A Magic Moment

Don McLean
older man, white, red shirt, grey sweater

Background to This My Story

In my article “For You, For Each of You” I tried my best to reconstruct what had happened to me between roughly 50 and 65 years ago. I first laid out the 15 year history of what had happened to me, as best I could, given the number of years which had passed in the meantime. Then, at the very end, I very briefly described how it had all ended with me no longer stuttering. This article, in part, is an attempt to flush out in more detail how that ecstatic ending came to be, some time at the end of November 1971.

The one thing that we can all agree on is that I am not an expert in stuttering. I make no such claim. But what I do have is 65 years + of experience in the matter. And by the end of 1971, I had stopped stuttering.

My story begins some time in November 1971. Literally it appears it was on October 27 1971, according to what few records I have of that time. And it ends before the end of the 1971.

In late 1971, I sat down to figure out a way to never again find myself in a position, where the woman I adored would have no choice but to dump me. For by then, I had come to realize that a major cause of my being sent packing by my fiancé was that she had clearly expressed her needs; and that I had failed to listen to her. It wasn’t long before I concluded, that to prevent myself from failing to listen to a woman in the future, and hence from getting dumped again, I had to first learn how to listen to myself. It was the most incredible insight of my life.

I have devoted half a century to this amazing journey.

With that critical foundation agreed upon by me, and I, by me feeling and me thinking, in 1971, I had no idea where to start to learn how to listen to myself. I was 30 years of age. It had been around 10 years since I had spent less than a year with Miss Walker, my speech therapist, at the age of 20, in 1961, at Chedoke Hospital in Hamilton. As a guess, we had about 10 appointments. Stuttering was what we talked about. I don’t remember ever once talking to her about any of my other feelings the way I did subsequently during psychotherapy. In 1971, it never occurred to me to go looking for a learned book on the subject of stuttering. And of course it was 20 years before the internet. It was just me. On my own. Which turned out, in retrospect, to have been a very good thing indeed, given what subsequently happened.

I first saw a wonderful psychologist in Toronto the late Hans Mohr in mid 1972. The subject of stuttering never came up with Hans, because it was over for me by that time. Hans was always very proud of being the only person on both the Faculty of Law at York University and the Faculty of Medicine at the Clarke Institute in Toronto at the time. I saw 3 good to excellent psychiatrists in Hamilton, periodically from 1973-1997, where of course the matter never came up either. In other words, the solution came to me without any psychiatric intervention. In 1971, I was basically on my own.

The first thing I realized I had to do was to work out what Guidelines I was going to use to discover what feelings lay deep down within me of which I was unaware. In 1971, I called them “Guidelines to Effective Living”. Much of late October & early November 1971 had to be devoted to that task. The Guidelines are what I sensed I needed to follow in 1971, if I was ever going to get anywhere. I created these Guidelines in November 1971. I didn’t carefully read through them again, until I copied them into my first word processor around 1990, and not at all after 1990. Until very recently. When I did so, it made me feel really good, because when I throw them against the wall again today, those Guidelines still pretty much stick for me. Especially those on the first page. The first page is better than the second page, but the second page isn’t bad either. These Guidelines have withstood the test of time for me; but perhaps they may not work for other people. And so without even thinking about them for 30 - 50 years, looking back at them now, I find that I have been using them on a regular basis ever since. Like about once a week. That is, whenever I stop to do what I call a “look-in”, to experience, and then later to understand conceptually, just how I had been feeling at the very moment the look-in started.

The Process Begins

In late 1971, I sat down in a chair in a quiet room, in a position in which I could relax, but where I wouldn’t fall asleep. Then the process began. And then the fight began, between two parts of me. My mind kept interjecting, preventing me from quietly listening. In other words, I was unable to stop thinking. I was unable to sit and wait. Instead I kept thinking to myself... about whatever... about just about anything... Soon I got fed up with my thinking about extraneous matters and began to castigate myself....“Shut up and listen, Don” I had to keep telling myself. “Just shut up. Stop thinking.” “Don, listen to what is buried deep within your gut. Be silent. And wait for your gut to reveal a bit of what’s there, bit by bit, in its own time”. “Don, you can’t speed it up, you can’t slow it down, you can only get in the way.” I don’t how many times since then, when talking to myself, I have heard myself say: “You can’t speed it up, you can’t slow it down, you can only get in the way.”

