Monday, October 30, 2006

Getting rid of a habit: finally

Some time ago, I reported on my experience to get rid of a habit: see here.

I used to be really bad in swimming crawl, because I had problems with getting the breathing mechanism right. I used to choke when water came in my mouth.

Now it is completely gone. I do not choke any more when breathing doing crawl, because I unlearned a habit.

I am wondering how much bad habit is part of stuttering? Surely, we have habits in stuttering. How can you find out how much is habit and how much is underlying difficulties? Can you say that the more you practise the less stuttering? What are the criteria to distinguish between conditions based on a bad habit or based on more underlying difficulties?


Michael Hay said...

Hi Tom,

I too have had your experience with swimming. My biggest fear, along with speaking, was always swimming. I had episodes as a child where my breathing would become erratic and I would swallow lots of water. This fear led to my diaphragm contracting in the water in the same way it contracted when speaking. Now that I have my breathing under control due to costal breathing I have now also been able to enjoy swimming without choking.

My thoughts on this are that stuttering is basically a learned behaviour. It is essentially a bad habit we have learned and therefore it can be unlearned.

The hard part, however, is that speaking is something that we do every day so the temptation is to always use this old bad habit. If we are learning a new skill like playing the piano then we can practice and if we don't practice then our habit might just slowly fade away. If we don't speak in our new controlled way, however, our old speaking habit kicks in which actually counteracts and negates the new habit. Speaking with a new habit takes a lot of discipline and control or a technique to help you. Then over time this new way of speaking will become a new habit and you won't have to fully concentrate on using as much discipline or technique and ultimately it will become your automatic way of speaking.

Very good post Tom with a great analogy. I think this lies at the very heart of stammering.



Tom Weidig said...

Thx for the post.

Let me just point out a big difference between the breathing and stuttering.

I still believe that we have a fundamental weakness/instability in our speech system. I believe that this makes it even harder to change habits.

Nevertheless, stuttering involves so many secondary symptoms that are just bad habits, and working on these reduces dysfluencies or at the very least secondary symptoms.