The Neuro-Semantics of Stuttering
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New Hope for People Who Stutter!
by M. Edward Borasky
I just returned from helping to coach a workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina called Mastering Stuttering Workshop: Understanding the "Structure" of Stuttering. Thereâ€™s a 300-page manual, and three daysâ€™ worth of exercises, which would be difficult to summarize in a single page. The workshop and the associated manual represent two years of work by the co-founder of the International Society of Neuro-SemanticsÂ®, Dr. Bob Bodenhamer, D. Min., and many others.
1. What is Neuro-Semantics?
What is Neuro-Semantics? Neuro stands for neurology â€“ the brain and the nervous system. And semantics is the study of words and their meanings. Put them together and you have Neuro-Semantics â€“ the study of how our words and the words of others affect our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Neuro-Semantics is a discipline that helps us to run our own brains. This discipline consists of practices that we call patterns â€“ techniques one can practice to enhance our functioning in the world.
In Neuro-Semantics, we consider the mind and body to be an integrated system. And a state is simply a state of that system â€“ the sum total of your mental, emotional and behavioral experience at any given moment. Typical states are angry, fearful, joyful, sad, calm, stressed, tired and energized. When we help people who stutter to regain fluency, Neuro-Semantics Practitioners operate on what we call a Matrix â€“ a connected dynamic structure of meanings, states and intentions about others, time, the world, our capabilities and ourselves. The fundamental principle of the Neuro-Semantics approach to stuttering is this: We believe that if you can speak fluently in *any* context, you can learn to speak fluently in *all* contexts.
Letâ€™s look at one of the concepts of Neuro-Semantics from the workshop, called Perceptual Positions. The realization that we humans operate from five basic ways of looking at experience offers tremendous potential in state control and in the enhancing of our communication. The following description is taken from the training manual by Dr. Bodenhamer:
2. First Position
â€œWhen you associate into your own body, you live in first position. This permits you to look at the world from your own viewpoint. In the first position, you do not take into account anyone else's position. You simply think, â€˜How does this conversation or communication affect me?â€™
â€œFirst position is the normal and healthy position of seeing, hearing, and feeling from out of self. It is the position needed in order to speak with authenticity, to present yourself, your thoughts, feelings, and responses congruently, to disclose, listen, inquire, and be present with another. When you visually recall a memory and do not see yourself in the picture, you are associated into that memory â€“ you are â€˜insideâ€™ that memory looking through your eyes, hearing the sounds and feeling the feelings as if there.
3. Second Position
â€œWhen you are in second position, you are â€˜walking in the other person's shoes.â€™ You take into consideration how a communication or event would look, feel and sound from another person's point of view. In the second position, you imagine yourself entering the other person's body. In this position you imagine looking at yourself through their eyes. Second position is to understand, feel with, experience empathy for and see things from anotherâ€™s point of view. Here youâ€™ll feel in accord with the other and have a strong sense of his or her perspective.
â€œWhat do you look like, sound like and what feelings do you get from the other person's viewpoint of you? In the second position you develop the ability in experiencing empathy. This position allows flexibility when involved in conflict with someone. From the second position you can appreciate how they feel about your conversation and behavior. ...
4. Third Position
â€œWhen you distance yourself from an event, you more than likely do it by going to the third position. Third position offers a way of dissociating from the entire event or conversation. In the third position you become an independent observer. Third position allows us to operate from the position of objectivity. Ask yourself, â€˜How would this conversation or event look to someone totally uninvolved?â€™ Imagine yourself being out of your body and off to the side of the conversation between you and the other person. You can see both yourself and the other person. The third position allows you to step back, to gain a sense of distance, to observe, to witness, to feel neutral and to appreciate both positions fully. You know you are in third position when you recall a memory and see yourself in the memory. If you see yourself in the memory, you are â€˜outsideâ€™ yourself and this allows you to give yourself distance from that memory if you so choose. ...