So I sat in my chair there for an hour or so in late 1971, waiting for something to bubble up from within. Now only a handful of times in my life, over the past 50 years, have I ever spent, say ninety minutes on this exercise. A maximum of an hour has always felt just about right. And, as I start to get more comfortable with whatever feelings emerge, I find that half an hour is all that is necessary. And that hasn’t changed. Back to 1971. During that 1971 hour, I would have been lucky to cobble together a total of about 5 -10 minutes out of the hour, 5 -10 minutes which might be called breathing pure oxygen, where everything fell totally silent within me; during which time my subconscious and unconscious selves were able to get their voices heard, where they were able to speak to me. Now that hasn’t changed either. Even today in 2023, I still don’t get much more than 5 -10 minutes of pure oxygen, during an hour doing this exercise.

With the aid of a bit of logic, after doing a few of these new exercises in 1971, it didn’t take that long for something significant to occur. The second feeling which bubbled up from within me was the ‘totally unexpected’ feeling of self hate or self hatred ie ‘I hate myself’. This being ‘totally unexpected’ should not have come as a surprise, given that logic was the only tool previously available to me; for logically it makes no sense to say ‘I hate myself’. Logically, who would ever want to do that? “Am I such an awful person as that? Am I not a little bit better of a person than that? Nobody in their right mind is going to want to feel this way.” But this time I did something I had never done before. I also threw it against the wall to see what would stick; and what resulted was the discovery of this ‘I hate myself’ feeling. To repeat, all of this was within the context of my trying to sort out the root cause of my being rejected by my fiancé. My memory there is not as good as it is about my stuttering story.

Now this is where my story on my stuttering really begins.

My Stuttering Story Begins

I then stopped. It was time to sit down and have a good talk with myself. I was still reading the epistle at mass, on a regular basis. It didn’t take long for me to wonder whether that new feeling ‘I hate myself’, which I had now felt and identified for the very first time in my life, had anything to do with my stuttering problem, as well. At the time, my ‘wondering’ was no more than just a hunch or a guess. But really I had no idea at all whether there was any merit to my hunch. So at this point, my hunch was pure speculation. There was no factual underpinning to it, in the real world. It had to be ‘verified’ before it was of any use. To verify it, I needed to throw the feeling ‘I hate myself’ against a wall to see if it would stick.

When I next got up and started to read in church, in anticipation that I would soon stutter, I decided to focus on how I felt, just as I started to read. I focused just as much on how I was feeling, as on the text which I was reading aloud. The first time I did this, I was really shocked to discover how this ‘I hate myself’ feeling suddenly and totally unexpectedly dominated my conscious self. That feeling simply exploded into my conscious self, or into my consciousness.

I couldn’t believe it. ‘I hate myself’ was now very much a conscious feeling, when it never had been before. Put another way, I had no idea I must have been feeling ‘I hate myself’ subconsciously for a very long time—for years. Without ever realizing it. As I sat back relaxing shortly afterwards, pondering what had just happened, I found myself feeling amazed; I found myself in awe of what had just happened. For I had no idea this would be the result of my search. None at all.

Now from a factual standpoint, I have to speculate a bit, in order to tell this story. But in no way does this speculating affect the substance of this story which is: Going in, in November 1971, I had been a stutterer for 15 years or so. Something happened in November 1971. By January 3 1972, when I took my wife Anne out to dinner on our first date, I no long stuttered. And from January 3 1972 on, I forgot about stuttering, so much so that not a single person who met me after January 3 1972 would say I stuttered. In fact they would have all been amazed to learn that I had ever had a stuttering problem.

So the peripheral facts of what happened next are long forgotten. “How many times did I do this exercise?” “Over exactly how many days?” “What day did I first start?” “How many times did I have to read at mass, before I experienced the jubilation that my life as a stutterer was finally over?” etc., etc...... To all these and to other such similar questions, I have no answer. What I do know to be true is that I began and ended this journey in no more than 2 months, maybe even as little as 2 weeks. And while I have forgotten many facts in my life, I don’t ever remember forgetting a feeling. Saying ‘I don’t ever remember forgetting a feeling’ of course is illogical. But I sense there is a grain of truth, hidden in there somewhere.

