Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Jerome's Insight

Sometimes we fail to see the forest for the trees, don't we? Yesterday, I posted about my ability to be completely fluent during job interviews, first dates, and public speeches. All times that I would ordinarily think would cause major dysfluency. Yet, they do not for me. I wondered why this would be.

Jerome posted a comment on the thread that probably revealed possibly why this phenomenon occurs. Jerome said, "Could it be that it's because you're kind of playing a role there? And it's only when you have to reveal your 'true' self that you start stuttering?"

I don't know why I didn't think of it before...but this rings true to me. Because an interview requires me to be "on"...to put on my professional persona...to turn on a "role" of sorts...to "act", if you will...then I am able to be fluent because of the affect I'm applying to my speaking. As if I'm being someone else for a time. When I go on a first date, I want to exude confidence...thus, I turn on the best "me"...and maybe this affected manner results in temporary fluency. And it will likely fall down into stuttering when it's turned "off".

As an experiment, this morning, I asked a colleague if she would allow me to interview her as if I was a reporter for a television show. Just to see what would happen with my speech. Funny enough, I was almost completely fluent, as long as I stayed "in character". I applied a very professional tone to my voice...a slight "news" accent...and it made me probably 95% fluent.

This tells me that Jerome is probably right about what he commented on yesterday's blog entry. If you've experienced something similar, please let me know. I'd love to hear more about this. I think this is somewhat related to the therapy that some apply where they "re-teach" you to speak with an affected manner/voice/accent. Tom Weidig of "The Stuttering Brain" blog (linked to the right) spoke with me about this when he was in town last week.


Beth Lawrence said...

This was an interesting post. I was just discussing the singer Mel Tillis this morning; how he stuttered until he began singing, which he did perfectly.

Studies have proven that the section of the brain that controls speech is different from the area that controls singing.

Perhaps what you experienced in your 'interviewer mode' was simply speaking consciously, rather than habitually?

I write about this in my Blog; please check it out (Feb. 5th Post); very interesting. It's about this very thing. www.vivalavoice.blogspot.com

Jerome said...

I think that stuttering has become such an integral part of our identity that the brain, under normal conditions and in everyday life, simply tries to reflect this. The brain at that moment doesn't judge whether this is good for us or not, it simply performs what's necessary to uphold the 'illusion of identity'. People are reluctant to change and they often fear change. Even if it would mean change for the better.

I'm convinced (though I cannot prove it) that if I were to have amnesia and therefore wouldn't remember that I was 'supposed' to stutter, I wouldn't stutter anymore.

Along these lines, I've also noticed that my brain starts thinking: "Oh, my! A difficult word is coming! I have to stutter!" And then indeed I do stutter. But if I consciously realize this and start saying to myself: "Wait! Why are you afraid of this word or letter? You know you can speak it normally under certain conditions so why not now too? You don't have to be afraid, don't let your life be ruled by fear!" Then it usually gets better.

Of course this doesn't change everything overnight. But I think that it's really a question of habit. The same way that the brain remembers good things that you practice all the time, it also remembers bad things you do over and over again. Therefore I'm experimenting (on my own) right now with meditation and visualization. I'd like to replace the old connections in the brain with new ones thus 'recreating part of myself'.

And I will also try to refocus more on the breathing. Because correct breathing is elementary too of course.

Ok, enough loud thinking for now ...

Ludovich said...

The best explanation for this variability shown in the stuttering is supplied by the model of the dual premotor systems, which has been developed by the Swedish scientist Per Alm (http://tinyurl.com/yt6afb). The same type of variability happens in some types of focal dystonias, like the spasmodic dysphonia. Read, for example, this very interesting personal report of Scott Adams (http://tinyurl.com/y9z7ef), creator of the comic strip character Dilbert, and that has been suffering with the spasmodic dysphonia.

Law Student said...

Beth, you've nailed it, I think, with what you said, "Perhaps what you experienced in your 'interviewer mode' was simply speaking consciously, rather than habitually." This is what Tom Weidig was speaking about as well...when you focus on the HOW rather than the WHAT...the affect is effective in inducing fluency. Interesting stuff!

Law Student said...

Jerome, this is very interesting: "I'm convinced (though I cannot prove it) that if I were to have amnesia and therefore wouldn't remember that I was 'supposed' to stutter, I wouldn't stutter anymore."

I am going to blog about this.

Law Student said...

Ludovich, thank you for the article...I'm not as well versed in the technical and medical terminology that you use...but I probably should be.

Jerome said...

I've also read Scott Adams' article about his problem. There are some big similarities between his affliction and stuttering (although also some notable differences).

Besides, I LOVE Scott's blog!! :)

Ludovich said...

The similarities are much more impressive than the differences. See, for example, this passage of the testimony of Scott Adams:

"[...] Essentially a part of the brain that controls speech just shuts down [...] The weirdest part of this phenomenon is that speech is processed in different parts of the brain depending on the context. So people with this problem can often sing but they can’t talk. In my case I could do my normal professional speaking to large crowds but I could barely whisper and grunt off stage. And most people with this condition report they have the most trouble talking on the telephone or when there is background noise. I can speak normally alone, but not around others. That makes it sound like a social anxiety problem, but it’s really just a different context, because I could easily sing to those same people."

Isn't it really very similar?

I think that the reason for this astonishing similarity is the fact that both disorders are related to abnormalities in the basal ganglia.

Jerome said...


Yes, the similarities are impressive indeed. I also immediately thought of what happens when you stutter when I read this on Scott's site.