Reflections on something that happened to me

Roddy Grubbs

I appreciate so very much the materials, references, and thoughts that Bob Bodenhamer provides in his work. But, you know, sometimes I don’t “get” everything he says. Does this ever happen with you? I share this true story in the hope that it will be useful to someone.

About 6 months ago I left the company with whom I’d worked for 8+ years and went to work with a new company. I found myself, in the first months, experiencing/doing an amount of stuttering that I’d not done in a while. That was unsettling; frustrating; aggravating. Have you ever experienced anything like that? What did you do?

I felt kind of “stuck” at that point; I wasn’t able to just “get on beyond” that. I did some reading and some re-reading of materials that have been useful; I paid close attention to some of Bob’s e-mails to this group. But I felt perplexed at what was happening and just simply “stuck” there.

In reading one of Bob’s e-mail posts, I read the phrase “send your mind somewhere else”. Bob was encouraging someone who was experiencing one set of thoughts that led to stuttering to focus his mind on a different set of thoughts. I’ve read this phrase many times in Bob’s writing. I know that there is a lot of meaning behind it. For Bob and those who understand it, this is a very pregnant phrase.

But I realized also that although I thought that I understood some aspects of what it means, there’s a lot about this phrase that I just did not get! I wanted to understand it, I thought that I understood it, but I realized that I didn’t get it! What a surprise! How about you? Do you feel that you understand this phrase very well?

I know that Bob means a lot by this, so I started to focus my attention on “send your mind somewhere else”. “Send your mind” – what in the world does that mean? How do I “send my mind”? What is “sending my mind”? What do I use to send it on this journey? What will it find/where will it be when it gets “there” – where ever ‘there’ is? Where is it now? Aha! Where is it now that it needs to go somewhere else?

This was a key for me! Where is it now – it “is” somewhere right now! It being there results in me stuttering, feeling insecure and anxious. Oh, yes; I know “where” it is now: it’s in the place of a fearful, uncertain little boy who sees and hears and feels things in his world and who responds to them with fear and anxiety and lack of confidence, etc. It is in that place because of the thoughts that I am running through my unconscious mind (mostly) in response to what I am experiencing today.

Aha! Now I begin to get it! I’m thinking a number of thoughts – mostly at an unconscious level – in response to what I am experiencing day to day. And these kinds of thoughts do in fact “put my mind somewhere”. I go into a “state of mind” that is one in which I do not function like I want to function. Therefore, the place to start is to think a different set of thoughts. Think different thoughts and I will thereby put my mind in a different place, in a different “state of mind” which will result in different actions on my part (compared to what had been happening).

OK, I’m starting to get it; but how do I just start thinking a different set of thoughts, how do I start to think different thoughts right in the middle of a tension-packed situation?

Have you ever wanted to accomplish some kind of physical feat? Ever wanted to walk 3 miles? Ever wanted to run a mile? Run a marathon? Lift 50 pounds of weights? 500 pounds? Ski all day long on difficult terrain? Do 10 push-ups? 100?

What did you do to get there? Were you able to just think some thoughts about what you needed to do for that activity and then run out and just “do that”? Of course not! You had to train for the event. And so you started with a small level of activity that you could do. You practiced getting proficient doing that small level of activity. Perhaps you started with 1 push-up five times a week. Then you increased the amount of training activity: you started doing 2 push-ups five times a week; and so on. At first doing the training was a little awkward. It did not come naturally to you. You had to work hard to do even the small amount of training. But after several workouts, you could much more easily do the activity at that level. And then you increased the amount of training, which was also difficult to do at first, but then even that level of training became much easier and more natural – yes?

And in this way you gradually increased your training until you reached the level necessary to achieve the feat. And you could do that feat easily, naturally, and it felt good to achieve that – yes?

So I applied this idea, this model, to me and the situation that I was in.

1.    What was I trying to achieve?

I knew that I was thinking certain sets of thoughts which achieved results that I did not want. I knew that I wanted to be relaxed and to feel more confident, and that when I was in such a relaxed and confident state of mind, that I achieved results that I did want – I was relaxed and did not stutter.

I know, and have known for more than 10 years, that there is a certain set of imagery – a set of memories – that leave me feeling very relaxed when I think about them (when I focus my mind on them). These memories have components of sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. I have used them successfully in many circumstances to help myself feel relaxed and calm (one can read details about this is an article written by Bob & myself in 2005 which is posted on Bob’s Mastering Stuttering website). I’ll call these “the waterfront images”.

As I pondered what I was trying to accomplish (feel relaxed and confident), I remembered another set of memories that inspire me with confidence, fortitude, and strength. They also have components of sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. When I focus my mind of these thoughts, I feel like I can take on the world; no problem is too big for me; I can go toe-to-toe with anything! I’ll call these “the mountain images”.

Putting this together: what I wanted to do was to be able to focus my mind on good thoughts, like the above, under my control and in those moments when my mind seemed to otherwise focus on thoughts that produced fear, anxiety, lack of confidence……and stuttering.

But, just like one cannot “brain-storm” about running a marathon and then go run one, so I could not just “think about thinking good thoughts” and then be able to do that in the middle of daily activity wherein I felt fear and lack of confidence. No, I had to train and to prepare for that “feat”.

2.    How did I train for the feat of getting relaxed and feeling confident?

  • The waterfront images are very real. So, I just set by myself, alone, and ran those images intensely in my mind. I slowed them down, I saw the light, felt the warmth of the sun, heard the sounds, smelled the air; I allowed myself to “be there” totally and completely in my mind. Over several days I did this about three times a day. Each time I made sure that “I was there again”.
  • I did the same with the mountain images.
  • I did this until I could just think “waterfront” and my mind would immediately
    be in that relaxing scene again. I did this until I could just think “mountain”
    and my mind would immediately be in that confidence-inspiring scene again.
  1. Next, I practiced “sending my mind somewhere else” in the manner described above, at random moments of my choosing. I would be sitting at my desk and realize that I’d been focused on my computer for an hour or more, so I’d think”waterfront” and “mountain”. Guess where I had just sent my mind?
  2. I would be walking down the hall, passing people but not talking, and then just think “waterfront”, “mountain”. Right there in the hall, on my way to get coffee, I had just “sent my mind somewhere else”! Wow! I could actually do that! It was even becoming a natural and easy thing to do!
  3. I’d pass someone in the hall, say “hello” (but no more), keep walking and think “waterfront” “mountain”. And guess what states of mind I went to?
  4. Then, when I’m talking with someone and I sense some tightness and anxiousness, I can now – due to my training – think “waterfront” and “mountain” right in the middle of the ongoing real world experience. Doing so “sends my mind somewhere else”  and the results I get from running those thoughts of relaxing and feeling confident are what I want.
  5. Doing this “in real-time” while actually talking to someone was a little awkward at first, but I kept practicing and soon it was not awkward; in fact it became quite natural. In fact, I’d much rather “go there” now (prior to starting to speak with someone) than give my subconscious mind time to go some place that I do not want to go. So, I’ll just go to where I w ant to go whenever I want to go there! I have actually learned how to “send my mind somewhere else”, all under my control! I had to train for that feat, just like any other feat; but I can do this, and you can too.

Well, thank you for staying with me through this story. It’s taken me a while to “get it” about “sending my mind somewhere else”. I hope that something in this will be useful to you. And thanks again for that concept, Bob.

Keep training for life,

Roddy Grubbs