I know that the next few times when I got up to read in public at mass, I repeated this same exercise. I had no choice in reading the text, but to follow Miss Walker’s 1961 exhortation not to substitute words to avoid stuttering. I intentionally and willingly surrendered to what I knew was about to happen, namely that I would stutter; and instead, I tried to focus as much as I could on how I was feeling, rather than on my stuttering and the words I was reading aloud. During the next few times, the exact same thing happened: I was again overpowered by the new feeling ‘I hate myself’.

After a few times of doing this, I know and remember that I then decided it was time to sit down and have another good talk with myself. “Ok Don,” I said to myself, “You’ve now ‘verified’ that when you stutter when you read in public, every single time you feel you hate yourself. And now consciously so. Is that all you feel when you read in public?” I asked myself. “Is there any way you might also feel the exact opposite feeling? Is it possible that you might also feel ‘I love myself’, while you are stuttering when you read in public?” Now at the time of this particular sit-down, just as was the case with my ‘I hate myself’ feeling, this too was pure speculation. At this point there was no factual merit to any of this whatsoever. Nothing had yet been ‘verified’. To do so, I needed to throw the feeling ‘I love myself’ against a wall to see if it too would stick. At this point in the process, I had no idea one way or the other whether, deep down, I might feel ‘I love myself’, when I fell all over myself, humiliating myself, when I got up to read in public. All I sensed at the time was that it might be a good exercise to try.

Unbeknownst to me at that very time, I found myself on the verge of.... on the verge of ..... stuttering heaven... stuttering nirvana.

My Stuttering Story Dramatically Comes to an End

After I had that particular talk with myself, I decided that, the next time I read in public, I was going to let the now conscious feeling of ‘I hate myself’ come through on its own—now that I was getting used to feeling that while I was reading. I also decided that, at the same time, I would go searching down deep within myself to see if I could make contact with, what I had speculated might be there all along if I could only feel it, the feeling of ‘I love myself’. All the while making sure I didn’t misread the text.

Now it is important to note that at no time was I out searching for a cure to my stuttering. That search was as far from my thought process as anything else I could have imagined at the time but didn’t. For one thing, my speech therapist had told me I was going to have this problem for the rest of my life. For another, all I was trying to do was to ‘identify’ and then ‘verify’ the nature of one of the deepest feelings within me—in this instance, the feeling of ‘I love myself’. At that moment, for me it was just another step in the process of uncovering how I was feeling; and learning how to listen to myself. I was as much curious as anything. I wasn’t expecting much of anything, really...

As I began to read, I let the feeling ‘I hate myself’ roar into my consciousness.... It did so immediately, as I had expected. No big deal. Then I focused really hard to see if I could feel or make any kind of contact with the speculated feeling, ‘’I am lovable’ or ‘I love myself’...

And then.... and then.... while I was reading and reading, while trying to make contact with the ‘I love myself’ feeling... deep down in my unconscious self... while all that was going on.... totally unexpectedly.... the words started flowing freely out of my mouth.... one by one... all of them.... smoothly... precisely... elegantly... and without exception.... and without my intervention in any way....

“Ohmigod, where did this come from?... I am not stuttering at all... And I am not even trying not to stutter... What is happening to me? Oh my!” OH MY!.... Yes! I was at the dawn of a new life.

After the first time this happened, I don’t think I cried. But who knows? I can’t remember. What I do remember was that I was sensing that I am on to something really big. Really big.

Right afterwards, for perhaps the only time in my life, I was dying to get back up there and read in public again, to see if I could verify the existence of the ‘I love myself’ feeling again.

I soon got up there a second time. And the exact same thing happened yet again. That I do know and do remember.

What exactly happened the second time, the details of it, I don’t remember. But I remember again feeling afterwards. “Oh my God what have I found? What’s going on here?...” And I remember that this discovery came as a ‘major shock’ to me.

