Sunday, December 16, 2012

Peanut M&Ms?

I have a friend who has a stutter.  He manages it well, and I didn't know he had it until he told me.  He says it's situational: it only comes out when he's nervous.

That's what made it a surprise for me -- I've seen him meet strangers and immediately start bantering with them.  I can find meeting strangers to be anxiety-provoking.  He says he's good at schmoozing.

Looking at him as someone who generally seems very open and confident, I marvel at how vulnerable he must feel.  It's not just a speech impediment that can be embarrassing when it kicks in -- it also reveals something about his psyche.  When he is nervous, he can't hide it because his speech betrays him.  What is that world like?

I have an exoskeleton.  I feel, and project, confidence, and strength.  I am friendly.  Public speaking gets me high.  I can, in fact, protect myself with words.  I express my moods and my worries, but no matter how profoundly I am feeling them I often do so with words and a tone that seem to lighten the tone of my distress and make it less dramatic.  As a result, I am only partially revealing my emotional state and feel less vulnerable. Inside, I can be a chaotic mess, but I have control over to whom I expose that version of reality, and it's not to a lot of people.

My friend has no choice.  He can't choose his words when he is profoundly distressed because words leave him.  With his stuttering generally under control, its onset becomes a tell, a signal of a state of emotional chaos.  He has no choice but to reveal his vulnerability.  His chaos is on the outside.  How absolutely frightening.  He must have an endoskeleton, a kind of inner strength I can't comprehend.

A candy analogy would be better.  With this one, I end up being a bug.

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