Selective Mutism

Why Some People Don’t Speak

In each of us our ability to express ourselves and connect deeply with others is limited by the presence of communication blocks. While most of us are not really aware of the damage we have experienced that is limiting our communication, in some people the presence of communication blocks is obvious. For selective mutes – people who can talk but choose not to – the whole idea of communication has become so painful that they attempt to avoid it entirely.

Communication blocks are established mostly in our early years when a traumatic experience related to speech or self-expression happens to us. In that moment we experience a strong negative emotion such as shame that permanently scars the subconscious mind and is never forgotten. In most cases what happened to us was so painful that the memory is repressed, which means that the conscious mind is no longer able to remember what happened. Yet even though the event is buried deeply in the mind, it still haunts us in terms of our communication and self-expression. The scar of the communication block is made true and then performed by you throughout your life, unless you are able to face the block and triumph over it. To give an example, if you are a shy adult, that is because you are suffering under the weight of communication blocks that came to you through childhood experiences.

In the case of people with selective mutism the painful situation(s) was/were so awful that the subconscious solution to the pain experienced was to withdraw completely from communication and relating to others.

The process of facing communication blocks is the same for all people, though in the case of overcoming selective mutism the work to change may be especially difficult since the trauma experienced was particularly severe. To face your communication blocks it requires you to gently and repeatedly push against the boundaries of your social fears. In the case of someone with selective mutism, it means fear must be challenged by taking baby steps towards the act of speaking. You would first begin by reading aloud to yourself just by mouthing the words without sound. After a few days of this kind of work you can increase the difficulty / fear response level by whispering as you read. Then, every time it becomes comfortable to face your face in this way you make the speaking exercise more difficult.

It’s important to be gradual and steady in your approach to facing blocks so that what you are doing is not felt to be overwhelming. Overtime as you face your fears repeatedly they eventually lose their hold over you and set you free.

About Jade Joddle Jade Joddle is a speech and voice teacher who gives her non-native speaker clients back the confidence they had in their native language. She teaches high-level professionals to Speak Well in English so that they thrive and succeed.