Wednesday, January 8, 2020

My new book: "Stuttering as a Mindbody Disorder"

Dear All

My new e-book, Stuttering as a Mindbody Disorder: How and Why Expressiveness and Assertiveness Promote Fluency, is now available on Amazon! It can be ordered as a paperback or as a digital download for mobile phones, tablets, Kindle and PCs.

The book is based on the work of Dr John Sarno MD, the mindbody pioneer, and those who followed in his footsteps: Drs Howard Schubiner, David Schechter, Dave Clark, Ian Harris and many others. The research of these physicians indicates the existence of TMS - The Mindbody Syndrome.

TMS results from some kind of stress or anxiety, which is then expressed physically. Tension headaches, many digestive and skin issues, most back and neck pain and many other health problems can be the result of TMS. In my book I argue that stuttering, too, is caused by TMS which affects the vocal cords.

A major factor in TMS is the unconscious repression of negative emotions such as anger, uncertainty, fear or sadness. This repression, together with other stressors, produces tension which then impacts the speech muscles.

If psychological repression is mainly behind stuttering, it follows that its opposites, namely expressiveness, assertiveness and not "holding back", are major tools for people who stutter. The book covers these and many other related topics, such as the nature of repression, the role of trauma in stuttering, the personality trait of High Sensitivity, fluency techniques, and stuttering children.

To buy the book, click here:

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Time For Change

Dear All

It's time for a change. As you will have seen, I haven't been posting for some months here - mainly because I have switched over to the Facebook group "Stuttering as a mindbody disorder". Though the Blogger medium is great for so many purposes and has served me so well in the past, it is not as flexible and interactive as a Facebook group.

You may also have noted that I have adjusted my view of stuttering. The Passive Airflow Technique is probably the best fluency technique available. It has changed my life positively and I will always be grateful to Dr Martin Schwartz who developed the technique. It continues to play a major part in my life and my view of stuttering; but I have supplemented this with the insights of Dr John Sarno, MD, the "mindbody" pioneer, whose work is, in my opinion, crucial for people who stutter.

To make a long story short - I still believe that "stuttering" (the speech repetitions and prolongations) results from a tension-related "freezing" / "locking" of the vocal-cord muscles. But where does this tension come from? From the day-to-day tensions and stress of life? That's what I believed in the past, and stress remains a source of tension; but a much bigger source of tension, I now believe, is the subconscious mind. People who stutter suffer from TMS - The Mindbody Syndrome. It is this syndrome which generates most of the tension affecting the speaking system.

For more information on TMS and how it impacts fluency, and how to deal with it, feel free to join the "Stuttering as a mindbody disorder" Facebook group which has replaced this blog. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

My mindbody treatment principles for stuttering

Below please find my mindbody treatment principles for stuttering that seem to help people in the "Stuttering as a mindbody disorder" Facebook group:

A healing programme to deal with TMS stuttering - Version 1.5   August 2017 - (For the latest version of this document, visit the Facebook group "Stuttering as a mindbody disorder" )                                                                           © Peter Louw


For general TMS pain, various healing programmes have already been developed – some are contained in books, such as Zero Pain Now, by Adam Heller, or Unlearn Your Pain, by Dr Howard Schubiner MD, and some are found for free on the internet, such as the TMS Wiki Recovery Program. These programmes are, of course, aimed at TMS pain rather than stuttering, so naturally if you wish to follow these programmes you should, in your mind, replace the word "pain" with "stutter" wherever you find it. Even so it seems logical to also develop a dedicated TMS programme for people who stutter (PWS), so here goes – and I will try to make this as short as possible.

Mindbody healing for stuttering is aimed at changing our mindset about stuttering. We have to start thinking differently about stuttering, on a conscious as well as subconscious level. This we do by receiving new information about stuttering. Ultimately the information received consciously should sink in to reach the subconscious, where true healing occurs.

But … a mindbody (aka psycho-physical) disorder has a mental as well as physical side. The mind may cause the symptoms, but the symptoms are real and physical.  Feedback I've received indicates that the mindbody approach to stuttering works best when combined with a good fluency technique – such as the Passive Airflow Technique (PAT) – to deal with the physical side of stuttering. So if you're not making progress with mindbody tools only, try combining them with the PAT or other fluency technique. In section "E" below you will find more details on PAT.

