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".    


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