Some random thoughts from a rough draft of my upcoming book:
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy of Stuttering is based on recognizing that stuttering that lasts in adulthood is based the following factors.
First, we acknowledge that there may be a genetic predisposition to stutter. A set of genes appears to cause us to have some difficulty in acquiring speech and possibly another set of genes that makes us be oversensitive. I use we because I had a very severe stutter even though I now seem to have recovered from it.
Second, there is a lot of common in stuttering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), because we have experienced systematically a lot of traumatic speaking experiences which have had a definite effect on our cognition, feelings, and bodily reaction. Recent literature shows that there is an reciprocal interaction between amygdala the seat of feelings that becomes aroused when there is a danger and pre-frontal cortex.. The amygdala when aroused triggers strong emotions and sends agitated signals to neurotransmitters throughout the brain, including the Broca area, where speech is formed, and which is located in the Pre-Frontal Cortex. Amygdala's reactions are useful to activate the emergency response, the fight-flight response . You can see a picture of the brain and this process in the illustration associated with this blog. But PTSD causes over reaction in amygdala and scrambled reaction in Pre-Frontal Cortex.
In stuttering a traumatization also occurs. A young child is constantly seeking the approval of his parents, older siblings, and other members in his close-knit circle to satisfy his feelings for the need to belong. When our speech development lags, our parents kindly try to instruct us and model the right kind of development. No matter that they do it with love, they call attention to our speech. Being anxious sort, we strip away the love and focus on our slow speaking progress. We feel their concern and we, being oversensitive, interpret subconsciously it as a threat of abandonment and proceed to construct a fear for our safety. Not are we only traumatized we also, as a consequence of making inadequate progress in our speech, start to deprecate ourselves. This self-downing also results in traumatic feelings.
Our impatience and our low tolerance of frustration often coupled with the concern and the impatience of our parents intensifies our negative feelings and is soon interpreted as punishment. Speaking situations become dangerous encounters. No matter how minute or severe our deficiency in developing to speak is, we are classically conditioned to fear certain speech situations. This classically conditioned fear is stored in the amygdala.
What we develop is an unfortunate chain reaction: a) a stressful speaking situation is b) interpreted by the amygdala as a threat to our safety and c) i, the amygdala, overreacts and messes up the fine tuning necessary in Broca area to form fluent speech. The only real hope is to have the executive functions in Pre-Frontal Cortex to take over and calm down the amygdala. This is what is done by working on beliefs as REBT does.
Next time I will talk about operant conditioning and the secondary stuttering.