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A healing programme to deal with TMS stuttering - Version 1.6 Nov.

© Peter Louw

(NB First read the basic information document within the "Files" menu of this Facebook group!)

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

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
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.

"Journalling": 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
and expressing 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

"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:

1) 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.

2) DO NOT REPRESS – EXPRESS! As mentioned earlier in this article, shift your mindset, from
"holding back" / being inhibited / introverted, to "expressing yourself" / loosening some of those
inhibitions and "letting go" / being extroverted. By doing this you tackle the core root of the defense
mechanism of stuttering. Be assertive and use body language to support your message. You CAN do

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 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, 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.