I have virtually no contemporaneous notes written at the time about all of this, except one I located years ago, but at the time I thought it only related to feelings of self hatred. But for the first time in my life, on Wednesday September 27 2023, I carefully studied this note written in a scribbler on November 22 1971, which, in its own quiet beautiful way, describes the entire process. Notably, November 22 1971 occurred within a week after this ‘major shock’, when the words started to flow smoothly as I read. The note was written with a ballpoint pen, where the first draft is the last draft. Like all my first drafts it is inelegant. It describes one of the first revolutionary moments, when my stuttering in reading at mass went from ‘way out of control’ to ‘almost nil’. And in reading and re-reading it, I find myself stunned by the force of these words. For they have given me a huge boost in confidence that in this article I have recorded, where it really matters, what really happened to me half a century ago. With one notable exception. This note suggests the feeling of self hatred, felt during a stuttering context, makes the stuttering problem even worse; whereas in everything I have written on the subject so far, I have treated the feeling of self hatred as being neutral in that regard. As today, I have no recollection of that actually happening in 1971. Here is that note dated November 22 1971:

Remarkable week. I’ve started a project which seems to have revolutionized everything... The basic experience occurred yesterday Nov 21... I had noticed a remarkable dynamic in my reading at mass. When I got up I was aware that my self hatred was causing my inadequacy to go way out of control. So I opened myself to the suffering and focused on the feeling which, like self hate, lies deep in my subconscious that I am lovable. In embracing the suffering I find myself passing from withdrawal ! presence and in the case of stammering the suffering has been reduced to almost nil but at the same time I’ve thrown away my defences—no slow and low stuff.

Note: For me Feeling that ‘I am lovable’, which feeling lies deep in my subconscious self, is identical to my unconscious feeling ‘I love myself’.

This ballpoint pen 1st and final draft on November 22 1971 been updated in 2023 to:

It’s been a remarkable week. I have started a project which seems to have revolutionized everything. The basic experience occurred again yesterday on Sunday November 21 1971 at mass. I had previously noticed during this project a remarkable dynamic in my reading at mass. When I got up to read, I was aware that the feeling of self hatred I was experiencing at the time was causing my feelings of inadequacy, due to stammering, to go way out of control. So to deal with these way out of control feelings, I first opened myself to the suffering caused by feeling self hate, and I then focused on the feeling, which like self hate, lies deep within my subconscious self, that I am lovable. In openly embracing the presence of suffering caused by my stammering, instead of withdrawing and trying to run away from my stammering, I have thrown away all the defensive strategies I have used to try and stop it, such as speaking more slowly and more softly. Despite having thrown away my defences, in the case of my stammering, it has been reduced to almost nil.

Now I don’t remember how many times it took, before the dam completely broke and the most healing waters of my life washed over me. It certainly was not 10 times. It’s not likely that it happened 5 times either, before the dam broke. Three, very likely. Four, maybe.

At some point, however, when the exact same thing happened yet again, the dam broke...

And then, in private, I wept.... and I wept.... and I wept.... and wept some more... Halleluiah... OhmiGod...

In an instantaneous flash, I had been cured of the worst scourge of my life.

It was over. My stuttering was over! After all these years! Both in reading and in speaking. Immediately somehow I just knew. And I hadn’t even been trying to fix it!

Looking Back

I began my life with Anne on January 3 1972, and from then on, stuttering was now almost 100%, in the rear view mirror. To be more precise, 99% and a bit, in the rear view mirror. It was not 100% because first of all, I still wear the scars from my past which will never go away; and which will never be forgotten; and which still affect me, in a negative way, any time I start talking again about stuttering. So sometimes when I get the sense that those scars are starting to bite again, I find I would rather just forget about the whole subject again... Like right now...

And secondly, I am always a little afraid stuttering might start again... A short example of this second minor limitation: On Tuesday January 10 2006, at the direction of the Chief Justice of Canada Beverly McLachlin, I rose up to speak for 45 minutes, in the Supreme Court of Canada, to argue an appeal, in an insurance case, on behalf of our client The Jesuit Fathers of Upper Canada. The settings in Ottawa are very grand. There are two large bronze doors which give access to the impressive Grand Entrance Hall which in turn gives access to the courtroom. Before me I faced 9 men and women, sitting on the high elevated bench there, in their impressive red and white robes. Just as I was about to begin speaking, it suddenly hit me out of the blue, “what if I stutter?” Fortunately, after speaking just a few words, that passing thought disappeared, and did not re-appear again before my 45 minutes came to an end. And so, I know I will always have to live with the fear of stuttering reappearing.

In these two ways, I am not 100% cured. But I’ll take 99.99% any day!

