How my mind influences my communication

bossAbout the author: Keith Boss, a retired widower with two married children and four grandchildren, has stuttered since the age of three. Keith was employed in Information Technology from 1958. He has been a Director of the International Stuttering Association (ISA) since 2007, but has worked with the ISA from early 2006. As Chair of ISA Outreach he worked with PWS from India and Pakistan and many other countries. He has finished a six year period as a Trustee of the British Stammering Association (BSA) and has started a three year period as Chair of the ISA where he will look for innovative ways in the three T’s (Training, Therapy and Technology) to help children and adults who stutter in all the countries of the world where there is little or no help.

I believe there are three parts to our minds

Conscious mind ———-about 10%;
Subconscious mind —–about 40% to 60%;
Unconscious mind ——about 30% to 50%.

The conscious mind gets busy on new ideas and tasks which require focus, attention and detail. (On average only three or four tasks at a time.) The capacity of the conscious mind is very small so it can, of necessity, program the other minds to work on auto pilot to help complete the ideas / tasks. With enough repetition by the conscious mind, the other minds will pick up more of the workload to free the conscious mind to enable it to increase our general evolution.

The subconscious mind is where all our stored memories are accessed and it will focus its whole power (100% and hundreds / thousands of tasks) to support our conscious mind’s standards, beliefs and visualisations. It will delete, distort and generalise new information to ensure what we believe appears to be true. It requires a massive amount of contrary information to get our conscious minds to change a specific belief or standard.

The unconscious mind automatically carries out the thousands of physical tasks delegated to it. Examples are breathing, moving muscles to smile, walk, pick up a glass to drink without breaking it and all other physical activities, including communication.

The conscious mind links to our subconscious mind via three filters; deletion, distortion and generalisation. We have many memories of stuttering, anxiousness and avoidance in many aspects of speech. These negative memories often surface. Our goal is to replace the negativity with good memories / good experiences / happy thoughts. We need to change our filters.

Based on our beliefs / values and attitude to life, we have set up the parameters for the three filters. As children we are extremely resourceful in arranging parameters to create the maximum feeling of safety. We tend to go through our lives on auto-pilot and may still be using unresourceful parameters now. Our childhood parameters, which provided maximum safety, will not be the most useful in adult life.

A general example is:
By wanting to be safe we are looking to avoid danger.  We visualise the danger we want to avoid in our conscious mind; our subconscious sees the visualisation and tries to make it happen.

One specific example is:
We have a happy memory of breakfast; we visualise the food and company; our subconscious seeks ways to make this happen again.

Another specific example is:
Our conscious mind perceives stuttering as a danger we want to avoid; we visualise stuttering; our subconscious sees the visualisation and tries to make stuttering happen.

How we do what we do

All our lives we are bombarded with information (millions of bits per second) through our five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

We cannot possibly retain all this information, so it goes through the three filters.

These filters have parameter sets based on our thoughts, focus, beliefs and values, attitudes and decisions, memories and future plans. These filters work automatically.  Something just says OK, delete, edit or distort, generalise or pass these specific bits of information.

Deletion. If we live near a busy airport, or railway line, initially we will hear most of the noise, but over a period of time that noise is deleted and we ‘do not hear the noise’.

Distortion.  We delete information that disagrees with our beliefs and values, because what we believe, what we value is always right. However, if a distortion will reinforce our belief then distortion occurs. ‘Strangers are laughing / smirking / sniggering at my stutter’. Are we mind readers?  They may be scared of the unusual, and may laugh to boost their own morale. However, based on our filter parameters our version of the truth remains ‘They are laughing at my stutter’.

Generalisation. Consider a door. Internal external; single double; hinged to swing in out or both ways, etc. When we see a new door we have never seen before we use past generalised information to know this new object and how to use it. But if we make broad sweeping negative generalisations we can get into trouble. We may have had one bad experience, but if we generalise and assume this will occur again and again, then our distortion filter will make it appear to happen. This becomes a vicious unresourceful circle.

The amount of information getting passed the filters is significantly reduced. This gets stored as our current version of the truth or reality as we see it. We usually visualise this reality as a series of images or small videos. What we visualise influences our emotions. It also influences our physiology, our behaviour and subsequent actions. Our emotions affect our communication. Our emotions will be either resourceful or unresourceful.

Based on our filter parameters we store information, then we do what we do and take action.

Choosing our beliefs and thoughts

When growing up, we instinctively pick up and absorb the beliefs and values of those around us. Parents, siblings, peers, school rules etc. We want to be loved and fit in. This is automatic. Depending on our current age these could be 10 to 80 year old beliefs and values, unless we chose to examine all our own beliefs and values and eliminate all unresourceful ones. We can choose, and build, new resourceful thoughts and beliefs.  We can choose to step back and watch what we do and what we think. (Some speech therapists ask us to do this.) It is by being fully aware of our actions and thoughts that we can influence and change our lives.

