September 17, 2013

Relief From Stuttering

“Relief From Stuttering” is a collection of twelve papers contributed to annual on-line stuttering awareness conference, by Ellen – Marie Silverman from 2000 to 2012. Each paper has been reviewed and enriched in the light of a long career as a therapist, helping people who stammer/ stutter and also two decades of mindfulness practice by the author, in search for healing and wholeness for herself.

Let me state at the outset, three reasons why I think the authorship of this book is unusual:

  1. She has been “there” and back. Yes, she is a person who stutters.
  2. She is a therapist, has been well up in Speech language academia, an ASHA fellow, a transactional analyst and above all, a serious researcher and practitioner of Buddhist mindfulness approaches like Vipassana, Shenpa, Lojong, Tonglen etc.
  3. Being a woman and a trained researcher, she is offering women's perspective on a predominantly “male” disorder in a “male” world-view.

Now coming to the book- it can be a difficult task to put together one's own writing spread over twelve years, as if a common thread ran through the twelve papers by design and as if author was one and the same person over all those years. But Silverman has done a commendable job of finding this common thread, Laying The Groundwork To Speak With Greater Ease, and has prefaced the book, with a comprehensive orientation.

In this helpful orientation, she identifies and expands on four fundamental themes running through this collection of papers:
  1. Honoring self worth
  2. Fearlessly facing fear
  3. Charting a path of change and
  4. Using helpful assessment metrics.

I half expected, the last theme, to consist of self-rating scales about how often and how badly I stammered today kind of stuff! But I was positively surprised to see that the author was talking about choosing a metric of our attention and of our effort rather than the results of our effort- for obvious reasons. If we count dis-fluencies, we are missing out the essence of this complex phenomena. The book is full of such departures from traditional wisdom and practices, diving into realm of focusing at our thoughts, intentions, fears and desires, using time-honored oriental practices. Because, she believes, that we do not just need to look at how we speak- rather we need to look at ourselves in totality and at much greater depth. Getting to know ever more deeply what we believe is critical because, we live what we believe. This is the first step on the journey of change.

So, this book is not about speech techniques: there is plenty about that on Internet and in the clinics. It is all about what goes on behind and beyond the “block”, the struggle, the silences and the desire to be quiet since no one would understand. The author has brought in psychological insights as well as Buddhist approaches, having been inspired by Eric Berne of “Games People Play” fame, creator of Transactional Analysis.

The twelve papers cover various aspects of stuttering: writing a children's book Jason's Secret; a review of stuttering and gender research; Using stories in recovery, what Mindfulness can offer, Shenpa -a technique to become aware of the moment of stammering and accepting it as it is, instead of fighting it off etcetera and finally, Why Seek Therapy?.

So, for Rs 400 (for Kindle), and Rs 700 (for paperback) from Amazon, this is a good resource to read, discuss & share in your Self Help Group, to present to a friend - above all, to keep in your collection so that you can turn to it every now and then. Because the concepts this book explores may easily take months, even years, to put in to practice. The task at hand is not just speaking well- but being a whole new person in every encounter, in every transaction.

Finally let us remember, a very apt Indian saying: If you know who you are, you are WRONG!  Because, You, the true Self can never be the object of “knowing”. Similarly, the twelve papers offered here are sign-posts, not the destination itself. Hence the need to revisit them, again and again.

Lastly, we learn something about the author herself through this book- and not just her thoughts on stuttering. For many of us, especially young Indian women, she could easily be a genuine role model of a person with diverse interests (painting, sculpting for example), achievements (open captioning for live theatre, business, publishing) and foremost, living life on her own terms. We congratulate Ellen-Marie on her achievements and wish her many more years of creativity and service to others.

You may ask questions about matters of interest or express concerns directly to her at tsss920499 at aol dot com. You may also want to follow her on tweet, about mindfulness and stuttering on Twitter @TSSS920499 . Who knows, stuttering may be the humble beginning of a great journey towards eternal Now and mindfulness for you...


kapil sharmaa said...

i will definately buy this book, thanks sachin sir :)

Dinesh said...

Thank you Sachin sir for spreading the word and bringing out this in foreground so that we can benefit from it.
Enjoyed the review and appreciate it!! Thanks again :-)

sachin said...

Thanks Kapil and Dinesh. Yes, I think- for many of us it is time to take the next step- explore the world behind our stammering- instead of just learning and re-learning a new technique..
If we are going on an all India tour, we better learn all about our car- how to change tyre, spark plug, etc etc.