Qualities that Make a Powerful Difference

Bob Bodenhamer, D.Min. 

In order to do anxiety, we must focus on the object of anxiety. For, if we stop focusing on the object of our anxiety and look at something that is not anxiety, we will not be anxious, will we? Gestalt psychology learned something quite remarkable several years ago. They learned that when we focus on something, there are items in the picture that we do not see. When you create a picture of an upcoming event that requires speaking and you fear you will block, what is it that you focus on?  But, what is in the background of that picture that you are not seeing?

Experiment a little. Think of the next time you will probably block.  In all likelihood you will have a picture of the person/ situation of that block. Note where in reference to your eyes that you see that person/situation. In all likelihood that picture will be right in front of you and it is all that you are looking at. Now, what are you not seeing?  What?  Yes, what is in that picture that you are not seeing?  You are so focused on the person or context that you are afraid will trigger your blocking that you don’t see anything else. Step back from that person/context and see behind it, beside it, beyond it, etc. What else is out there that you were not seeing at first?

In order to “step back,” go into peripheral vision.  When we focus on something to the exclusion of everything else, that is called “foveal” vision.  Now, just step back, go into peripheral vision and see everything off to each side but do more.  Not only look to each side, but look and see what is behind the picture of the block. Allow your eyes to go beyond the image of the block. What is back there

In every picture, image, and movie that we are seeing, some things are in the foreground and other things are in the background.  When we foreground problems – they become bigger and more problematic.  When we foreground resources – we become more skilled, competent and bold. 

Figure 1:6

Look at the above picture. The old woman, beautiful young lady picture – what do you see?  In order to see the young girl the old woman must go into the background. In order for you to see the old woman, the young girl must go into the background.  It all boils down to – whom do you want to see, the young woman or the old hag?  What about that – it boils down to whom do you want to see?

Consider the PWBS who had an image of him as a scared little kid who froze in the presence of authority figures. When he froze he blocked.  He had another image of him as a resourceful adult that always spoke fluently.  When he saw the scared little kid, guess where the adult was? The scared little kid was in the foreground and the mature fluent adult was in the background.

Foregrounding Resources

What resources would you like to foreground in the theater of your mind?  How about faith, courage, relaxation, presence of mind, sense of feeling centered, sense of being whole, permission to feel more empowered, etc.?

In fact, look for the resources in your “fearful and anxious” sensory-rich movie of your blocking. Get one of those pictures that you normally get that creates great fear of blocking. Now, look in back of that or beyond that and notice the resources back there.   Yes, those resources are back there and you can see them if you look close enough. The resources probably exist so far back in the background that you can just barely imagine them. You may see yourself speaking confidently and fluently with those resources back there. You may see confidence, calmness, courage, faith, etc. And yet, if you allow this process to continue, you can begin even now to recognize those resources in the background... and call them forth.  You can call them forth to the foreground.  Play with this process.

Note: If you are a person of religious beliefs, if you look far enough you will see God. Yes, that is right, if you will just look far enough back there you will see God.

As you notice those-resources, you can let the foreground of fear and anxiety of blocking fade far, far away into the background as you at the same time bring those resources to the foreground.  And, you have your choices – you can do it slowly, gradually, in an ever-increasing fashion, or you can do it suddenly, radically, and with a jolt that all of a sudden, completely and fully lands you there.

How to Play:

This pattern is primarily written as a visual pattern. You can also do this with sounds and with feelings. You will have sounds in the foreground and other sounds in the background. You will have some feeling in the foreground and other feelings in the background. You can do it with concepts (words, self talk and voices). Some concepts will be foreground and others in the background. Some voices will be foreground and others background. For rehearsal, I prefer doing it visually but you use what works best for you.

We have the pattern below for backgrounding fear of blocking. However, it will work with many unwanted thoughts. The processes of running a shifting of background/foregrounds in order to bring more resources to bear on your experiences runs as follows:

    1) Detect the Foreground/Background Structure

        Get a visual image of fearing blocking. Just notice what you find in the foreground.  What=s up front?  What stands out? 

        Next shift your awareness to the background against which it stands. What is “back there?” 

        You may need to step way back and see what is behind and/or surrounding the fear or anxiety.

    2) Become aware of your own Foregrounding/ Backgrounding Patterns

        What do you typically foreground in order to do fear blocking?

        What do you regularly and systematically background or avoid in order to experience this fear of blocking? 

        In other words, what do you “not see” that allows you to experience the fear blocking? What is it that you must foreground in order to block that you do not foreground when speaking fluent? It is back there. Look! 

        How much flexibility of consciousness do you have with regard to these choices?   Do they serve you well? 

        Do they enhance your life? 

3) Decide to Take Charge of Shifting these Images

        That we foreground some things and background other things simply describes one of the factors about how the brain works.  Taking control over the way we run our brain so that we learn how to foreground resources, solutions, getting things done, etc.; however, describes, how we can use this distinction for running our brains more effectively. 

        So run the ecology check constantly on your backgrounding and foregrounding to make sure that your learned patterns work for you rather than against you.

    4) Commit yourself to Foregrounding Resources

        If you know that you can put resourceful thoughts, beliefs, pictures, sounds, music, feelings, etc. in the foreground of your mind, then make a commitment to yourself to do so.  In your mind, move up and utter a profoundly powerful “Yes!” to that resource.  “I will make that picture, idea, feeling, sound, music, etc. stand out in my mind!”

        If what stands out as non-sense – hurtful old pains, old fears, resentments, regrets, etc. guess what states of mind that will evoke in you? 

        Will that do you any good?

    5) Swish the Background to the Foreground.

        Once you feel strongly compelled to get away from that old fear of blocking, then go to the background and discover those resources.

        Do it so that your attention shifts to the new referents. 

        Swish the fear of blocking to the background and the resources of fluency to the foreground. Do it fast and repeat five times – more if needed. 

        Every time you thing of the fear of blocking see, hear, and feel it fading out to the background as the new resourceful fluent you comes dancing into the foreground and really stand-out with triumphant music playing and trumpets blowing!


Bodenhamer, Bobby G. (2003). Mastering Stuttering: A Handbook for Gaining Fluency.  Unpublished Manuscript.

Hall, L. Michael and Bodenhamer, Bobby G.(2002) Games for Mastering Fear. Grand Junction,  CO:  Neuro-Semantics Publication.

2002 Bobby G. Bodenhamer All rights reserved.