Perfectionists apparently are highly susceptible to TMS. Perfectionism and "goodism" (the tendency to be as ethical and moral as possible) are particularly enraging to the subconscious "id" (the primitive inner animal / child-like part of the brain).
I must admit that I would not have written this article five years ago. I'm not really into unconventional medicine; but some years ago I had the misfortune of suddenly experiencing excruciating lower-back pain. I won't bore people with the details, but after following the usual conventional route of MRI scans and an epidural injection, without much success, I basically solved my back problem by reading a few TMS books and following their advice. So in my experience, TMS is real. Since then I suspect that some of my other, mainly stomach-related, previous ailments were actually TMS-related. I'm even wondering whether my lifelong stuttering, though mild these days, is part of TMS and whether TMS treatment will have an effect on it. So I’m going to try it.
Let's consider the onset of stuttering, usually between the age of 3 and 5. For some predisposed kids, overt stress seems to be the trigger; for instance, some children begin to stutter after a traumatic incident such as a car accident, or after having been bitten by a dog, or after a parental divorce. Here the stress trigger seems clear.
In most cases, however, the stress is not so obvious. It could be argued that the actual learning of language also involves stress triggers: the child needs to master complex grammar, new meanings and difficult pronunciations, all of which could overstress a still immature speech system.
In this individual the outlet is the vocal cords that “lock” or “freeze” - as per the pioneering work of Dr Martin Schwartz, who was instrumental in identifying the role of the vocal cords that freeze when overstressed. Apparently some people are genetically and neurologically predisposed to direct their tension to their vocal cords, just as others direct their tension to other body parts. And so the stress response of freezing becomes a physical “freeze” of the vocal-cord muscles; and the child begins to stutter - the actual sound or word repetitions are simply conditioned reflexes in response to the vocal-cord freeze. The stuttering, in turn, will increase the unconscious inner rage and stress, so that a vicious circle is created, established and strengthened over the years.
The TMS argument can be taken even further. TMS experts would argue that mindbody issues are often symbolic; that the mindbody often chooses a particular body part to symbolically communicate its message. In his book The Great Pain Deception, Steven Ozanich says, in discussing spasmodic dysphonia, that the vocal cords are common targets of tension since the voice is a mechanism of expressing self.
Major implications for treatment
A major part of TMS treatment is to convince the patient's conscious as well as subconscious mind that the problem is fundamentally psychological and NOT structural (after, of course, having excluded the possibility that there is indeed a serious structural defect or injury). This convincing is necessary so that the subconscious mind - the level at which the problem arises - will stop trying to distract you by means of the symptoms. If the subconscious mind becomes aware that its distraction tricks no longer work, it stops its mischief. I know, it sounds unbelievable - but it works. The proof of the pudding lies in the eating. So many people have benefited from TMS treatment that it needs to be taken seriously.
Applied to stuttering, it would mean that you have to be convinced, and have to convince your subconscious, that unconscious emotions drive your stuttering. Superficially seen, this flies in the face of current theories on a neurological cause of stuttering; though, as said, a neurological predisposition does not necessarily exclude emotional drivers of stress.
A complicating factor, of course, is that stuttering is usually developmental, with onset before school-going age, which means that the years or decades of stuttering and its conditioned components - the force of habit - will need to be taken into account.
Most speech professionals, again, will say that the psychological approach to stuttering has long since been discarded, and that the focus these days is on neurology and brain scanning. They will be quick to tell you that Freud, the father of modern psychology and of psychoanalysis, did not succeed in treating people who stuttered (even though we have come a long way since Freud, with our knowledge of psychology and stress having expanded enormously since then).
So once again it is up to the individual with an open mind to try and find his own way, and experiment with this, or any other, approach which makes sense. Fortunately a small but growing number of doctors are embracing the TMS concept and treating patients accordingly.
Feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below if you are experimenting or have experimented with TMS treatment for stuttering. PS Don't be upset when things get worse before they get better! This is typical in TMS treatment, as the subconscious tries to maintain the status quo when it notes that things are changing.