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Change Your Audience, Change Your Life

Christie Bates is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Minister of the Embracing Simplicity Contemplative Order. She has provided over 10K hours of Brainspotting to clients and mindfulness practitioners seeking trauma resolution, creative expansion and spiritual growth. She never tires of witnessing the transformation Brainspotting brings about.

Executive Contributor Christie Bates

I learned something in an undergraduate Acting 101 class that has shaped my work as counselor and spiritual director, especially when it's time for a client to do something difficult. I have come to understand that our Interior Audience holds more power for us than any opinion or guidance that exists outside of us.

Group of business people attending a seminar in board room.

Whether it’s time to set a boundary, make a decision or reach a goal, upgrading our Interior Audience is a profound way to access the power of community when we need to take action that no one else can do for us. So before encouraging difficult choices, I find out who make up my clients' Interior Audience.


I’m speaking here of the ticketholders who witness your choices on the stage of your life, who give you imagined feedback in your own mind.


No one else defines "hard" for you

In terms of managing stress level, we hear a lot about delegating what we can, and that's good advice. Still, there are some moments and situations where we have to be the ones to act.


While others can be a part of our process, we are the only ones who can make certain decisions and carry them out for our own lives. You have to be the one to invite someone to support your creative project. You have to be the person to say a relationship is over.


Every day, I support 3-4 individuals who seek the power to do the things they truly want to do. Sometimes, they’re gathering steam for big moves, letting go of a job or relationship they’ve outgrown, choosing a school, and deciding where to live.


Once they have clarity about what they want, some people have the energy and agency to bring it about without much effort. But for others, it’s heavy lifting: The better choice feels merely theoretical, and enacting it seems beyond reach.


While the wise course of action may seem obvious and even easy to an outsider, the view seems cloudy for a person bullied by her Interior Audience. A fairly routine action like saying “No, thank you” to an unwanted dinner or conversation can feel impossible if there's a voice in her head telling her that if she says No, she's a mean, selfish person.

It doesn’t matter that it might be easy for someone else to say it. It doesn't even matter that she would support someone else's right to say it for themselves.


We act alone, but we’re never alone

What is happening for the decisive person that is different from the person who feels paralyzed? This is where my glancing brush with theater offered insight.


I was already a college senior before I took that introductory acting class, but this has stuck with me: When shaping and fleshing out your character, pay attention to your Interior Audience. Without that, you're just pretending, and everyone watching you will know it. Attend to your Interior Audience, and your viewing audience will stick with you.


This is true even with so-called “unlikeable” characters. When we as television viewers see a master like Jeremy Strong playing the part of Kendall Roy in the HBO television show "Succession," we feel with him the omnipresence of his father Logan Roy, throughout all of Kendall's compliant or rebellious actions.


When Brian Cox plays Logan in Shakespearean proportions, we see his unending battle to prove to his abusive uncle that he won’t be crushed. We understand intuitively that the Interior Audience is the real mediator of behavior in this case, for men who have not individuated from their father figures. We get how popular opinion even condemnation from the outside world – doesn’t sway either of these men. We buy in.


“Succession” is a morality play with no heroes, yet it captivated millions of us and still holds our attention. We connect at a nervous system level with this experience of living in the presence of the Interior Audience. We are not surprised by how much more effect it has than the praise or censure of any exterior audience member.


The power of the interior audience

Inside the more decisive among us, there is typically an Interior Audience that supports the person in doing whatever it is they deem worthy. That person may look incredibly independent, but none of us lives well in isolation.


Even the monk who meditates in a cave for months on end is knit to and silently supported by a community that provides a weekly delivery of food, medicines and – most importantly – inspiration for getting through the tough parts.


In general, the person who struggles most with saying No or taking other action in alignment with his own wishes may have a circle of friends cheering him on from the outside, but he may not have examined or challenged his Interior influences. He may live his life with the feeling that he is always playing to someone (or more than one) who will be displeased if he chooses according to his own values. So, even if we have a great support system in the outside world, we have to find a way to get that positive support into our Interior world.


We need to renovate the sense of self that keeps us trapped behind walls with our detractors or rebelling against them, to build new structures that let us live in the emotional presence of beings who inspire us. We want to be more nervous about not showing up with integrity in front of this Interior Audience than about the possibility of displeasing outsiders.


Vetting your interior audience

Who sits in your Interior Audience? Do you need to offer tickets to new members? Do you need to ask anyone to leave?


