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Overcoming a stammer was about self-acceptance for University of Chichester psychologist Ian Tyndall

Overcoming a stammer was about self-acceptance for University of Chichester psychologist Ian Tyndall

THE psychological effects of living with a stammer can be debilitating and destructive for personal relationships and friendships, particularly for children.

No one knows this better than psychologist Dr Ian Tyndall, whose own problem with stammering as a teen inspired his journey into psychological research. Now, writing for the British Stammering Association, the University of Chichester lecturer explained how alternative therapy into self-acceptance could bring about new methods of treatment.

“What seems to be the easiest thing in the world to everyone else can seem like that elusive crock of gold at the end of the rainbow to you,” said Dr Tyndall, whose experimental research in the University's Psychology and Counselling department examines how normal cognitive and behavioural processes are linked to the development and maintenance of maladaptive psychological conditions.

 

"I’ve had a determination and a focus to not let stammering define me as a person.”

Brain scans on people who stammer show that right hemisphere is more active when speaking – compared to more “fluent” speakers, in whom speech is generally controlled by the left. This, Ian said, helped to bolster the idea that his stammer was not his fault, or the fault of anyone who stutters, and that patients’ brains are “just arranged a little differently.”

He added: “Perception of time can be warped when all your attention is focused on the stammering and its accompanying emotions of embarrassment and shame, and feelings of incompetence. I’ve had a determination and a focus to not let stammering define me as a person.”

Self-acceptance is crucial to this, Ian said, and it was for that reason that he began to look at alternative models for treatment – notably Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This model alters a person’s relationship to their thoughts and emotions while changing their behaviour towards their condition.

 

"As a child it was inconceivable that I would end up working as a university lecturer who does public speaking for a living.”

In the simplest terms, acceptance is the opposite of experiential avoidance which, in relation to stammering, could include avoiding painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Commitment, meanwhile, will help patients take the first steps to overcome the condition.

“What we pay attention to, and how we direct our attention, seems key with stammering,” Ian added. “ACT might potentially help some who stammer get to a place closer to self-acceptance. [It] allows you to move forward and engage in committed actions guided by your values while not being controlled by your unwanted feelings, thoughts or emotions, regardless of the context.”

Dr Tyndall admitted that he still winces at feelings of ineptitude and humiliation but, through employing ACT, his relationship to those memories and thoughts has changed much for the better.

“I accept them now, as remembering is an action — it is something you do — rather than memories as something you have. As a child it was inconceivable that I would end up working as a university lecturer who does public speaking for a living.”

To read the full article on the British Stammering Association website go to stamma.org/your-voice/growing-beautiful-new-shell-all-see. Find out more about Dr Ian Tyndall and his work at the University of Chichester at www.chi.ac.uk/staff/power/dr-ian-tyndall.