Why do look-ins? A question arises as to why I needed to do look-ins? Why couldn’t I have just skipped that part of the exercise and headed right into feeling ‘I love myself’ or ‘I am lovable’? This is not a question I can fully answer. My own experience was such that I had to go the long way around to get there, as it were. For me the long way round was to teach myself first how to make contact with the deepest feelings I have, the feelings I have arbitrarily called my ‘unconscious’ feelings. Only by repeatedly proceeding in this way was I able to then make contact with the unconscious feeling ‘I am lovable’ or ‘I love myself’. And even then the contact made was very minimal. But such minimal contact was sufficient that, when I felt it in a stuttering situation as previously described, it allowed me to get better. Whether I could have gotten better without going through these labouriously difficult exercises first will never be known.

Miscellaneous Observations

Feeling ‘I am lovable’ or ‘I love myself’: For me, feeling ‘I love myself’ is one of the most difficult things for me to feel. The temptation is to simply say, of course ‘I love myself’. But what is needed is not a logical approach or a logical answer but to actually feel that I love myself. To change the subject:

Increasing the love I have for myself: In real life, I find that I increase the love I have for myself, by bouncing myself off one other person in a one on one conversation, such that when the conversation is over I walk away feeling better about myself. And hoping the other person feels the same way as well. I find I cannot increase the love I have for myself simply by meditating alone. There has to be another human being involved in the process.

Speed of my Recovery: After 15 years of searching for some answers, once I found my way onto the right train, on the right train track, heading in the right direction, my healing happened really quickly. For it took me about 4 - 5 weeks from start to finish, about 3 weeks doing look-ins and only a couple of weeks to apply what I just learned to stuttering. And at that time, I wasn’t even trying to heal myself from stuttering. It all happened by accident.

Getting Better so Quickly & By Accident: My completing the process in a couple of weeks and by accident does not in any way mean that the process is simple, easy, or a quick fix. It does suggest that I was lucky in the extreme. Because when I started in late 1971, on a scale of 1 to 10, where one is bad and ten is great, my intuitive skills were a big fat Zero. Zero. I mean in 1969 and 1970, I spent 5 months and then 4 months over two summers in Montreal living in a French community trying to learn French. During that time, I never learned the French words ‘I feel’ or the French word for ‘feeling’, and I never learned how to ask the question ‘How are you feeling?’ in French, because I never made any attempt to use those words or to ask that question! It was that bad. I was that bad. Having said “I hadn’t even been trying to fix it” and having said “it all happened by accident”, it may come across to you that I am boasting about my having no need to intentionally fix my stuttering before it happened. If that is the message you are getting, that is not the message I am trying to send. For that is not my intention at all. What I am trying to say, and saying it very badly, is that I have found myself so often and so continually amazed, at how I could fix anything, especially this, one of the most important features of my life at the time, without even directing my mind to the problem. To this very day, I am still amazed when I think of how it happened that way.

Subconscious versus Unconscious Feelings: When the feeling ‘I hate myself’ crashed into my consciousness, I have more recently arbitrarily assigned the source of that feeling, as having come from my subconscious self. When I barely made contact with the ‘I love myself’ feeling, I arbitrarily assigned its source as having come from my unconscious self. Which source either of those two feelings came from does not matter. For example, it doesn’t matter if the ‘I hate myself’ feeling, in fact, originated in my subconscious self or in my unconscious self. What matters is that, discovering and verifying the existence of those two feelings, which originated from deep within me, was what led to my stuttering going away.

Seriousness of My Stuttering Problem: It turned out that, by comparison with some others, my stuttering in fact had been a very mild version. But it sure didn’t feel that way at the time I stuttered. At the time, I couldn’t imagine anyone anywhere feeling any worse than I did. Most of my stuttering problems involved reading in public or calling someone on the telephone. In addition, speaking or asking a question in public, either at a public meeting or in class, also made me stutter. On the other hand, when I felt I was in a safe environment, I did not stutter. So at home with my parents, brothers and sister, I don’t remember stuttering. I don’t remember stuttering, when I went out on dates either, first with teenagers and then with women later on. Put another way, I don’t remember stuttering every day, but on most days, I felt I might stutter or found myself on the verge of stuttering.