First, it's good to know that the Interior Audience can include parts of yourself that are genuinely conflicted about a decision. We’re not looking to get rid of any parts of you. In fact, improving your relationship with various parts of yourself will allow you more access to the energy they carry for you. For instance, at least one member of your Interior Audience might be a youngster in you who's been waiting for years for a grown-up to stand up for them. As an important book by Richard C. Schwartz says in its title, “You are the one you’ve been waiting for.”


But your Interior Audience also includes beliefs, principles, and other people or your ideas about these people who you imagine will have opinions about what you do.

These people may be fictional or “real.” They may be alive or dead. You may know them personally or simply value them and their work.


Whatever tools you use to increase your mindfulness – meditation, Brainspotting, journaling, and more – these can help you become more aware of the particulars of your individual Interior Audience. You may be surprised to find that you’ve issued tickets not only to family or other important people that would be expected. You may have also been tailoring your performance to audience members who should have had far less access to you in the first place.


Upgrade your interior audience

Before we can decide who needs to go and who gets to stay, most of us find that we must first have some idea of who or what deserves to influence our actions. In other words, we get in touch with what really matters to us, what we value. Then we invite new faces into the theater because the energy of the mind and heart doesn’t play to an empty room. Here are some of the practices that allow us to welcome an Interior Audience appropriate for this time in our lives.

Notice those who bring out the best in you

You may struggle to behave in ways you are proud of, but we all have exceptions. Pay attention to those exceptions; such as the times that you were able to speak assertively or patiently, the times you kept putting one foot in front of the other when things were hard. Who was there? Who were you hoping or imagining might hear about it? Whose advice were you trying to follow? Who would be patting you on the back after the tough call was over? These are the people you want in your Interior Audience.


Our Interior Audience can be made up of all kinds of beings who share the values we resonate with, not just people. Characters from religion, history, even fiction can inspire us. As we begin to experience the Interior Audience as friendly to our authentic selves, it becomes easier to be ourselves and easier to act in line with what we really want to be and do.


Spend time with supportive ideas and people

Start your mornings with a brief reflection on whose opinion really matters to you. Pray if that fits for you. Many people invite into their lives some spiritual figure or principle, asking to be guided in thought, word, and deed throughout the day. You may be surprised how much protection this offers from worrying about what the neighbors think.


As for the people in your life whose opinion you really value, be in their presence at least once a week; in person if possible, by phone at least. For inspirational people you don't actually know, spend time listening to their interviews or reading a page or two from their books. The more you have the habit of being with supportive people, the easier it is to look to them for support, and the more natural it is that they show up in your Interior Audience when you're taking tough action.


Review the previously installed interior audience

Once we seat our values and people who support them on the main floor, the audience members who don’t encourage our wisest selves can be moved from the front row to the balcony, in terms of the influence we allow them. Some with persistent unskillful behaviors, like perfectionism or non-constructive criticism, can have their tickets revoked completely.


What to expect from a supportive interior audience

The more progress you make in upgrading your Interior Audience, the more you will find that you can count on yourself when facing difficult moments, or when it's time to act on what you really want for yourself.


You’ll have more reliable access to energy and optimism, because the Interior Audience is on your side even if you make a mistake.


When you no longer have hecklers inside when facing challenges, you’ll have more grace in responding to the changes and losses in life that no one can avoid.


Finally, the more your Interior Audience is aligned with your authentic nature, the more other people will be able to believe your actions and buy into whatever you're doing.

Your supporters become more supportive, and your detractors know you mean it when you say, No thanks.


My own Interior Audience values spiritual growth, humor, creativity, and service, so my actions are about creating a variety of resources for as many people as possible. At my website, you’ll learn how people work with me individually to heal wounds, see more clearly, and get in touch with what’s most important to them. You’ll also find pages of free resources I offer on an ongoing basis. Come visit!


Christie Bates, Brainspotting Practitioner, Contemplative Minister

Rev. Christie Bates is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Spiritual Director who utilizes Brainspotting to help clients and contemplatives find and process material stored in the brain. Before launching her private practice in late 2017, she had worked in residential addiction and trauma treatment settings for over 10 years. In those settings, she served variously as Family Counselor, Clinical Coordinator, Contemplative Trauma Specialist and Director of Co-Occurring Disorder Programs. Then and now, she has served a wide range of people seeking emotional freedom – including professional creatives, industry leaders, public-facing individuals, and their families.



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