Spend time writing down beliefs and values and then go through them one by one, asking ‘Do I believe it and is it resourceful now?’ Either keep or discard. Are there new beliefs and values I should have to help me over the next few years?

Spend time reviewing thoughts. Classify them into negative / positive. Examine the thoughts. Always ask can we learn any lessons? Do they help us in any way? What are our emotions? Is it resourceful to continue thinking these thoughts?

If negative, are they making us sad, unhappy, anxious, tense or fearful? Can we flip them completely around to turn them into positive thoughts?

If positive, are they making us happy, calm and relaxed?

Which of these thought types is most resourceful in the years ahead? Can we watch our thoughts and switch them to give us the best possible emotional feelings? Is this a resourceful way ahead?

Reviewing like this helps to change the parameters of our filters to improve the effectiveness of our subconscious hence our evolution.

How we move ahead

We think about a party next week. This may lead us to think about an embarrassment. We often blush. So we begin thinking about not blushing. This means we visualise our very red face and neck. Our conscious mind knows we do not want this. Our subconscious mind sees this visualisation and says ‘I will make this happen’. It does not know of the ‘not want it to happen clause’. So before we even get to the party two parts of our minds are at WAR with completely opposed objectives.  Conscious mind ‘does not want to blush’ —— Subconscious mind ‘wants to blush’. We are looking ahead and wanting to leave something behind. Is this conflict resourceful?

What if we visualised our face and neck when they were calm or happy and animated? This is a more resourceful way which increases our chances to achieve what we want.

Similarly with stuttering. Thinking about not stuttering is unresourceful for the reasons just mentioned. Thinking about and planning for better communication day by day is resourceful.

Think and visualise positive ‘towards’ objectives to move ahead.

Meditation and technical meditation

Most definitions of stuttering include the ideas of tension and lack of calm. Deep belly breathing is one way to reduce tension and introduce calm for a short while. Meditation is another. There are many ways to meditate. A google search will show many of them. I followed the ‘technical meditation’ path using Holosync. Details can be found at about the five main brain waves; Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta and how Holosync works.

In our usual waking life we are at the higher end of the brain waves. So mid-Beta to Gamma. This is associated with unease, anxiety kind of emotions. When we recognise this, we often breathe more deeply to ‘slow ourselves down’. This lowers the Beta brain wave level so we can concentrate more, and be more resourceful. When we are absorbed in a book / TV / film we are probably in Alpha.

Holosync produces sounds, via stereo headphones, that creates certain brain waves in the ears. Hearing these sounds takes the brain to those specific brain wave levels. Thus by listening to the sounds the brain can be taken from Beta down through Alpha and Theta to Delta. Over a period of time, in years, lower levels of Holosync take us lower levels of these brain waves. Using Holosync regularly introduces long periods of lasting calm and more focused thoughts which help me in so many ways, including reducing the frequency and severity of stuttering blocks.


In assessing how my mind shapes my communication I go back to 2006 and the self improvement stage of my life. I began asking ‘how….?’. A very powerful question to help change my focus and life. I asked and found answers to how my mind works and how to change all my beliefs / values / thoughts to be positive and forward looking.

Belly breathing; attitude of mind; switching negative to positive; watching what I think and do and technical meditation have been the five main pillars in my communication progress day by day.

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How my mind influences my communication — 35 Comments

  1. Nice explanation! I will definitely pass this on to my 17-year old son who stutters. Thanks to this paper I think he’ll get it!
    Dori Lenz Holte

    • Hi Dori,
      Thank you for taking the time to read this. My article only really touches the surface of so many things.
      If you or your son want to chat (SKYPE or phone), or email, I would be pleased to give a little more detail.

      Please enjoy all the other contributions,


      • Thank you for your kind offer… Your message is consistent with Mr. Badmington’s ISAD submission (How avoiding avoidance transformed my stutter) and his response to my thread, especially when you say “It requires a massive amount of contrary information to get our conscious minds to change a specific belief or standard.” It’s so important that we minimize the opportunities for negative beliefs to take root and grow in children’s minds…I can’t talk, I shouldn’t talk if I’m going to stutter, I should just use my techniques, I’m a failure… as it can take a lifetime to recover. Thanks again.
        Dori Lenz Holte

        • Hi Dori,

          Thank you very much for your reply, and the comments you have made on so many papers.

          Alan and I first crossed paths in 2006 when I started what I now know as my ‘better communication’ path. We have met a few times and have spoken on the phone a few times. He set standards of communication that I still aspire towards.

          As I said in my paper, some therapists ask clients to step back and watch and count the number of times they say a difficult word / sound easily and with no problems. (Note this, count the positive.) This technique can be extended to counting an dealing with negative thoughts / beliefs / actions. It would not be appropriate for me to go into details here, but I would be pleased to give further information if you or your son wants this.