A.   Preparatory phase ("knowledge therapy")

Get basic information about TMS (tension myositis syndrome) and understand why and how it causes stuttering. For a quick summary, read the basic info document in the Files menu of this Facebook group. Note that you need to have an open mind about stuttering, because at first sight the theory may seem far-fetched!

The TMS explanation needs to sink in deeply so that it reaches the subconscious. YOU need to be convinced that the TMS explanation makes sense and that many people have been helped by it. Without this belief, the subconscious will continue to send symptoms. Much of the healing happens on a subconscious level; and how will the subconscious be convinced if you CONSCIOUSLY are not convinced?

Videos: Check out a few of the many Youtube videos by or featuring Dr John Sarno MD, Dr Howard Schubiner MD, Dr David Schechter MD or any other TMS practitioner.

Books: Try to read at least TWO books on TMS, so that these ideas can begin to sink in. Check out THIS LIST OF TMS BOOKS.

Note that TMS is an open-ended concept – many disorders not specifically mentioned in these books may also be generated psychologically, just like TMS pain. So read these books as if they are all about stuttering, not just pain.

Many people say that Dr John Sarno's bestseller, Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection, is their favourite; but it is not strong on practical exercises. A nice one which is an easy read, yet contains useful exercises but is not on the above list: Zero Pain Now, by Adam Heller.

But don't get stuck in this reading phase forever – at some stage you will have to start applying your newly acquired knowledge to your actual symptoms. If the books have convinced you that TMS is indeed causing your stutter, it may be time to start doing the work. And that means beginning to apply mindbody principles in real life to stuttering. Here are a few:

B.   Principles to focus on

"Do not focus on the physical – focus on the psychological." 

TRY TO IGNORE THE ACTUAL STUTTER AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Stuttering is only a SYMPTOM; the CAUSE is mostly repressed negative emotions such as anger / rage, fear, sadness or else daily stress/tension (in any of its many forms). The more you focus on the actual stutter, the longer it will take to overcome it. The reason for this is that stuttering is a psychological defense mechanism, and its purpose is to distract your conscious mind away from repressed negative emotion(s) and / or thoughts that threaten to rise to the conscious surface. If you obsess over stuttering, the subconscious receives the message that its defence is successful, so that there is no reason to remove it. But when you ignore the stutter, the subconscious gets the message that the stutter is ineffective. This seems to "discourage" the subconscious defense system from sending symptoms. Believe me, this strategy works! I know, it sounds weird … but then the human mind is a strange and mysterious thing.

So do avoid over-thinking or talking about stuttering itself, or its mechanics; rather analyse the feelings behind the stutter. It is such a pity that so many stuttering groups / organisations obsessively focus on the symptoms, thereby actually aggravating the problem.

"Continuously identify, acknowledge and accept the subconscious, repressed negative emotion(s) that cause symptoms".

It is not always easy to pinpoint these emotions, but very often they are bottled-up and unaware RAGE / ANGER. FEAR, sadness, loneliness, shame / embarrassment, guilt and regret are some other feelings often behind the stutter. Some feelings, such as irritation and frustration, simpy "hide" behind the "real" feeling which is anger / rage. Often these emotions have been carried over subconsciously from childhood. In the "Files" menu of this Facebook group you will find a list of emotions that usually play a role in TMS.

Sometimes, however, the stutter is caused or made worse simply by day-to-day stresses due to work, kids, relationships, family, health, bad news etc. Keep in mind the bottom line, which is the fact that mind and body are interrelated, and that the one affects the other.

"Perfectionism enrages the inner child".

Stuttering can be seen from two angles: (1) As a defensive mechanism, with the purpose of distracting us from repressed, unacceptable emotions (2) As the "voice" of the "inner child". What is the inner child, you may ask. Well, the inner child can be seen as that part of the subconscious which stores our experiences, attitudes and feelings of the time when we were young.

