Written by Rik
Apparently, I talk in my sleep. That I have a tendency for sleepwalking, I have already known for years, but recently someone found out that I frequently talk in my sleep. And even though they are just short sentences that make no sense, one thing is quite odd: I stutter even then!
Since I found this quite a remarkable feature, I did a lot of thinking about it and asked others if they experienced the same thing or if they had ever come across it. None of the persons I asked did or had, but it brought about a lively discussion. Doesn’t stuttering mostly have to do with social situations? Do you not only stutter when you know someone is listening? After all, many people who stutter when among others, do not stutter when they talk to themselves, to their pets or when they sing or read aloud. I made me think about the scene in The King’s Speech, where Bertie has to put on headphones and read a piece of Hamlet while being recorded. He cannot hear himself talk, but when he hears the record, it turns out he spoke fluently.
Stuttering is an automaticity, a way of speaking that is ingrained in the speech pattern by years of experience. A speech therapist told me that therefore it is important to divert the speech at an early age, to make sure that speaking fluently becomes the automaticity, instead of stuttering. As I understand the reasoning behind this, and I cannot say that I do not agree with it, I would like to go one step further.
To me, stuttering is about acceptance. Over the years I have met a score of young people who stuttered and many them had to deal with social anxieties, insecurities and doubts about their appearance. They saw stuttering as the enemy, one that had to vanquished or hidden. I have been there, for sure, and seeing others struggle made me think about the road I have gone. Acceptance to them was a big step toward gaining more self-confidence, as it was for me. Stuttering then becomes something that is there, and even though it may be an automaticity, it is one that offers room for further self-development.
But what has all of this to do with stuttering in my sleep? Well, for years I have talked about fully accepting my stuttering. After all, I became a teacher, a job that requires a lot of talking to an audience that is not always so understanding. More recently, I met my girlfriend because of a joke I made about my stuttering. She liked the joke, we started talking, and here we are! And even though there are still moments when it annoys me, that doesn’t mean that I would not want to stutter ever again. It has shaped me in the way I am over the past two decades, it is a part of who I am and I wouldn’t want to lose it.
For that reason, I love the fact that I even stutter in my sleep. The automaticity has rooted itself in my subconscious. It’s not just when I talk to my class, to my mother or when in line at the supermarket, it’s always there. To me, that is the ultimate level of acceptance!