          You told Alan that you and your son do talk to SLP trainees and would like to do more. The ISA requires volunteers with time and internet access. If you might be interested in helping us please contact me at

          Thank you for your participation so far,


          • Hi Keith — Thanks again for your response. Count the positive — I’m encouraged when I hear more and more professionals moving to that focus. The system makes it so hard to get away from focusing on what is easy to measure…disfluency counts. I know speech therapists at often frustrated by this — I’ve heard from many of them! Did you get my email? I would be honored to volunteer with the ISA – look forward to hearing from you…

  2. Dear Keith

    Your article is really Interesting. It points out one of the main part of our stuttering problem.

    all my best

    Your friend


    • Dear Moussa,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my article.

      Which part of the article do you think is one of the main parts of our stuttering problem? Our negative thoughts?

      I hope you are enjoying all the other fabulous articles. Many Therapists and PWS have spent hours and hours providing a considerable number of excellent pointers for us to consider and learn.

      All the best to you my friend,


  3. Mr. Boss, my name is Janaye Brittain and I am a graduate student studying speech pathology at Western Carolina University in a small town called Cullowhee, NC. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your paper! I have never thought of stuttering and the brain in the way you explained it. I also didn’t know that communication was a part of the unconscious mind. I do have a few questions for you. How have the techniques described in your paper influenced your stuttering? Which technique seems to work best for you? I have a friend who stutters and he has often heard that his brain is “thinking” too fast and that is the reason for his stuttering. He often doesn’t appear to have negative thoughts about his stuttering. He typically is frustrated and aggravated that it gets in his way. What do you think would benefit him most in sitting down and thinking about his thoughts and feelings. I have learned quite a bit from Dr. David Shapiro about assessing someone’s feelings when they stutter. I agree with you in that stuttering comes along with many emotions and feelings. I am also curious, have you ever had an encounter with a speech therapist? If so, was the encounter positive or negative? Again, I thank you for sharing this wonderful paper and your comments are much appreciated. Have a wonderful day!


    • Dear Janaye.
      Thank you for very perspicacious observations and questions. Until I began reading papers at this conference I did not know that ‘communication was part of our unconscious mind’. I did know that our unconscious minds are very powerful and carry out hundreds / thousands of tasks needed to keep us alive. So having heard the video in Making Therapy a Successful Experience by Barbara Dahm I realised that many actions are needed within our physical head for us to make one sound and that the majority of these actions occur without any thought – so in our unconscious minds. Very logical. Barbara went on to talk about natural speech, whereas when I was stuttering I was in my conscious mind thinking of each and every word. Kevin Eldridge (another Expert) talks along the same lines. So this concept is new to me as well.

      You asked: ‘How have the techniques described in your paper influenced your stuttering? Which technique seems to work best for you?’
      All of the five play an important part and have had a significant impact on my improving communication.
      I started in 2006 by telling myself ‘I WILL AVOID AVOIDANCE’. Those words changed my life. From that moment on I drove a battle tank through my comfort zone walls and roof. I embraced any speaking situation and removed restrictions I had placed on my ambitions based on other people’s beliefs.
      Belly Breathing reduced the severity and frequency of Blocks (See also Valsalva Hypothesis — Bill Parry). Watching what I think and do is the only way I know to enable a constant positive reaction to all aspects of life. (e.g. I regard a criticism of me as being very positive feedback to me which I can use to improve what I do. This is invaluable.) David Shapiro and many others look for the positive.
      I am like everyone, I have negative thoughts. However because I am watching my thoughts I see this ‘old friend’; I welcome him; examine him inside and out and either discard him or switch him 180 degrees into a positive thought.
      Technical meditation has been and is a tremendous nightly activity. It helps me in so many ways.
      So I constantly use all five.

      There are many myths about stuttering. ‘The brain is “thinking” too fast and that is the reason for stuttering’ is just one such myth. If you want more myths, Google ‘stuttering myths’.
      You wrote ‘He often doesn’t appear to have negative thoughts about his stuttering. He typically is frustrated and aggravated that it gets in his way. What do you think would benefit him most in sitting down and thinking about his thoughts and feelings. ‘
      I am pleased your friend has few negative thoughts about his stuttering. That is a very good start.
      However if he is frustrated about stuttering and feels it gets in his way then as you suggest, he needs to sit down and think and talk to others about this. From my own point of view I would ask him to read Alan Badmington’s poem at . Thinking of the poem,
      I have blue eyes. The colour is a fact of life.
      I need glasses. I am visually impaired. My vision is a fact of life.
      I have 4 hip and 1 knee replacements. I am physically impaired. I need a cane. It is a fact of life.
      At times I need a hearing aid. I have an auditory impairment. It is a fact of life.
      I stutter. I have a communication disability / impairment. It is a fact of life.
      Do any of these physical things define me. No. They are all part of me and combine with other things to make the whole. I suggest your friend needs to learn to accept that he stutters if he wants to leave negative emotions about his stutter behind. This is no easy task, but negative emotions are as unresourceful as negative thoughts and feelings, and ideally are handled as early as possible.