This inner child is not unlike a real child, but it's more than a child. It's also our animal nature, our primitive side (in Freudian psychology it's called the "id"). It seeks pleasure; it is dependent and intellectually lazy; it is extremely selfish, emotionally immature and quick to anger. And it HATES two things: perfectionism, and goodism (the tendency to be extremely "good", unselfish and self-sacrificing. Actually, goodism is a form of perfectionism). Very often, mindbody symptoms are caused by the inner child who is enraged because of the perfectionist and goodist demands made on it by our mature self. Perfectionism and goodism may feed a huge pool of repressed rage, thereby creating psychological tension which maintains mindbody symptoms such as stuttering. So do avoid perfectionism and goodism!  

"Develop an attitude of disdain toward the stutter" 

"I encourage patients to develop an attitude of disdain toward the (stutter) to replace their strong feelings of intimidation. This sends a message to the subconscious that the strategy of keeping attention focused on the body is about to fail - which means the cessation of (stuttering)." --- Dr John Sarno MD, in his book Healing Back Pain - The Mind-Body Connection. (Quotation slightly changed to make it relevant to stuttering.)

Note, however, that some of the TMS people disagree with Dr. Sarno on this point. They say that symptoms (pain, stuttering etc.) are the "cries" or "weeping" of the inner child, and that this child should not be treated with disdain, but rather comforted and loved. So do experiment with both of these approaches to see which works best for you.


 Many people find it helpful to WRITE about their stuttering; the problems it caused in the past as well as the present; what makes your fluency worse or better etc. Try to focus on the social / psychological reasons for the stutter, not the physical stuttering itself – because, remember, stuttering is just a symptom. You can write in a diary, on a blog etc. Consider actually writing a book; this could go a long way toward fluency as the psychological benefits of discharging, expressing and sharing of emotions could be immense.

This is not recommended for everybody, as journalling makes some people re-live traumatic or otherwise upsetting experiences.

"Do not repress – express!" 

Expressing yourself is the opposite of repressing emotions. Use body language (gestures, facial expressions etc.) and emotions to support your communication. Speak louder, vary your pitch. Don't sound like a robot! Watch how movie or TV actors express themselves in the roles they play, and learn from them. 

Various well-known movie stars who used to stutter have found that acting makes them fluent – because acting is highly creative and expresses their deepest feelings. If you are by nature introverted / inhibited, try to develop your extroverted side. And keep in mind that shyness is NOT an inherited trait; shyness is learned and can be unlearned. In the words of John Harrison, the well-known American self-help expert on stuttering who conquered his stutter: "Do not hold back!"

MUSIC can be a great help in getting in touch with and expressing emotions. Learning to play a musical instrument would obviously be highly useful; but even just LISTENING to music may stimulate your emotional side.

"Talk often to your subconscious." 

Tell your subconscious that you are "on to it" and its deception, that you refuse to be controlled by it and that you will no longer be intimidated by the stutter. This sends a powerful message to the subconscious that the tide has turned and that you are in control.

Also, "talk" to your inner child daily. Children tend to feel vulnerable, dependent and weak. Such feelings are often repressed and subconsciously carried into adulthood, resulting in physical symptoms. Tell your inner child that you are no longer the weak, vulnerable child you may have been decades ago and that therefore there is no more reason for anxiety. As an adult you know so much more – you are streetwise and much stronger. This message has to sink in deeply into the subconscious. 

"Be assertive."

"Keep your anger close to you, like a dog on a leash." This could be useful if repressed rage / anger is causing your problems. It really means having an assertive yet non-confrontational speaking style. Assertiveness, being a civilised, mild and socially acceptable form of aggression, will reduce the huge pool of repressed rage within the subconscious which may be feeding the stutter. Assertiveness, however, is not equivalent to confidence – because confidence so often implies that you are always right. Assertiveness means not being apologetic; it means being aware of your rights as a human being – having the right to speak and voice your opinion appropriately without disrespecting the rights of others. It is a win-win approach whereas aggression is win-lose. For more information on assertiveness, check out this short article in my book.

And for an excellent TED talk on how a few assertive body positions will actually change your body chemistry to make you more relaxed and assertive, check out the following:

"Visualise your success." 