5. Fourth Position
â€œDilts (1990) specified the fourth perceptual position in his book Changing Belief Systems with NLP. He defined the fourth position as â€˜weâ€™ â€“ from the perspective of the system. Many refer to it as the â€˜Systemsâ€™ position. In this position, we have â€˜associated in the perspective of the whole system.â€™ To take fourth position, step aside and adopt the perspective of the whole system, so that you can there consider what would contribute to the best interest of the system. In the fourth position, everyone in the system is taken into account. A question to ask is, â€˜What are my place, responsibility and position in this system?â€™ A linguistic format for this position goes: â€˜If we consider our common goalsâ€¦â€™ The fourth position (Systems position) allows us to understand the contexts (cultural, linguistic, business, family, etc.) that influence all of the larger systems and contexts of our world. ...
6. Fifth Position
â€œMarilyn Atkinson (1997) in an unpublished manuscript entitled â€˜Five Central Ideasâ€™ suggests another perceptual position â€“ â€˜a universal perceptual position.â€™ This results from applying the generalizations like all, always, everyone, etc to our perspective. Doing so â€˜springboards us to the valuable idea of a universal perceptual position.â€™ (p. 24). This provides the widest and largest level perspective of all. ...
â€œFor people who hold spiritual beliefs, their fifth position is ultimately in their spiritual place. I am a Christian. So, when I go to fifth position, I view myself as being with Jesus. I am way â€˜up thereâ€™ with Him looking down on myself way down here. If you hold spiritual beliefs, imagine yourself leaving your body and going up and being with God. Once you get up there and see yourself down here, how does that affect your speech? Going â€˜up thereâ€™ is most relaxing and calming to many people. ...
â€œNone of these positions offer a superior position to the other. Each position has equal importance. The wise communicator knows how to move at will from one position to the other.â€ [Bodenhamer (2003), Mastering Blocking and Stuttering, page 139]
What we have found, in helping people who stutter to gain fluency with Neuro-Semantics, is that the ability to move at will among these positions, and especially to the fifth position, is a key technique in mastering stuttering! Many who have overcome blocking/stuttering have found the fifth position extremely helpful. They learn how to go there at will through consistent practice. In the fifth position, most people are very relaxed and calm, which provides the proper state for fluency.
7. Where To Learn More
Dr. Bodenhamer has scheduled an advanced workshop for people who stutter in Charlotte, North Carolina, from October 1 â€“ 5, 2003. In the meantime, if you stutter, or know someone who stutters, I highly recommend picking up the manual. Iâ€™ve seen it work; Iâ€™ve talked to people who stuttered for decades who are now more fluent than I am! If youâ€™d like to order a copy of the manual or register for the workshop, send e-mail to
Thereâ€™s a lot more information at
Dr. Bob Bodenhamer co-founded the Institute of Neuro-Semantics with L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. Along with Dr. Hall he has co-authored eight books: (1) Figuring Out People: Design Engineering With Meta-Programs; (2) Time Lining: Advance Time-Line Principles; (3) Patterns For Renewing The Mind: Christian Communicating & Counseling Using NLP; (4) Mind-Lines: Conversational Reframing; (5) The Structure of Excellence: Unmasking The Meta-Levels of "Submodalities" and (6) The User's Manual for the Brain: The Complete Manual for Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner Certification. (7) The Structure of Personality: Modeling "Personality" Using NLP and Neuro-Semantics with Richard Bolstad and Margot Hamblett and (8) Frame Games for Mastering Fear. He co-authored the book Hypnotic Language Its Structure and Use with John Burton, Ed.D.
M. Edward (Ed) Borasky is a Neuro-SemanticsÂ® Trainer, sales, career and writing coach, applied mathematician, computer scientist, Linux kernel hacker and computer music composer. He helps sales professionals have more fun and earn more profit. His collection of tools includes Neuro-Semantics, mathematical modeling and Mind Mapping. His hobby is collecting hobbies. Contact him at
The main Neuro-Semantics web site is
About the Author
Mr. Borasky is a coach, trainer, consultant, writer and researcher, specializing in psychological and mathematical modeling. His experience ranges from sales and marketing to scientific application and operating system programming. He is also a cat person.