Those of us who have difficulty with our speech can use the relaxing mental exercises to gain greater fluency. Those who stutter, and who are tense when speaking, can be helped because the practice of the exercises lowers the general level of anxiety. Tension is reduced and the words come more easily.
We can also incorporate our relaxing mental exercises into our speech therapy. We practise the exercises, and while still completely relaxed in both body and mind we count aloud—slowly, easily, clearly—and all the time we maintain the relaxation of body and mind. In the same way we can practise by reading and reciting.
Speaking on the telephone is often a major problem for those who stutter. This situation is very well suited for help from our mental exercises. As we take up the receiver our eyelids close, and we relax completely. We are leisurely, and we take our time before replying, and as we do so we feel the relaxation through the whole of us.
Difficulty in speaking in public is due to the mobilization of anxiety. The practice of relaxing mental exercises reduces our general level of anxiety, and also makes us less inclined to overreact to stressful situations. We thus come to have a little more in reserve, as it were, for the stress of making a speech. Sometimes a real phobia can develop in relation to making public speeches. In these circumstances we can get help by following the principles which.
Some years ago a man from a country town came to see me on account of his speech difficulty. He was in his middle thirties. He had had two or three previous periods when his speech had been bad, but each time it had settled down in a matter of a few months. But this time it seemed to be getting worse. He was under increased stress at his work, which had made him tense, and his speech difficulty was associated with a jerky movement of his head. I had him relax several times in my consulting room and his trouble subsided. However, this was some years ago at a time when I had not realized the importance of the patient learning to do the relaxing himself.
He returned with a recurrence of his trouble a couple of years later. This time I showed him how to do it himself. His symptoms again subsided, and I have not seen him since. As he was very appreciative of the help I had given him, I think it fair to assume that he would have contacted me if he had had any further trouble.
If real stuttering is associated with anxiety and nervous tension it can be helped by this approach. On the other hand if you should be one of those who stutter in the absence of anxiety it is better to seek help through orthodox speech therapy.
A lad of eighteen had stuttered since he had first learned to talk. He was extremely tense and anxious, and when he would go to speak, his anxiety would seem to become quite uncontrolled. With the relaxing exercises over a period of some months he developed a rather careful, but almost normal pattern of speech.
On the other hand a man of twenty-six, with a terrible stutter, who had come some distance to see me, failed to obtain any material help at all. This man, unlike the previous patient, was really quite unconcerned about his stutter. He had no real anxiety. His purpose in coming to see me was that his firm had offered him a better job if he could get rid of his stutter.