      You asked ‘I am also curious, have you ever had an encounter with a speech therapist? If so, was the encounter positive or negative?’
      I meet and talk to many at conferences (all positive), but on a 1:1 basis I think 4 times.
      First in the early seventies. I was taught syllabic speech (even speed on every syllable). I started slow, with a metronome and after time I speeded up to a normal speaking speed and then I added intonation as well. I was superb. I spoke to a class of trainee SLTs who were asked to study my speech. It was only after 10 mins. or so when my control slipped – I was laughing a lot and loosing concentration – that one of the students raised her hand and asked if I stuttered. The game was up. However in the real world, I chose to stutter as the controlled speech I learned did not seem normal to me and I felt embarrassed to use it in normal communication!! (How stupid was that?, Or was it. Clients need to be comfortable with the tools they might use.) I had good relations with the people at the London City Lit. I liked them they were as helpful as they knew how to be at that time.
      Second near the end of the seventies. I asked about our son who, while learning to speak, started stuttering. I was told there was an 80% chance he would leave it behind so ignore it and if need be come back in a year or two. As I had an Uncle who stuttered and a Father who was a covert stutterer I did not like the odds, so my wife and I devised a way to treat our son. He does not stutter now. The therapist was nice, but at that time did not know what is known now.
      Third in the middle of the eighties. After about 5 or 6 sessions in the clinic I had a very low % of stuttering in the clinic so the sessions stopped. The therapist was nice, but at that time did not know what is known now.
      Fourth in 2011/2012. I asked a local therapist to help me to start a Self Help Group. She was very helpful and supportive. She came to some meetings and gave short presentations on some aspects of holistic therapy (our thoughts / emotions / feelings).
      I am trying to get a fifth encounter. I will be visiting and talking about stuttering in a local prison on the 22nd October (ISAD). Hopefully there will be both PWS and staff. I have asked our local SLTs if anyone wants to come along with me. I am waiting for a reply.
      I hope this answers you. Please feel free to ask supplementary questions if you like.

      Enjoy the conference,


      • Keith,

        Thank you so much for your generous reply. I am so thankful that you have shared all of this wonderful information with me. I am happy that the techniques you use have helped you with your stuttering and I plan on broadening my knowledge about those techniques. I also want to thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about your experiences with speech therapists. Your input in answering all of my questions will help me as a SLT to treat people who stutter. I will also share the poem with my friend. I am sure he will be happy to read it! As I have read it, I love how it implies that certain characteristics that individuals have do not define who they are as a person. Last but not least, I hope all goes well at the local prison and I hope many SLTs will be able to join you there!. Thank you again for your wonderful insight. Have a blessed day.


        • Janaye,
          Thank you so much for your warm reply.

          I just want to let you know I heard from our local SLTs. There is no link to the prison at all, so I will be on my own.
          There may be several reasons, but most will boil down to money.
          If an organisation wants the services of SLT, they have to pay for those services.
          Inmates / Prison Management may not know that they can ask to be referred to an SLT on our NHS system (We pay taxes for ‘free from charge at point of service’.). How this would work I do not know as SLts might be needed to go there rather than prisoner plus guard(s) going to a clinic.
          However, this is one more thing to explore when I get there. Hopefully I can initiate something. I hope there is a better system in your prisons.

          I know it will be a rewarding experience and I will enjoy it.

          You enjoy you time here,


  4. – According to an NSA survey of 544 adults, 50% rated that treatment that focused on changing their attitudes toward speaking and stuttering was successful. In addition, 39% rated the treatment as somewhat successful (Lew, 2011). In addition, Dr. Carl Dell (2005) stated that, “reduction of shame about one’s stuttering is a critical factor in any successful therapy program.” I believe that if we focus deeply on our thoughts and actions, and constantly ask ourselves how we can change these negative subconscious and unconscious behaviors, we will eventually draw into our own subconscious mind. By achieving this, we can believe that changing the negative behaviors is a possibility, and with that reinforcement our conscious mind will act stronger to change those behaviors. You stated that if we tell ourselves not to stutter, that it will not enter our subconscious as easily. Why is this? I would assume that experiences influence our subconscious a lot more than telling ourselves what to change. I think with positive reinforcement through therapy, our subconscious mind will eventually develop the idea that they no longer desire to stutter and try to change it. Guitar (2006) states that, “a person’s feelings can be as much a part of the disorder of stuttering as his speech behaviors. Feelings may precipitate stutters, just as stutters may create feelings.” My question is, what if there was a way to eliminate the fear and embarrassment that one may feel when they stutter by changing how the world views stuttering? For example, if the entire world viewed stuttering as a normal way of speaking, would more people who stutter spontaneously recover?

    • Hello Megan,

      Thank you very much for taking time to read and think about my paper.

      As you realise I am talking about my own experiences based on what I learned about how our minds work. My mentor in this, Bill Harris of Centerpointehas researched the subject and offers online tuition.
      So first of all, he is giving his version of reality / truth.
      I learned from him and I now have my version of reality / truth which might not completely match his version.