Visualisation should be very useful in changing the subconscious. Visualisation is such a powerful tool in modern self-help and it always surprises me how little this is used by people who stutter. Have a look at this short chapter on visualisation in my free online book:

"Do not go it alone." 

This is a well-tested principle in stuttering treatment and also holds true for the psychotherapeutic approach to stuttering. If you are serious to get the upper hand in stuttering, don't try to walk this road alone. Stuttering is in many ways a social disorder – most stuttering people don't stutter when alone – so it makes sense to enlist others in your efforts. Discussing stuttering with others who stutter is extremely therapeutic as it discharges tons of negative emotions which have accumulated over the years and that have maintained high speech-linked stress / anxiety levels. There are so many ways to do so:

 Find a "speech buddy" by means of one of the Facebook stuttering groups, and share ideas, audioclips and videos with him / her regularly via Facebook, Messenger, Google Hangouts, Skype etc.

 Join one of the Google Hangouts for people who stutter.

Join a support / self-help group in your area for people who stutter. If such a group does not exist in your area, consider creating one yourself.

Enlist as many people as possible in your efforts – family members, friends, colleagues. Discuss stuttering with them, explain it and let them know what you are doing and how they can assist.

Stuttering children 

Parents should ensure that a home atmosphere is created which encourages the stuttering child to express himself / herself freely, instead of bottling up emotions such as rage or fear. If it is true that repressed negative emotions lead to stuttering, it makes sense to try and "unrepress" those emotions. Keep in mind that Highly Sensitive Children (HSCs) may be prone to stuttering because of their sensitive nature, and that research has found that most stuttering children ARE in fact HSCs. 

Example: An older twin sister, who is her younger brother's best friend, tends to always get the first word in, thereby frustrating the brother. But being sensitive he doesn't want to upset their friendship and doesn't express his irritation, instead repressing it. Eventually, however, his irritation turns to anger / rage, which is also repressed. In due course this repressed anger / rage accumulates and may cause mindbody symptoms such as stuttering.  

C. Speaking technique

Develop the correct mindset before starting a conversation. Before speaking, ask yourself the "golden question": "Right now, what emotion am I feeling?" If it is fear, rage, embarrassment etc., fully accept and acknowledge that feeling, instead of fighting it. Fighting it means repressing it, which is the wrong way to handle it. Yes, it's not easy, and fear may make you tremble, sweat etc. But the emotion will go away, while you will still be there. Try to "ride out" the emotion and, if necessary, use a fluency technique like "passive airflow", "slow / prolonged speech", "slowed first syllable / slow start / easy onset" etc. to get you speaking.

This procedure, namely getting in touch with your emotions before and during speaking, should eventually become easier as it becomes a habit. Identifying and acknowledging the feeling before and during speaking sends an extremely powerful signal to the subconscious defense mechanism that it no longer needs to send symptoms, because you have acknowledged the repressed emotion.

When you do stutter, shift your attention to a possible psychological cause, like something you are worried about, a chronic family or financial problem, a recurrent source of irritation etc., for that sends a message to the brain that you're no longer deceived by the stutter, says Dr Sarno. When that message reaches the depths of the mind, the subconscious, the stutter is weakened.

D. The Daily Reminders

Take ten minutes off every day and read the following Daily Reminders slowly, taking time to consider them so that they sink deeply into your subconscious. Even better, MEMORIZE them:

E. If you're not making progress, or are having relapses or new mindbody symptoms

·        Have a look at this diagram:

It may be that mindbody tools such as assertiveness, feeling the emotions etc. are not sufficient to totally prevent the vocal-cord lockdown (the "blocks") which lies at the core of all stuttering behaviour. Though mindbody principles should reduce the amount of tension flowing from your subconscious, some tension may still get through. If that is the case, supplement these mindbody tools with symptomatic aids such as 1) Stress Management 2) Fluency techniques such as the Passive Airflow Technique (note that I made a number of Youtube videos on this technique, and so has Dr Martin F Schwartz. I also wrote a book on this technique. Visit my Stuttersense website for more information.) In this way you will be addressing the stutter at all levels.

