Leaving the Fear Behind

The following is an edited version of the presentation Lee Heard gave at the 2007 CSA Conference in Toronto, and also appeared in the Spring 2008 CSA newsletter.

Lee heard Lee Heard at CSA2007

The Oxford Dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.” This describes what we ordinarily feel when entering speaking situations with a stutter.

Our fear is not so much caused by danger, but by the expected emotional pain or harm to our self esteem that could be caused should our speech not go the way we planned. While fear lies just below the water in Russ Hicks’ Iceberg Anthology of stuttering, many of the emotions below it are enabled by giving into the fear. This is why in order to be free to live our lives as we choose we need to leave this fear behind.

The Oxford dictionary defines courage as “the ability to do something that frightens one”. If we have this courage then we will be able to act, despite the harm or pain that we feel through fear. Indeed, we have to take courage in both hands in order to nerve ourselves to enter speaking situations that frighten us and come out emotionally stronger.

The first and perhaps most important thing you must do in order to leave the fear behind is to consciously decide that your stutter will never make you afraid to do anything again.

If you wish, make a written contract with yourself. But in order to succeed in anything we must take risks, and in order to leave the fear behind we must first come to grips with the fact that we might experience some pain or harm on this journey.

Once we have gathered our courage and have made our decision to proceed, the next step is to find a mantra – a power phrase that we can say to ourselves and repeat in our minds when the fear threatens to take hold again. I have found this use of positive self talk in the form of a mantra very helpful because it helps me to steady myself in times of difficulty. I am a firm believer that our perception is our reality, and if we can construct a reality based on courage and success as opposed to fear and failure there is no limit in what we can achieve.

Now that we are equipped with our courage and our mantra to support us we must fearlessly put ourselves in situations to test both. You will now find that with each speaking situation fulfilled that the fear has lessened simply because of the experience.

As your fear of speaking situations decreases through experience and positive self-talk as a mantra, you should find your stutter decreases as well. This is due to the fact that fear is like sharks lurking under the water, circling the icebergs of our lives. If we do not succumb to fear and allow each experience to make us more fearless we are truly empowered and the sharks of fear will starve to death in the face of our newfound courage.

As Shakespeare once put it; “Fearless minds climb soonest into crowns.” And I firmly believe that it is time that we are all crowned kings our own destiny and we need to begin our rule over fear and stuttering as the time is now.

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