      Having said that, I understand that our conscious mind makes photo images / moving videos about what we are focusing on. So a negative focus, e.g. not stuttering, produces a video of us stuttering so that our conscious mind can try to avoid this. Our sub conscious mind sees the video of stuttering and tries to make this happen. If as you say we constantly ask ‘HOW (a very powerful question) can we change these negative sub conscious …..’ we arrive at an answer along the lines of Communicate better / more easily /…. So the visualizations ( photo images / moving videos) are of speaking with more ease etc. These are the positive thoughts in our conscious minds which slowly shift memories to be of easier communication.and archive the negative memories. So in my version of how our minds work I do not tell myself not to stutter, I tell myself to communicate better. I think I am doing this. Also thoughts / feelings are very, very closely linked, as is our physiology. Change any one of the three and the other two change. This is part of better communication.

      We all have choices. We can choose how we will interpret and what feel about any situation. Say you have a bad experience. Initially it may hit you very hard. That is understandable and acceptable. But you choose how long you stay with this. You choose to hang on to the bad feelings for 1 minute / 1 hour / 1 day / 1 week / etc. Also you can choose to examine what happened and use it as a learning experience and move on in a positive way. Bad feedback is a challenge to improve. In every adversity there are seeds for growth if you look hard enough. So WE choose to interpret our stuttering as fearful and an embarrassment. Oft times if you talk to friends about stuttering they dismiss it as not important. (Our reality as against their reality). I told myself to avoid avoidance in 2006. I have had no fear / embarrassment that lasted more than seconds since then. As you say, feelings can precipitate stuttering for people who have not learned about what we are discussing. But when we have learned to examine negative thoughts / feelings; learn from them and then remove them they will not precipitate stuttering.

      Most, if not all, Stuttering Associations work to make the public more aware of stuttering. This is the sensible way ahead. Spontaneous recovery sounds good, but then again, what do you mean. by recovery. 100% fluency — hardly any person has this. 100% comfort with communicating well……. This is a perfect ambition for everyone in the world.

      Please come back if I have not answered all you wanted from me,

      Take care,


  5. 1. There is not a lot of literature to correlate that meditation and calming ourselves (our affect) is related in terms of reducing stuttering; you gave once reference, but do you think you will do a study on your claim?
    2. I like that you correlate the mind to the three phases of stuttering modification, deletion, distortion, and generalization. Is there additional evidence supporting this theory that the two are interrelated?
    3. Do you have any other studies to support your theory?

    • Hello Swormstall,
      Please forgive my informal form of addressing you, but I do not know your name.
      Thank you for reading my paper and asking these difficult questions.

      You asked
      There is not a lot of literature to correlate that meditation and calming ourselves (our affect) is related in terms of reducing stuttering; you gave once reference, but do you think you will do a study on your claim?

      I assume you are a PWS as well. There is a lot of information on the Internet that meditation, if practiced regularly, does instil a sense of peace and calm. There is literature on the Internet and from Therapists that stress can increase stuttering, and deep breathing from the tummy introduces relaxation and calm so reducing stuttering (Valsalva hypothesis by Bill Parry). So I conclude as a hypothesis that ‘belly breathing’ / meditation / mindfulness are one of the many paths to better communication. I have no funding to study this and report back. I think there are others at this conference who would agree.

      You asked
      I like that you correlate the mind to the three phases of stuttering modification, deletion, distortion, and generalization. Is there additional evidence supporting this theory that the two are interrelated?

      Perhaps I did not make the position clear. I do not link stuttering modification to the three filters of deletion, distortion and generalisation. I believe, based on Internet information, that my conscious mind is linked to the other two minds via these three filters. I believe that if I focus my mind on a subject, like not stuttering, I visualise stuttering so that my conscious mind tries not to stutter. My other minds see the visualisation ‘stuttering’ and try to make it happen. I am at war within myself even before I open my mouth. I see no interrelation as you describe it, so I doubt there is evidence.

      You asked
      Do you have any other studies to support your theory?

      In my own case, I know that belly breathing; attitude of mind; switching negative to positive; watching what I think and do and technical meditation have been the five main pillars in my communication progress day by day and also my general happiness and health. This is my understanding about me, not a theory. I know many other PWS and Therapists use some or all of these techniques alongside a large toolbox of other things (See other papers). If you asked me which of the five I would rate highest I think it would be
      By watching my thoughts / feelings / emotions / actions I switch negative to positive.

      Please reply with any further questions.


  6. Hello Keith,
    I am a 2nd year slp graduate student at Idaho State University. I was totally engrossed in your article. While I don’t stutter I do feel that I can benefit from the meditation thAt you talked about. In addition I plan to make an effort to address my thoughts and beliefs and make sure that they are positive and helping me. Thank you for sharing this insight.

    • Hello Itxasco,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I wish that everything you want in your studies comes true.

      When you have learned to watch your own thoughts / feelings / emotions / actions and switch negative ones to positive ones, then you can really start to help clients, family and friends based on experience.
      This process is good for everyone in the world, regardless of their communication abilities.