Some people experience immediate fluency improvement after starting this programme. For others it may be some weeks or months before there is a change. Keep in mind that adults who stutter have been doing so for years or decades, so DO NOT expect a quick miracle cure! Don't be impatient - psychological healing can take time and effort.

A great deal of stuttering – the actual word / sound repetitions, struggle behaviours etc., but not the vocal-cord locking –  has been conditioned (learned). In other words, it has become a habit. All kinds of things may trigger stuttering, such as a particular situation, person or type of person, particular sounds or words etc. But … this can be unlearned. Check out the book Unlearn Your Pain, by Dr Howard Schubiner MD, for more information (it's about chronic pain, but is also applicable to stuttering).·   

Re-read one of the TMS books. It may be that subconsciously you do not entirely believe the TMS explanation. The subconscious will only stop sending symptoms if it is convinced that its deception has been discovered. So allow these books, and the ideas in them, to sink in deeply into your subconscious.

For many people this is a "two steps forward, one step backward" process. Again, note that adults who have stuttered for decades can't expect a quick miracle cure. The muscles of the vocal cords are fine structures that are easily overwhelmed by the tensions engendered by the central nervous system. And … subconscious change takes time. Also, relapses may occur as the mind tries to return to the old state of affairs. There probably will be setbacks, and the devious subconscious may try to convince you that your case is hopeless … don't be deceived! The subconscious mind is full of tricks. Just continue with your focus on exposing those repressed emotions. Don't let these relapses discourage you – actually they are a sign of progress! They demonstrate that the subconscious mind has taken note of your fluency improvement, and is trying desperately to regain the territory it has lost.

The subconscious defense mechanism, in its efforts to maintain its power, may create NEW mindbody symptoms to replace the stutter. Dr Sarno calls them "symptoms imperative". Examples are skin rashes (that's what I'm getting lol), unexplained muscle pains, stomach upsets etc. Their purpose is to again distract your attention away from your current focus on your repressed emotions, toward your body – in the same way that stuttering distracts you away from the mind. "Symptoms imperative", too, are actually signs that you are making progress! You've got the TMS on the run, and it is desperately trying to find a new seat from which it can cause mischief. Continue to "think psychologically" about your stuttering – but if your replacement symptoms are severe, rather take a step back and halt your fluency efforts until your subconscious mind has adjusted to the progress made.

Do LOTS of relaxation exercises and stress management. The TMS self-therapy, which you are busy with, is aimed at changing the subconscious, and subconscious change can be really stressful. Read this chapter of my book on how to deal with change.

If you feel that it is all overwhelming and getting too much, or if you are getting panic attacks and feel anxious, simply stop it all and take a step backward – watch a movie, do something relaxing, forget about TMS and healing. The periods of anxiety should be temporary. When you feel more at ease, you can return to journalling or whatever you do to reduce TMS symptoms.

If you are making no progress at all even after months of working on this, you may want some external support from a TMS practitioner. About one out of five TMS patients may need this extra attention. Many of these TMS practitioners work via Skype or Google Hangouts, so not having one of them in your area is not an obstacle. Look out for them on the internet.

On Youtube and elsewhere on the web you will find lots of great videos and treatment programmes for TMS. Check out all the videos by or featuring Dr John Sarno MD and / or Dr Howard Schubiner MD and / or Dr David Schechter MD or any other TMS practitioner. They are usually about chronic pain, but simply treat them as if they address chronic stuttering. Eg. have a look at the excellent FREE videos on this site.


Friday, July 14, 2017

The Daily Reminders in mindbody therapy for stuttering

I based these Daily Reminders on Dr John Sarno's reminders for chronic TMS pain (TMS = tension myositis syndrome, which is a mindbody disorder). In order to make them applicable to stuttering I slightly adjusted the reminders.

I find these reminders extremely powerful - in fact I memorized and repeated them intensively for days and found my fluency dramatically improved as a result. But there was a price to pay ... shortly afterwards I experienced a severe outbreak of a skin problem called hives - the medical term, according to my doctor, is idiopathic ("cause unknown") urticaria. A coincidence? I don't think so, because some weeks ago I got a similar skin outbreak after successfully making a previous big effort to apply mindbody healing principles to stuttering.

