Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Diving and stuttering

I have joined a swimming club two years ago, and twice a week I swim a fixed program. One exercise involves swimming for 25 meters with flippers and legs only. I usually try to swim with my head under water. I noticed that after 10-15 meters, my body shows struggling behaviours and at first I tried to act on them by moving my body or breathing out, or giving up. Now I have learned to ignore and live with the struggling behaviours. Interestingly, they go away after a few very uncomfortable seconds, and then I have "breathing" space for 10 more meters and then they start again.

I see an analogy to stuttering. When we have a abnormally long jam in the brain we experience a very uncomfortable urge to "get it out". Typically, we cannot resist the urge and let our body take over and react: tense blocks and other symptoms follow. Successful stutterers have learned to ignore or resist the urge to uncontrollable behaviors, and wait until they have control back.

Now, as in diving, you cannot learn to ignore or resist cognitively, but you need to teach your body to do this by repeated exposure. And not only repetition but you also need to stretch your limits. So I would dive and once I have those struggling behaviors, I would say to myself: "Count until 5 and then go up". In this way, I pushed myself, which is very uncomfortable, but you can only learn this way. After a while, ignoring the struggling behaviours is still uncomfortable but I do not feel I have to act on them. And then I set myself a new limit. Translate this to stuttering, we need to learn this in real situations, and you need to feel the pain and discomfort of not speaking and being blank minded for 1-2 seconds. It is hard work, and you need to keep on doing it.

No comments: