Monday, April 17, 2006

Carl explained?

So here is my possible interpretation of Carl's introspection: see last post, too.

...I've often noticed (through introspection) that when my mind races and I have a hard time focusing, I stutter;
When we are in a more emotional state, we have less control over our motor and cognitive functions. And we are more slaves of our emotions, which was very important for our survival thousands of years ago. Also, you are more likely to have a racing mind when you have a bad day. Even "normal" people stutter when under extreme stress or emotions, but we just have a very low threshold.

when I force myself to say one-word-after-another, cancelling all blocks with great deliberation, I seemingly stutter more badly for the first seconds, and then, if I allow my mind to slow down and go into synch with my speech, I'm completely fluent.
I have similar experiences.

1) What you describe, sounds like a transition from one system to another. You go from your old car, which is very slow, to your new car, at first, you are slower driving your new car as you need to get used to the new car. Or you fire a bad employee, and hire a good one, but it needs time for the good one to become more effective. Thus, the phenomena of it getting worse before getting better is a very very general phenomena.

2) The same phenomena will happen if you switch to singing, chorus reading, reading, voluntary stuttering, acting, speaking loud and so on: see what Per thinks here. You switch your focus to how you say things.

To summarise, you start out the day without thinking about how to speak, you focus on the message, you notice that you stutter, you switch to a different mode, this causes you initial problems, then you are fully tuned into the mode, and you are more fluent.

This is all at a very slow pace. If I continue with that, resisting my extremely strong urges to lose focus on a single thought-process, and see each word in my mind before I say it, it becomes easier within a few minutes, and I can speed up just a bit. If I continue this with various strangers throughout the day (also using breathing techniques), I'm almost completely fluent by the end of the day.
The more you are tuned into the mode, the easier it becomes. And also, you are less concerned by your speech, and you become more relaxed which also makes it easier.

The urge of the mind to skip back into its default, unfocused, stuttering "track" remains, but will presumably lessen or go away with time.
This is also a very general phenomena. Take eating chocolate or starting jogging. At first, it is hard, and then it become easier. But there is still an urge to go back, and eventually you succumb to it slowly but surely.

To summarise, what Carl describes are very general phenomena happening in many different non-stuttering situations. Though they are not very important from a science point of view. But the most important insight is to ask why he becomes more fluent in this new mode. And here there is one theory, revived by Per Alm, that we have two system: one unstable automatic speech and one normal for active-control-over-how-we-say-it speech.

1 comment:

Carl Joakim Gagnon said...

Hi Tom,

Thanks for posting. I too believe that we should talk about two ways of talking, or rather, "thinking about words". I should say that, just now, I'm in a bit of a transitional period, going from one of those "ways of talking" to another (if all works out), as outrageous as that sounds to people who believe that stuttering can't be (for all intents and purposes) cured in an adult.

So I notice a lot of the differences between the weeks I was basically fluent, speaking in very controlled phrases while I get used to my "new car"; and the times when I allow myself to go back to a more spontaneous (as yet) way of speaking.

To me, the difference between the two tracks -- between the old car and the new -- isn't about speaking, but generally about how we relate to language. When I read in a good week, for example, my brain very naturally puts one word in front of the other; in a bad week, it's more scattered. I also seem to be more sensitive to loud sounds, more emotional, etc.

I don't think I'm making this up. I think there are very clear differences with emotions, sensitivity, ease of comprehending difficult written or spoken material, concentration, even vision, between the two "cars". And I think this is something neuroscience definitely needs to look into.

I'd be very interested to hear if this resonates with you or and of your readers. (I see from your post that some points did.)