Step 1 (Play with a tape or a video camera)
Record your speech under different circumstances: reading a newspaper or a book; talking to yourself or children, talking with a friend, sharing something in a small group, talking to a “senior” on phone, telling a joke etc. Arrange these in an order from easy to difficult tasks, before starting (this is very important). Begin with the most comfortable situation, like reading alone. Use a simple cell-phone with camera or a proper video-camera on a tripod, whichever is convenient and available. If possible, try and capture the facial expressions and the body language as well.
For the first few minutes, you might be too conscious of the recording but later you will get used to it and speak in your regular style. So let the recording be long enough, 10 minutes or more. If you are using the phone camera, you may request a friend to help. If this friend is a PWS, all the better. Essentially it can be anyone you trust. Save all the recordings, if possible, on a computer.
Replay the recording- listen to your speech (words, nuances, volume, pitch etc.), study your body language, facial expressions, hands etc. Review these even in those moments when you are speaking fluently. Compare this, with those moments when you are having a little hesitation or a big difficulty. As a listener now, try to guess how you are coming through as a speaker. Confident? Comfortable with yourself and the subject? Enjoying every moment of it? Or in a hurry to finish? Based on what you see and hear, try to guess, and feel, your emotional states as you were speaking those words.
Replay the moments when you think you were not very comfortable. Pause & replay the tape frequently to see and hear: did your pitch go up as you came across a 'difficult' word? Was there a struggle to push out a difficult sound? Did your lips press together with greater force and for longer duration than you would normally expect? Did your head go back? Hand jerked? Eyebrows went up? Record your observations in a diary. Make this list as exhaustive as possible. Remember, whatever you note down here is what you can finally change. Whatever you ignore, will stay with you- unfortunately. So be very honest and brave.
Review these recordings over a long period: 3-6 months and try to note down, what you do differently, in the moments of difficulty as opposed to when you are speaking fluently. It will be even more useful, if you could review these tapes with a trusted friend or a recovering stutterer. You could go a step further and fake your stutter while alone- and stay in that moment for a couple of minutes- to know what it actually feels like, in mouth, in body and in mind. In other words- consciously reproduce a moment of your stuttering and hold it (freeze) there: My name is S-------------achin. I live in K-k-k-k.....Kanpur. etc. This is Voluntary Stuttering and an important tool of knowing your stammer and overcoming it. Yes, it is not meant for weak hearts and should be attempted only after 3-4 months of starting on this path.
If you could do it in a normal conversation with a pet, children and friends (in this order), you would even discover unique emotions associated with your stuttering, but completely unknown to you till then; buried deep in your core. So, later on, when you start to deal with your stutter, you address not only what your mouth does, but also what your mind and your emotions do in those moments of difficulties.
Meet other PWS, read their posts on chat groups, their biographies on the web. While reading, try to compare your life with theirs; your observations with theirs; your problem-solving approaches with theirs. This will help you to understand that:
- Your experiences as PWS are not unique even though you sincerely thought so!
- Your responses to your problems are also not unique.
You can learn form their experiments. Knowing your 'speech' is not enough; you must know yourself as a total human being: your attitude towards life, relationships, responsibilities, career, recreation, creativity - and how these have been influenced by your speech; your deepest fears and aspirations. One way is to meet others on the same path and compare notes and the second complimentary path is diving within yourself: sitting quiet and reviewing your life, contemplation, meditation. Vipassana meditation has helped some people in this regard. Read more about it later in this manual.