Have you ever written a book? Have you ever been dreaming about writing a book? To me it happened quite unexpectedly. I first started answering questions about my journey on internet forums. From time to time people would email me and ask about some methods I used to free myself from limitations of stuttering. I started writing. I couldn’t stop. My first version of this book came out in a form of a series of online newsletters The Art Of Letting Go. People liked it. A person named Richard Parent even translated it to French. Another wonderful person Ruth Mead edited it. (Those who complimented me on my skilful use of English, which is not my native language, may have a different opinion had they seen the text before editing.) I started thinking about a printed version. Something bothered me in The Art of Letting Go though. I felt that I haven’t shared my story in a way that would really help people to make changes in their own lives. The story was good, but there was no clear recipe. No clear path to follow. I started writing, thinking I will make small changes. I couldn’t stop. What came out of this was a new book, which is now titled Letting Go of the Dragon – 7 keys to effortless speech. Below is a fragment from the very beginning. It starts with a fairy tale, a metaphor. To me stuttering is a metaphor. It really doesn’t matter what is blocked in our life – our speech, our relationship, or our success. The process of unblocking is universal. As I know now it has to do with something psychologists call “the law of reversed effort.” The harder you try to do something, the harder it is. The more you struggle, the more you block. My book is about the art of effortless change. Yes, there are chapters on NLP and hypnosis. But there are also insights from clowning and improvisation and public speaking. It doesn’t matter what modality you chose. What matter is whether you are ready to let your dragon go.
As promised, the beginning…
The prince was exhausted. From dusk to dawn, day in and day out, he’d been fighting a big, scary dragon. And no matter how hard and how bravely the prince fought, every morning the dragon was back. One day, as the prince was preparing for a fight, he saw a wrinkled little old man sitting on the big, mossy rock near the road.
The old man said, “Greetings, my prince! May I ask what you are doing here in your shiny armor on this fine morning?”
“Don’t you see, old man, I am getting ready to fight the dragon.”
“That big green thing over there? Looks dangerous. Do you enjoy it?”
And the prince said, “Old man, of course I don’t enjoy it. It is exhausting. It is hopeless. It is embarrassing. No matter what I do, I cannot defeat it.”
And the old man said, “Why don’t you just stop?”
“I can’t. If I stop fighting, the dragon will devour me.”
The old man laughed. “Oh, my prince, but the dragon has already devoured you! I recall you have a beautiful garden, do you not? It’s a place of calm and serenity. But you cannot enjoy it. You have the best horses in the entire kingdom. But you cannot ride them. You have the strongest ship ever built, but you cannot sail it. You are too busy fighting. Truly, my prince, you have given all your power to the dragon, and you have nothing to lose.”
The prince stood silent and then he laughed, too, lowered his sword, and threw away his shield. He raised his eyes to face the dragon, but it wasn’t there.
The prince cried in astonishment, “What happened? Where is the dragon?”
“It seems, my prince, you just let it go.”
How do you even start letting go of the dragon? In a fairy tale, it can happen in an instant. In life, it is often a journey. And as on any journey, it is important to find the right direction. Otherwise you can spend years working laboriously without getting any closer to your goal.
Ever since I was a child, I have been fighting my own, very special dragon. Not even a dragon—a monster. While other kids had monsters in their closets, I had a monster in my throat. Any time I wanted to say something, the monster would grasp my throat with its cruel claws, blocking my breath. I have vivid memories of struggling while trying to say my name or read in class or tell a story in a social setting. I would give anything to have fluent, unobstructed speech. Oh, how I envied fluid tongues! How I marveled at anybody who could speak without any effort!
According to Lao-tzu, “a journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.” And very often you have no idea where your journey might take you. This is what happened to me. When I started my journey of letting go, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. If someone had told me that I, a person with severe blocking and stuttering, would join Toastmasters (a public speaking club!) and enroll in acting, improvisation, and clowning classes, I would have laughed in their face. And I certainly didn’t expect that one day I would become so fascinated with the magic of the human mind that I’d become a hypnotherapist and a neurolinguistic programming (NLP) life coach.
What I discovered was that in order to remove the barriers I’d been erecting in the path of my speech flow, I had to change the way I was using my brain. I also discovered that those changes required more than just rational understanding of willpower. I discovered that in order to change your speech, you have to make changes on a deeper level of brain functioning—you have to engage your unconscious processes.
It can be done slowly by systematically challenging your beliefs and perceptions, venturing out of your comfort zone, and training yourself to respond differently. It can just happen—a lightbulb goes off in your head and you gain an insight that changes your speech forever in the blink of an eye. Or it can be done through the use of hypnosis and NLP, the modalities, which allow you to make shortcuts and bring changes faster. Or it can be all of these things.
However, by themselves hypnosis and NLP are not magic bullets but just tools. In order to use those tools, it is important to understand what changes in your thinking can unblock your speech flow and open you to the magic of effortless speech. The seven keys to effortless speech are essential shifts in thinking that helped me unblock my speech. Now you can possess them, too.