Healing Modern Anxieties in a Shifting World
There is a lot of anxiety in the world right now. We are in the middle of an election year, and things like threats of pandemic and global warming bring about feelings of fear in many people. No matter where you fall on these issues, many people are worried.
Social media, politics, and the fast-paced nature of modern life have divided us. We love our fences. We live in our “house bubbles,” and we drive in our “car bubbles,” and a large portion of our day we sit in our “office bubbles.” I even see some of my patients via Telehealth from my office—I can “virtually” go anywhere in the world from my office. Because of our modern conveniences, there is less and less of a need to venture out into the world. But what are the ramifications of this trend toward isolation? For one, people can feel unmoored and disconnected. Another effect is further isolation: we easily retreat into echo chambers where we only hear thoughts and opinions that are just like our own.
I recently heard about an amazing way that doctors are treating severe stutterers. It’s called “delayed auditory feedback.” The way it works is that the doctor places a device resembling a hearing aid into the ears of the stutterer. When the person speaks, the device picks up the sound of their voice and plays it back in their ear simultaneously and at a slightly different frequency and tone. According to the researchers, this creates what they call “the choral effect.” The brain is tricked into thinking that the person is speaking along with someone else. Research has shown that when people who stutter sing or speak in unison with others, their speech is more fluid and in some cases the stammering goes away completely.
The stigma of a speech impediment can be crippling for those that suffer from it and alters the way they go about their normal lives. Many are isolated and choose careers that don’t require them to interact with others. It is exhausting and frustrating to get stuck on a syllable and not be able to get past it.
In an article in USA Today they reported that Cris Muirhead of Searcy, Ark. (who suffers from severe stuttering) would try and tell the waiter at a restaurant his order, but after several minutes of trying to get his order from his mind to his lips, he would often give up and end up eating something he did not want to eat. He now wears a hearing aide, and his stuttering has virtually disappeared.
It is not fun to feel stuck. We get trapped in our own minds and are unable to break through. Human beings can talk themselves into anything. Without other voices in our lives, it becomes easy to stutter through life. I think that is why it is so important to stay connected with others. Hearing voices that are tuned to a slightly different frequency gives perspective and at times can make your own voice more fluid.
It’s not necessary to be swept up in fear and worry. The “choral effect” can help us feel anchored even in a world that’s unpredictable and shifting. We need each other. I need your voice in my life, and you need mine. The “choral effect” that will be created by our interaction may help us feel less alone with our stuttering lives.
In order to heal, we have to find ways to reconnect with people. One of the benefits of therapy is that it is a relationship that is nonjudgmental. It’s a caring environment and a space where people can come into healing, find peace with themselves, hear another’s voice, and have their voice be heard.