      Take care,


  7. Hi Keith,
    Thank you for sharing so much great information! I am a second year graduate student studying speech and language pathology. The strategies you explained are strategies I will be able to use in the future as a clinician. I will also utilize these strategies in my everyday life. Was there a specific time/event/person that inspired you to change your view and change your life? Are there any specific strategies that worked the best for you in terms of communication? Your positivity is very inspiring and I look forward to working on my personal attitude and beliefs.

    Thank you for sharing your personal story,

    • Hello Susie,
      Thanks for your time and interest. Please read my reply to Itxasco.

      You asked
      Was there a specific time/event/person that inspired you to change your view and change your life?

      I had a very poor speaking experience one day in 2005. At the end of the day I looked for seeds of growth in this day of adversity. This led to new events in my life which led to a necessity to communicate better. So In 2006, I research on the Internet; found things to do to help myself, and had a massive reason to change, so I changed. Remember, we can know in our minds there are things we need to change, we can tell ourselves to change, but unless there is a significant reason to change we just let things slide. I changed as I had a significant reason.
      I have skated over the poor speaking experience; the new events and the massive reason. I can spell them out if you need this information.

      You asked
      Are there any specific strategies that worked the best for you in terms of communication?
      Apart from switching negative to positive I would mention Transactional Analysis. I have learned that when my mind is in Child mode (weakest or lowest member of the pack) my subconscious seems to drag up low self-esteem and other negative feelings / emotions / memories. When I am in Adult / Parent mode (Pack Leader etc.) then positive things are brought to my conscious mind and my communication is in a different ball game. Another way of looking at this is
      if the people in my current group are all on mountain peaks, if I am on a higher peak, I am Pack Leader etc. Again the visualisations in my mind when I am talking do play an important part alongside a permanent positive frame of mind.

      Please get back if you wish to.

      Take care,


  8. Mr. Boss,
    Thank you for your amazing paper! I’m not stuttering but Your paper made me think about how my mind works and smile as I totally recognized the thought process going on in my brain when I’m anticipating something. You explained it very clearly.
    I am a graduate student in speech-language pathology taking a fluency course during this semester. Since you wrote how much meditation and relaxation have helped you, I wanted to ask you if you think that speech-language pathologists working with people who stutter should NOT teach the strategies like easy onset etc. but rather talk about relaxing and acquiring positive feelings towards communication?
    Thank you,

    • Hello Chana,
      Thanks for reading and you very kind words. Your question is a very significant and difficult question which PWS and Therapists have thought about in recent years.

      You asked
      I wanted to ask you if you think that speech-language pathologists working with people who stutter should NOT teach the strategies like easy onset etc. but rather talk about relaxing and acquiring positive feelings towards communication?

      If I answered yes you are right, then the logical conclusion would be there is no need for SLP/SLT involvement in stuttering. So I cannot answer yes, because I do believe SLPs/SLTs can play a very significant role, even though in parts of the world (e.g.India) many PWS would disagree with me.

      I think I will answer along the lines of there are two basic approaches for a PWS treatment. Which to start using will depend on the clients needs and what the client may think they want. (I am ignoring setting goals to achieve etc.)

      First the physical aspects of the stammer. Secondaries need to be addressed as well as teaching the client speaking tools like easy onset, and/or a wealth of other tools, to help them to communicate more easily. I think it would be good to offer a range of tools and ask them to select which tool(s) they will be happy to use outside the clinic. You can always use ‘in clinic’ tools like syllabic speaking in the clinic. In my opinion the advantage of this is to let the client build up good speaking memories to start to counteract the negative memories in the subconscious mind. (Iceberg)
      Personally I regard a tool as a crutch (hospital crutch) to be used all the time initially, but over time used less and less until it is not needed.

      Second, when good memories exist / or the stammer is not too severe then begin working on relaxation / negative to positive / examine feelings / emotions / interpretations when stammering / mental frame of mind.
      As always there are different ways to work. Do both the above one after the other, or a little of both at some/all clinical sessions. The attitude and ability of the client to learn will guide your decisions here.

      Do come back if you need more.

      Take care,


  9. Hello Keith,

    I am also a graduate student studying Speech-Language Pathology who greatly appreciates your personal reflection on communication as a PWS. You mentioned that some clinicians assist in helping reassess your perception. How would you recommend a therapist broach the subject of self reflection and altering perception without feeding into the (possible) distortion? Were there any comments/statements that felt were beneficial?

    Thank you,
    Jennifer Castleton
    Graduate Student
    Idaho State University

    • Hello Jennifer,
      Thanks for your time and consideration. As another presenter said, the questions only get more difficult.

      You asked
      How would you recommend a therapist broach the subject of self reflection and altering perception without feeding into the (possible) distortion?

      One of the ways to do this is to ask the client to describe a recent stuttering experience and their feelings / emotions and thoughts during the event. Then help them to analyse any of the negative responses. The distortion filter I discussed is an automatic process which may have worked to cause the feelings / emotions and thoughts. So by questioning these the client and Therapist can begin to examine the beliefs which caused the distortion filter to work the way it did. E.G. one of the feelings may be ‘I felt so stupid and unworthy or shame or…….’. Repeated questioning why the client felt like this —– with examples of exactly the opposite will begin to change those beliefs, hence the parameters of the distortion filter. Which is exactly what is required.

