Spasmodic dystonia and the power of the mind

New fact I learned today: what spasmodic dystonia is. I was amazed to find that Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, suffers from it. In short, it is a neurological disorder that ‘causes the throat muscles to clamp down erratically on the vocal cords, strangling speech.’ It’s also scary that there is no known cure. Much of Adams’ progress as a patient is due to his own initiative – he googled the terms ‘voice’ and ‘dystonia’ (he was already experiencing focal dystonia, where his pinky finger wasn’t functioning properly) – to conclude that this is what he was suffering from.

Adams couldn’t live like this. He was a cartoonist, but also an engineer, and both fields have a tendency to attract stubborn people who are immune to rejection and who disregard obstacles. To Adams, his voice was just a problem in need of fixing. Years ago, when his career was first getting started, he came to rely on daily affirmations. He decided that in order to manifest his goals, he simply needed to keep repeating them. In 1983, while readying himself for business school, his credo was: “I, Scott Adams, will score in the 94th percentile on my GMATs [Graduate Management Admission Test].” He scored in the 94th percentile. Five years later, just before selling Dilbert, it was: “I, Scott, will become a syndicated cartoonist.” Now he constructed a new affirmation, one that played in his head all day: “I, Scott, will speak perfectly.”

He is slowly but steadily on the road to recovery and though there is no guarantee that the disorder will disappear forever, he is doing his best to ensure it doesn’t.  A very inspiring story.

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