Interview with Helene Brenner.
Background: Helene Brenner’s 2003 book, “I Know I’m in There Somewhere: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Your Inner Voice and Living a Life of Authenticity”, now released in paperback by Penguin USA, focuses on how people can “turn up the volume” of their inner voices so that they can overcome fears, doubts, nay-sayers (both inside and outside themselves), and other obstacles, to begin living the life they were meant to live.
Conceiving and creating the book was an Inner Voice Experience and journey all its own. A psychologist with a thriving twelve-year practice in a smaller metropolitan area, Helene began writing the book proposal in 2000 and sold the book for a six-figure advance in November 2001 – two months after 9/11. During the same period, she, her husband and daughter adopted a baby girl from China. Through it all, Helene used her own principles in dealing with her own doubts and limitations as she tackled the New York publishing world.
Having a limited speaking background before publishing her book, Helene has reached professional speaker status through many interviews with magazines, radio and television programs, as well as serving as both keynote speaker and conference presenter on numerous occasions.
BR: We all know that some of our clients still get caught in feeling inadequate – thinking they should be able to change, but not being able to. One of the messages that comes out of your work is that we don’t have to have it all together. In fact, we don’t have to change ourselves in any way to get going to making our dreams happen.
HB: That’s right. I have a saying: “You don’t have to clean out your closets to go for your dreams.” We don’t have to fix ourselves. We can still have all of what we think of as our faults. The paradox is that the deepest change comes from deep self-acceptance. What I’ve found, through all the
work I’ve done, is that when you go down deep into exactly how you are, that’s when you can change the most.
Think about it this way: You can’t start your car from down the road. You have to get in the car where you parked it. And you can’t start yourself except by first acknowledging exactly where you are right now. If you do that, rather than getting stuck there – which is what we all fear – many times that very act of acknowledging makes your state of being change within the next moment.
BR: Tell me a little bit about the inner voice. How does someone even know what that is? How do they find it?
HB: The inner voice is a very natural thing. It’s the wisdom of your entire self making itself known to you. And it speaks to us through a number of different ways – impulses, urges, body feelings, a sense of inner knowing, through our deepest wants, and through a spiritual awareness.
The inner voice directs us toward greater self-fulfillment. If we know how to listen to it, it shows us the next do-able step in our evolution. That may not be the linear step our heads or our flow charts tell us should come next, but it’s the right step. And it does this naturally, the way a flower turns toward the sun.
BR: But if it’s so natural, why do so many people feel like they can’t hear it?
HB: To begin with, it doesn’t usually come through like a megaphone.
BR: Sometimes I wish it did.
HB: I think we all do. I also think that over the years, most of us develop layers of noise, what I call “outside voices,” that muffle our inner voice. Often, I find the first thing people need to learn is to distinguish what is “me” from what is “not-me,” because we all take in so many messages
about who, and how, we are supposed to be. It sounds elementary, but I’ve found that people need to learn that they have voices coming from all around them, and inside them, that don’t match who they really are, and must consciously learn to label those “outside voices” for what they are.
BR: Does that make them go away?
HB: Unfortunately, no. At least, not most of them. You’re never going to stop having those voices that pull you away from following your inner truth. I know that I’m probably never going to stop struggling with shyness, for example. But once I know how to identify my own inner voice, I can learn how to turn toward it. I can raise the volume of my inner voice so that it’s louder and more compelling than everything else inside me or around me.
And the more I listen to it, the louder it becomes.
BR: How do people do this?
HB: Of course it’s a process. For one thing, I developed twenty-seven exercises, or “innercizes”, I call them, to go through discovering your inner voice and applying it to your life.
I also talk about five pathways that are messengers of the inner voice. The first one is Knowing. People know a whole lot more, deep down in their bones, than they think they do! They know what is true for them – it’s just hard for them to admit it.
The next is Sensing, following the subtle – and sometimes not-so-subtle – sensations in your body. We actually have this amazingly sensitive instrument of a body, that’s been evolving for millions of years, but we totally ignore it and listen just to our brains.
The third is Feeling. Many people are afraid of their negative feelings and think they should only listen to their positive ones. But what I teach is that you can listen to your negative feelings, and get what they need to tell you, without actually becoming identified with them. Sometimes if you don’t
acknowledge them, they’re going to stop you. Sometimes they have something very important to teach you. But they don’t have to run your life.
BR: And then you talk about Wanting.
HB: That’s the fourth pathway. Americans are often thought of as being too self-centered, of wanting too much. But every coach should know that most people are actually terrified of wanting and manifesting what they truly want. Maybe everybody is, at least part of the time. So we all learn to create substitute wants, things that we think we’re allowed to have. Our job as coaches is to help people to dare to claim their true passions and desires. It’s not the people who have the most who live closest to their dreams, it’s the people who want the most.
Finally, there’s what I call the Voice of the Larger Self, the spiritual essence inside you. What I found is that people can get in touch with an ineffable sense of peace and grace that’s very visceral.
BR: You also talk about the ABCs of the Inner Voice.
HB: Those are Acceptance, Being With and Compassion. This goes back to the paradox of change. We’re all very smart about what’s wrong with us. But ordering ourselves to change rarely works. Only when we allow ourselves to understand and experience how the parts of us that we may not like, or that we don’t think are optimal, serve a purpose and have a good reason for being there, do we create the room to deeply change. It’s change from the inside out, not outside in.
BR: It sounds so compassionate, but you’ve said that this is not a path for the faint of heart.
HB: I guess that’s another paradox. It’s still easier to go along with whatever’s familiar in your life, living from old expectations, dampening your deepest desires. We all have a big part of us that clings to safety, and what is known feels safe even when it isn’t. Ironically, taking the risk you’re
afraid of taking usually feels like a big relief. But daring to listen to who you really are and act accordingly means choosing to explore the unknown. It’s my favorite way to live, but it’s not easy, which is one reason I emphasize self-compassion. It’s also why I like the format of telegroups so much,
because people in my groups become so encouraging and supportive of one another in the process of following their inner voice.
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