenly isn’t just saying words and transferring ideas via symbols, suddenly it is the litmus test for being adequate and non-flawed as a human being. Talk about putting your self-esteem or worth “on the line!” Talk about turning an everyday feature of life into a major event!

Yet the problem isn’t the person, it’s his or her frames about speaking. Such persons have been inducted into the Hall of Fears and Mega-Fears of Fears as they have learned and been trained to think of speaking in unresourceful ways. Most believe that “fluency is everything.” Many people that “fluency would solve all their problems.” Many think that mis-speaking is a big deal and that the only thing worse is looking foolish in front of others, being embarrassed, or being self-conscious. Others believe that making mistakes is terrible and that being criticized is horrible.

Yet it is these ideas as belief frames that actually create the problem. And they then lead to secondary problems: conditional self-esteem, lack of assertiveness, a style of playing it safe, trying to stop or block themselves when anticipating misspeaking, fearing strong feelings, thinking life is a performance, etc.

How To Create a Good Dose of Non-Stuttering


Are you ready for some “paradox?” Are you willing to hear and act on that which might seem counter-intuitive? It will seem counter-intuitive because if you stutter and hate it and/or even identify yourself as such, what follows is the mentality or set of frames that leads to a very different world, that of non-stuttering. Well, actually to stuttering and not noticing.

That’s how we do it. When we stutter (that’s when, not if), we just don’t pay much attention to it. Our attitude is that it doesn’t matter much. So what? It is in this why that we don’t over-load it with semantic meanings. Stammering, halting, or stuttering only means “I’m searching for my words” and nothing more. We don’t psycho-speak.

It’s like psycho-eating. Those who eat for psychological purposes and reasons─ to feel loved, rewarded, fulfilled, valued, given the good life, to distress, to be social, etc.─ eat for the wrong reasons. That’s why they of all people are the ones who seldom taste the food or enjoy it. They don’t eat food for food, for fuel, for energy and vitality. They psycho-eat. (See Games Slim People Play, 2001).

Psycho-speaking has the same structure─ speaking to prove that you are adequate, aren’t a fool, to avoid feeling embarrassed, to avoid feeling powerful, to avoid feeling angry, to avoid feeling … Harrison notes that by over-valuing “fluency” as if it is some magical cure, we make fluency the golden key to all of the goodies of life. That’s the lie. I love what he wrote:

“Ask your friends if their lives are terrific simply because they talk fluently. You might even ask them how comfortable they are when they speak in front of others. You’ll discover that fluency is no magic pill for anything except being fluent.” (v)

Step 1: Undo the classification. Stop punctuating speech in terms of stuttering or fluency. Let speech be speech and talk be just that, talk. Some is more effective than others. Some is more to the point, more succinct, and some is searching for words. No big deal.

Step 2: Welcome non-fluency and play with it. Spend five minutes stuttering on purpose. If you can turn it on, guess who’s in charge of your tongue? Practice with a friend and try to outdo each other. Turn it into a game. Attach fun and joyful and playful and social feelings to it. Harrison recommends doing this with an entire audience!

Step 3: Create a solid semantic basis for your sense of self, resourcefulness, relationship skills, and ability to take effective action in the world. This undoes the damage previously described. Unconditionally esteem your self as a human being whose worth and dignity is a given. You are a somebody, now live your life expressing that. Develop new and powerful resources to increase your sense of power and vitality. We have many empowerment processes in Neuro-Semantics just for that. Recognize that connection is with others is based more on thoughtfulness, consideration, sharing of values and visions, love, compassion, and a thousand other things than fluency. So is effectiveness in the world.

Step 4: Welcome in every negative emotion, make friends with it, and embrace it. Turn any negative emotion against yourself and you have not only missed the whole point of having “emotions” but you have created the foundation of a dragon state. (See Dragon Slaying, 1995/ 2000). Get comfortable with discomfort. Stretch yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Enjoy embarrassment.

The 7 Matrices of the Mind


In this presentation, we have run one possible scenario through the Neuro-Semantic model of the 7 Mind Matrices. We believe it is the most common one that mostly prevails, yet it is not the only one. Upon punctuating the existence of “stuttering,” one could just as easily hate it and develop strong antagonistic feelings of intolerance for any flaw in speaking. These responses would create meanings and feelings that would generate similar conclusions as described above, but with a different feel. The person would not so much fear the experience as feel contempt for it. Similarly, anger, shame, guilt, and numerous other negative feelings could drive the mind-body-emotion matrix system and create other affects.



If you stutter with a self-consciousness that you find painful, fearful, shameful, or intolerant, there is hope. There is hope because your experience has structure. That you have gotten certain ideas incorporated or embodied into your very neurology and physiology does not mean it is not psychological. It only says that it has a lot of habit strength and that it now operates apart from your conscious awareness. Structure means that we can intervene at numerous places in the system, sometimes reversing the structure and sometimes messing it up.

In Neuro-Semantics we are currently using various meta-stating processes for resolving the stuttering matrix. These include such patterns as the Drop-Down Though, Phobia Cure, Self-Celebrating, Power Zone Ownership, Dragon Slaying, Intentional Stance, Glorious Fallibility, etc. We do all of these patterns in our Personal Genius training (Introduction to Meta-States) and recommend that training for this purpose.



A full description of the 7 Mind Matrix model will be presented in the Neuro-Semantics Coaching materials, due Sept. 2002.



Harrison, John C. (1989/ 2002). How to Conquer Your Fears of Speaking Before People: A complete public speaking program plus a new way to look at stuttering. Anaheim Hills, CA:

Hall, L. Michael. (1995/2000). Dragon Slaying: From Dragons to Princes. Grand Jct. CO: Neuro-Semantics Publications.

Hall, L. Michael. (2001). Games Slim People Play. Grand Jct. CO: Neuro-Semantics Publ.

Hall, L. Michael; Bodenhamer, Bob. (2001). Games for Mastering Fear. Grand Jct. CO: Neuro-Semantics Publ.


L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. is a psychologist licensed as a LPC in the state of Colorado, trained in the Cognitive-Behavioral model, developer of the Meta-States model, prolific author, entrepreneur, and international trainer.

Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D.Min. is an international trainer in Neuro-Semantics and NLP, author of numerous books, ordained minister, and director of the First Institute of NS in Gastonia NC.