The Iceberg Analogy: Very recently, when I first heard about the iceberg analogy, I looked back and asked myself how I must have felt at the time I was stuttering? During the 15 years when stuttering was a big problem for me, the only people, with whom I ever spoke, were people who spoke easily and did not stutter. So when I stuttered, and then compared myself to them, I found myself feeling stupid, really stupid. With it, I felt so ashamed that I was so pathetic and couldn’t do better. I felt alone and isolated, on an island of being the only person with this problem. I felt helpless to correct the problem; and I felt my situation was hopeless to the point that I may have to live with this for the rest of my life. And that was made worse, when my speech therapist told me exactly that. Of course all of this made me anxious and fearful. I mean how was I ever going to live a full life like this? I felt angry that I had somehow found myself in such an unfair position. I mean it was not fair at all, that the only person in the room who stuttered was me. I never felt any guilt. But I did feel that I, and I alone, was to blame for my stuttering problem. And as for feeling denial, I don’t know what that even means, or how that’s even possible. I would love to have been able to deny I had a stuttering problem. Now this assumes the iceberg metaphor applies only to conscious feelings. Because if it applies to unconscious feelings of Rage, I am not so sure where I stand. For I still may feel a bit of unconscious rage, for having been forced to go through all this stuttering stuff, when no one else I knew ever had to. After I got better, what happened to all those horribly painful feelings I felt? What happened was that starting in January 1972 the iceberg had completely melted. And for the rest of my life, I never once felt any of these feelings again.

A 2023 Experience

It was soon after 1971 that I stopped thinking about stuttering. Completely. For years! This accidental fix was so complete, so permanent, that is until this year I have yet to have to use that same strategy again, this time intentionally, to fix another or a new stuttering problem. But then came one day in 2023.

On January 17 2023, I had a horribly humiliating experience one morning, which later that day caused me to stutter. I have not felt humiliated like this, since the days I used to stutter. Upon reflection later, after I had started to feel better, I actually welcomed the new stuttering experience, because I have always wanted to see if the methodology, that I had stumbled into by accident in 1971 to fix my problem, would still work. This time intentionally, rather than accidentally. But up until things quieted down, I certainly didn’t feel that way. I was afraid.

So during a conversation that afternoon at our pharmacy, on the same day as my humiliating experience, I stuttered badly three times within about 25 minutes of one another. This put me in a spot of bother. The words were: “Ketoprofen,” “Colonoscopy” & “Najat”. In fact an hour before at the doctor’s office, I stuttered badly on “Ketoprofen” as well. I was now afraid. What the heck is going on? As I approached, what I felt was going to be yet more new stuttering, I paused momentarily, to feel a new ‘emotional disturbance’ brewing inside me. Instinctively I knew what to do. But because I was so completely out of practice, as to how to deal with this, I found myself stumbling about doing it. What I needed to do, was to make contact with my ‘I hate myself’ feeling, surfacing again after a very long hibernation. I’m not sure exactly how, or to what extent, I managed that. It’s now all a bit of a blur. A few seconds later, I knew I needed to try to make some kind of contact with my ‘I love myself’ feeling as well. And so I made the effort, this time with better results. I paused a few seconds before speaking. Both to catch my breath, and to let these two feelings do their work. And once again, when I next spoke, the words fortunately flowed smoothly out of my mouth, one by one, clearly, effortlessly, and without incident. Now all of this happened within a few seconds, because the person I was speaking with never noticed anything untoward. I must say I felt relieved, that this methodology had worked again, because I was afraid it might not.

Obviously if this continues to happen, as I continue to mess around with my stuttering stuff, I should be able to refine what I need to do, and things won’t be nearly so awkward in the future. But don’t be surprised in the future, if you hear me blocking, and perhaps blocking badly, on the odd word or two here and there. Because that may well happen.

This humiliating incident too has caused me to do some more rethinking. Perhaps stuttering can be looked at this way. Stuttering is one humiliation after another, every time we stutter. But after the humiliations soon pile up, it isn’t long, before we feel numb about each incident, and perhaps we no longer consciously recognize our future stuttering as yet another humiliation. But if such be the case, how about we try and see, if we can get to the point, where we can respond to each humiliation, by trying to make contact with a positive feeling, which lies deep down inside us, just before this humiliation occurs, in order to counteract all that bad stuff? And then see what happens. Which led me to think further that perhaps this can be effected, by creating some new stuttering exercises. Which have since been published, as part of ‘My Name...My Name...My Name is Don McLean’.