      You asked
      Were there any comments/statements that felt were beneficial?

      Regarding my 1:1 time with clinicians the last time this happened was two or three decades ago. Clinicians did not think like this in those days. Recently I have been in touch with various clinicians in a variety of ways and had time with one who helped me to start a Self Help Group. She also came to occasional meetings to give 30 min. talks. I learned from her and others that more clinicians undertake this process now. As a PWS I am very pleased about this and am looking for ways to encourage more clinicians and Self Help Groups around the world to take this on board.

      This process is out there and in use. My paper tried to show how the process takes place..

      Please ask again if you need more information,

      Take care,


  10. Hi Keith – good to read your paper and listen to your opening video remarks.
    We met a few years ago and helped with a toastmasters demo workshop at a nsa conference.
    Since then, i have gone on to earn my DTM.
    I agree with you wholeheartedly – our mind and our attitude influences our communication. Its so important to reframe negative self talk into positivity.
    Thanks again for sharing. If there is anything I can do to help the ISA, please let me know.

    • Hi Pam,
      Yes, I remember the workshop and you very well. Thanks for reading my contribution. I really enjoyed my time in Toastmasters. It helped me to realise that so many other non – PWS had negativity in their lives as well. PWS are not alone in this.

      I will include you in emails about the ISA’s committee work. You will be able to join in / opt out of any or all of them

      Have fun for the final few days of this conference,


  11. Dear Keith:

    Excellent paper. Thank you for everything that you have done over the years for the international stuttering community. I agree wholeheartedly with your theory that communication is a function of the unconscious, the subconscious is where memories are stored and that the unconscious and the subconscious work collaboratively. I also believe, quite controversially, that a large part of the origin of stuttering is psychological. What is your opinion of the theory that in some cases stuttering can be a learned behavior that develops as a result of critical experiences in one’s environment combined with genetic predisposition. To ask the question another way, what is the role of training the subconscious mind in overcoming stuttering? Is psychotherapy just as useful (or more so)in the treatment of stuttering as is speech therapy?

    Best regards,


    • Dear Michelle,

      Thank you very much for your kind comments. I do enjoy trying to help others so to an extent it is a labour of love.

      I think more and more therapists now know that helping PWS with their negative feelings / emotions and thoughts is necessary if the work in the clinic is to be carried out into all environments.

      Stuttering genes have been identified and there is evidence to show that these genes are passed down through generations. There is strong argument that all the genes a baby has are not necessarily active. So even if a child has a stuttering gene that does not mean stuttering will start as the process of learning language starts. So a dormant stuttering gene needs something external to trigger it into being active and ‘let the stuttering.start’.

      There maybe studies which look at this, but I am not aware of any at this point in time. (Readers. Can you help here?)

      You ask
      ‘what is the role of training the subconscious mind in overcoming stuttering?’ By asking this, my belief is that you are aiming for a fall.

      When your conscious mind asks this it needs to visualise stuttering in order to look into overcoming it. The subconscious sees the stuttering visualisation and tries (24/7) to make it happen.

      What you can do is ask
      ‘How can I train my subconscious mind to improve my communication?’
      Now I visualise communication in my conscious mind and the subconscious mind looks (24/7) for ways to make it happen. One way is to change the three filters I talk about to let useful information in. Now all parts of my mind are pulling together to help my communication. That is + + +.

      You ask
      Is psychotherapy just as useful (or more so) in the treatment of stuttering as is speech therapy?
      I hesitate to answer this directly, but what I will say is that both Client and Therapist need to be mindful of what is going on in the client’s mind as well as positive progress in ease of communication. Help with this as well as using speaking tools (easy onset + + +) where necessary will help the clinical benefits to be used in the outside world.

      Enjoy the remaining days of posts,


  12. Hi Keith,
    I really enjoyed your article. I was particularly interested in the part about how the subconscious mind distorts, deletes and generalizes in an effort to maintain our “reality”, and in doing so, can inadvertently cause us more harm if we aren’t careful. (At least that’s the way I interpreted it!)

    I was wondering if you had any suggested readings or research on this topic. I find it fascinating and would like to know more, particularly as it relates to retraining the brain with positive thoughts and/or anything related to fluency. I’ve read about this in regards to other topics, but had not connected it to therapy for stuttering. I had not considered that by thinking about stuttering, our subconscious is trying to recreate that event. (How thoughtful our brain is… even if it doesn’t always get it right!)

    Your article reminded me of a book I bought (and half read) called A Mind of its Own– How your Brain Distorts and Deceives, by Cordelia Fine. Now that you’ve connected these ideas to my field, I may just find the motivation to pick it up and finish reading it. It talks about the ‘Vain Brain’, the ‘Deluded Brain’ and the ‘Emotional Brain’ just to name a few.