I am convinced that this is what Dr Sarno called a "symptom imperative" - a replacement symptom. When the subconscious mind notes that its control over a mindbody symptom is weakened, it tries to regain its power - via the autonomous nervous system - by creating something in its place. The purpose of such a replacement symptom is exactly the same as for the original symptom, namely to act as a psychological defense mechanism - to distract our attention toward the body and away from negative emotions which are unacceptable to the subconscious self-image. 


In the same way the subconscious may, if we are having success with any particular therapy, also attempt to sabotage that success by creating a relapse. This the subconscious does by increasing tension, thereby increasing stuttering and discouraging the individual from making further attempts to improve his speech. I am convinced that these reactions from the subconscious are a major reason why stuttering therapy often fails, after having made some progress.

The good news, however, is that, from a mindbody viewpoint, such "relapses" and replacement symptoms are actually a good sign! It shows that the subconscious has taken note of the improvement and is desperately trying to hang on to its dominant position. People with TMS pain who apply TMS healing principles often find that their pain moves to a different part of their body; e.g. a pain in the right leg will disappear, only to reappear in the left leg. This shows that the TMS is literally on the run. It has lost its centre of power and is desperately trying to find a new basis from which to cause mischief.

More than ever I am convinced that stuttering is a mindbody disorder - what Dr Sarno called a "TMS equivalent". Strictly speaking, stuttering is not TMS, because no pain is involved and the symptoms differ from those of TMS; but both these disorders arise from the same source: tension. Much of this tension stems from repressed (subconscious) negative emotions, but day-to-day stresses arising from work pressures, family etc. also play a role.


But ... we have to balance our progress with maintaining our psychological equilibrium. In other words, be gentle with yourself when you do mindbody therapy! If you get relapses or sudden, strange new symptoms - replacement symptoms - such as skin issues, headaches, unexplained pains and aches etc, rather stop your therapy for a while, but without losing hope or becoming discouraged. Relax for a few days, do something else, take your mind off this therapy for some time. The mind needs time to adjust to improved fluency, and it may cause a backlash if you move too quickly, as I did when I intensively memorised and obsessively repeated the Daily Reminders! Real progress seems to be a two-steps-forward-one-step-backward movement. But always keep in mind that such backlashes are always a sign that you are actually making progress, and that the symptoms are on the run.

And on this journey, do not forget other tools such as stress management and fluency techniques such as Slowed First Syllable / Easy Onset and Passive Airflow! Mindbody therapy should reduce the tension reaching the vocal cords, but some tension may still trickle through and cause some vocal-cord blocking - manage those blocks by lowering the tension on your cords by means of the physical techniques. All the best!

For more information on mindbody therapy for stuttering, join the Facebook group "Stuttering as a mindbody disorder".    


Thursday, June 1, 2017

My current view of stuttering - and its treatment

This diagram shows my current tentative thinking about stuttering ... the icon for the "mindbody" (psycho-physical) component is larger because it seems to play a more prominent part than the other "day-to-day" non-mindbody stresses that also impact on fluency.

Stuttering can be tackled at any of these three levels: at the top, the mindbody issues such as repressed emotions (fear, rage etc.); in the middle, the tensions generated by either the mindbody or by other, non-mindbody stresses; and at the bottom, the tension-related vocal-cord "freezing" or "locking" that results in conditioned repetitions, prolongations, secondary behaviours such as stamping a foot etc.

Of course, if mindbody issues are regarded as the actual cause of stuttering, and treated by way of mindbody healing, it would theoretically not be necessary to reduce tension (at the middle level) or work on preventing the vocal-cord blocks (at the bottom level). In real life, however, stress management and some way of dealing with the vocal-cord blocks would support mindbody healing. For instance, relapses at the upper level of the mindbody would be counteracted by stress management at the middle level. And fluency techniques such as Passive Airflow, Slow / Easy Onset, breathing techniques etc. would still have a purpose to reduce vocal-cord tension at the bottom level.

Feel free to join my "Stuttering as a mindbody disorder" Facebook group !