Summing Up

Back to 1971. To factually sum up: I was so devastated with being dumped by my fiancé, I decided to try and figure out a way to prevent it from occurring again with someone else. For me, the cure to that problem lay in listening to myself, in order to learn what I was feeling deep down inside. It took only a couple of days or so, for me to consciously feel the subconscious negative feeling of ‘I hate myself’. Then I went completely off topic. I switched gears for a few days. I wondered if that particular feeling had any application to my stuttering. Now I got the opportunity to find that out very quickly, as I was reading at mass, on an almost daily basis at the time. The first time I tried this exercise, I was very surprised to not just feel ‘I hate myself’ a little, but that this negative feeling roared into my consciousness a ton, whereas before I had no idea it had been there at all, on any level of my conscious, subconscious or unconscious feelings. I tried this exercise a few more times, in order to ‘verify’ this discovery. When the same thing happened again, and again and again, the existence of this new and unexpected feeling ‘I hate myself’ was ‘verified’. Next, I couldn’t help but wonder/speculate whether I also might feel deep down, while I was reading in public, the exact opposite feeling, this time a positive feeling. I identified ‘I love myself’ as the exact opposite feeling to look for. The first time I tried to ‘verify’ its existence, the process worked, even though I sensed I had barely touched on the feeling ‘I love myself’. The ‘I love myself’ feeling certainly didn’t roar into my consciousness the way ‘I hate myself’ had. Yet both feelings really stuck when I threw them against a wall. After a few more such efforts of attempting to make contact with this wonderfully positive feeling that ‘I am lovable’ or ‘I love myself’, the dam broke, and the tears of an amazing healing poured down my face in buckets. In this moment, I was able to unlock, for the first time in my life, the feeling that I am lovable which had previously been buried deep within me, unfelt. I was cured of my stuttering. I had tread humbly. It was hand of God good fortune.

To put the solution to the problem of stuttering into a single word: VERIFY.

So this is the story that needs to be told, before it’s too late for anyone to hear it.

For You, for Each of You, I hope you find this story of interest.

Don McLean

Guidelines to Effective Living Learned in November 1971

I have a powerful subconscious and unconscious life. Up until now, I have been totally unaware of its very existence. Identifying and consciously feeling subconscious feelings and unconscious feelings (self-hatred and self-love) dissolves pain. Will power rarely works. (17 days). [A truly remarkable insight. My greatest of all time.]

The first insight is intuitive not deductive. Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. Deductive insights follow. Any process that begins with deductive insights, omitting this first step, is fatally flawed.

Be prepared to find anything eg I want to be a horrible dictator.

We are not responsible for our feelings, only what we do about them; we are responsible for our actions.

No insight is worth anything, unless verified in future experience, by dissolving some past pain.

The more tears of consolation experienced in reaching the insight, the more probable it will be subsequently verified.

If I can consciously experience and examine my buried feelings, they lose much of their power.

Forgotten feelings are not buried dead, but rather, they are buried alive controlling me.

It's not what we think that matters, but what we feel. Learn to distinguish between feelings and thoughts.

How we subconsciously and unconsciously feel is usually the opposite to what we think.

How we subconsciously feel is often contrary to the facts. eg I am not as powerless as I subconsciously feel.

Working backwards from fresh current experience reveals hidden feelings better than working forward from the forgotten distant past.

Current experiences, ostensibly unrelated at first blush, are in fact related, if they occur within a couple of days of each other.

Depression can be dissolved by identifying subconscious feelings of anger and guilt.

Insecurity feelings can never be completely eliminated, because the ultimate insecurity is death itself.

"I love you" means "I need to be loved by you." Stay out of her space. I must never let this happen again.

Cultural feelings, eg guilt over sex, are incredibly powerful and difficult to deal with.

Only my answers matter. I can't count on or ask others to solve my problems. A psychiatrist is but a catalyst.

Listening to myself is the highest value in life. It is a defence; but it is the one totally legitimate defence.

The ability to listen to others, directly depends on my ability to listen to myself. Don't give others advice.

In listening to others, much of what is heard is non-verbal and unspoken. Changing the subject is a dead giveaway.

I often know how a person feels better than they do. But verbalizing it, when they are not ready, usually leads to anger and denial.

Life is neither black nor white, but 99 shades of grey. 

Life is complicated--incredibly so. It is not as simple as everyone keeps telling me it is. As Diane says: "It's all terribly complicated."

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