    Thanks again for your post!

    • Hi Amy,
      It is so kind of you to read and comment on my article. Observations and questions do allow a more detailed coverage. This is good.

      You say
      …in an effort to maintain our “reality”…… That is exactly what happens, except that the effort is prodigious. It never fails. it supports what out conscious mind sees / believes 100% 24/7. The three filters serve another purpose as well. We have millions of bits of information reaching our five input senses every second. Most of that information is not required, so is deleted. If we focus on a new subject our deletion filter gets changes to allow related new information in to be examined by our subconscious so it can help the conscious mind to achieve what it is focusing on.

      It is negative generalisations that can cause the harm you mention.

      Bill Harris researched how our brain works and designed an on-line course which I bought. It is called ‘Life Principles Integration Process (LPIP)’. This course is not necessary, but it helped me to take many shortcuts to achieving what I have achieved. It showed me the easiest path and gives email support every step of the way. You can ‘do it alone’, but will make many false steps and it will take longer. I knew about +ve thinking from Tony Robbins Workshops. But the LPIP course told me why and how it worked and allowed me to connect the dots very quickly.

      Many therapists carry out a lot of the +ve processes, but being an IT person I like to dig behind and work out how things work. My paper explains at a very high level how this works. So we see how making an away from goal is much less resourceful than making a towards goal. I also related this to stuttering. The obvious example being goals of ‘not stuttering’ or ‘communicating better day by day’. One is no use. It may never be achieved and parts of the mind are constantly at war. The other is both commendable and resourceful with probable happy affirmations on many days.

      You said ‘even if it doesn’t always get it right!’. I had a gentle smile at his. Our brain works how it works. It gets it right all the time if we know how it works and use it in an appropriate way. LoL

      The book you mention sounds as if it contains many negatives. What we need to remember is that just like a computer, ‘garbage in, garbage out’. If all our beliefs / values / standards are unchanged from childhood days then our lives may, only may, be unresourceful. However if we have itemised beliefs / values / standards and examined each and every one to find out Is it mine or parents / school / siblings / etc. and is it resourceful today. Based on that assessment either keep or discard. When this is done the parameters for the three filters will change and our lives and actions will be resourceful. This will lead to less stress which is good for PWS.

      Many thanks for your comments / question,

      Keep smiling and be happy,


  13. Thanks for your thoughts, Keith. You are right about the book sounding more negative than positive. If I do read it (big IF) I’ll keep that in mind and see if I can find a way to turn the ideas into positives! I’ll investigate Bill Harris and his research… it sounds like something I’d enjoy learning about. I’m like you… I want to know why it all works the way it does! I am familiar with Tony Robbins, but will do more research on his ideas as well.

    Many thanks, and all the best!

  14. Hi Keith,

    Thank you for contributing such a thought-provoking paper. Having trodden similar paths during recent years, I can identify with much of what you have written.

    I truly believe that we can do so much to influence the course of our lives. Today’s thoughts will determine tomorrow’s experiences and destination. We become what we think about, so it is of prime importance that we pay close attention to those thoughts. By taking charge of the way in which we respond to life’s events, we take charge of our destiny.

    We travel in the direction of our most dominant thoughts. That’s fine when they are positive and empowering – but extremely damaging when they are brimming with fear, self-doubt and negativity. Many people focus on what they don’t want, rather than what they wish to achieve in life. I chose to focus on becoming an effective communicator, rather than focusing on not stuttering.

    Keith, my friend, you have come a long way since we first chatted online in 2006 (?). I wish you continued good health so that you are able to fulfil your desired agenda whilst at the helm of the ISA.

    Warmest regards


  15. Hi, Dr. Boss,

    Thank you for your paper! It was an interesting read. I am a current SLP post-bac student learning about stuttering, so your information fascinates me! I have one question about your paper. It’s interesting to me that stuttering, as you explain it, is a result of the subconscious mind at work. It makes sense. Recently, our class had the fortunate opportunity to talk to an adult who stutters. We were given the opportunity to ask him questions and he spoke with a mid-severe stutter. He was stuttering and then all of a sudden he spoke fluently. It was almost as if he “turned off” his stuttering with a switch. He explained that he is able to speak fluently if he wants to, but he didn’t care to do it all the time because it took too much “brain power” and cognition to do it. He said he was using his fluency shaping techniques. I wondered if you ever experience the same feeling or a similar one, and if you had an explanation for if this technique uses more conscious brain power, or if you had another idea of the inner-workings of the mind when this occurs.

    Thank you for your time!
    All the best,

  16. Keith,
    Thanks for taking the time to write this essay. The most important thing I took away from it was self visualization, setting goals, and preparing your mind for success in any aspect of life. It reminds me of a video I once watched called “The Secret”. I don’t know if you have heard of it, but from what I remember, the message is the same as what I have interpreted you to say above: Focus on positive and positive will come your way. Thanks for contributing your ideas!

    Trae P

    ISU Graduate Student