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19 November 2019 

Pyramid of Inner Unsafety

By using the Pyramid of Inner Unsafety, this article explains how Inner Unsafety influences the life of your clients and how it unknowingly influences your coaching. Over the last 5 years (from 2014 onwards) we’ve discovered more and more how Inner Unsafety determines our thinking and our behavior. Without us knowing consciously, our perception, our thoughts, our beliefs, our actions, our social interactions, and many more, are all laced with Inner Unsafety.

In our coaching practice we see that clients are not aware of this and that they instantly recognize and experience their Inner Unsafety once they become aware of it. This is also the moment when they are able and start to connect to their own foundation.

We also see that coaches don’t link the issues, that their clients seek help with, to feelings of Inner Unsafety. This results in them not applying a fundamental layer in their coaching and this prevents their clients to fully integrate their results and achievements.

This article will explain exactly why that is a missed chance to help your client heal on a deeper level.

To clarify what Inner Unsafety is and how it manifests itself, we have created the Pyramid or Inner Unsafety. This Pyramid has 4 levels. The first level is the manifestation level, the level of Acute Inner Unsafety.

1. Acute Inner Unsafety 

Acute Inner Unsafety is happening in the now, it’s happening on the physical manifestation level. It’s where Inner Unsafety is manifesting itself in body sensations and body awareness. It’s tangible to self [stomach, throat, heartbeat, fainting etc], it’s audible to self and to others [gasping, panting, screaming etc] or it’s visible to others [sweating, paleness, wide eyes, shaking etc]. The person suffering from acute Inner Unsafety is aware of the feeling of Unsafety.

Acute Inner Unsafety can be related to different sources of origin.

Origin 1: it’s related to the here and now, when a situation happens for the first time.
Origin 2: it’s related to one of the other 3 levels of the pyramid, i.e. beliefs, loyalty or memory/trauma.

When Acute Inner Unsafety manifests itself in the here and now, it shows up for instance as anger, or fear, or numbness, or panic, or denial, or over-reacting, or acting-out, or as jealousy and many more. 

Example of Origin 1 

When Inner Unsafety is related to the here and now. For instance, the first time you get a reprimand from your manager in front of your team members, or the first time you get fired from a job or the first time you see a car accident or you are in a car accident, or the first time you are being burgled. 

Example of Origin 2

In Origin 2, the source is related to the other 3 levels of the pyramid, i.e. beliefs, loyalty or memory/trauma. For instance, you get caught in a bar fight and instead of joining the fight or running out of the bar, you do nothing, you paralyze with fear because on a subconscious level you get instantly triggered in an old traumatic childhood memory where violence against you or others was involved. In this example acute Inner Unsafety shows up as freeze, due to an early childhood trauma. 

Being a coach, chances are that you will encounter Acute Inner Unsafety during a coaching session. When your client relives a memory during a session where Acute Inner Unsafety happened, your client will experience this same Inner Unsafety on the spot. The same overwhelm that happened to your client during the actual event will happen to your client during the session. The question is what do you do when this happens?

Most coaches will ask themselves: What’s my client’s perception of what happened? Why is my client so upset? Next they will start to clarify what belongs to the client and what doesn’t? And they end with giving the client tips on how to deal with Inner Unsafety.

Another, far less used, approach is that you link this memory of your client directly to the body sensations associated with the feelings of Inner Unsafety DURING, and often even AFTER the event. These body sensations reflect where the Inner Unsafety has stored itself in the body-memory of your client. And when you give words to the feelings that represent this Inner Unsafety, your client will get insight in a much deeper and more complete level of his feelings. Now your client can re-view his perception, his thoughts, his beliefs, his habits, his actions, all in the light of Inner Unsafety.

To establish the link with Inner Unsafety ensures that your client can actually go a layer deeper. It enables that room is made for discovering and tackling what lies at the roots of the feeling of Inner Unsafety. And when you enable this, something else will happen in your coaching and the client will get substantially different results.

2. Inner Unsafety originating from Belief 

Beliefs are always linked to something positive or something negative in your life. Beliefs are consciously or unconsciously, always linked to Inner Safety or Inner Unsafety. We all look at our world from the perspective of Inner Safety and Inner Unsafety.

Examples of negatively charged beliefs are:

This is what men are like
This is how women are
 Yo men always come up with a solution for everything, while we women just want to share
Men do not support their wives in the upbringing of the children
Women gossip about their husbands with their girlfriends
Women always start nagging the minute we come home after a day of hard work
Men are providers, women raise the children
Staff will always tell you what you want to hear: Whose ever bread one eats, his language one speaks.
An entrepreneur will only thinks about his wallet, not about the wellbeing of his staff
You can easily handle two children, as soon as the 3rd one arrives it becomes difficult
When you are born for a dime, you will never be a quarter
And many more.

The moment you coach, you experience the difference between what has actually happened and what the client believes has happened. You experience what your clients’ perceptions are, and what the client believes to be the solution. And those same beliefs play a role in your interaction too. When these beliefs are negatively charged you are directly dealing with the Inner Unsafety present in your client.

The next question is, what do you do with the layer of Inner Unsafety that comes along with the negatively charged beliefs. Do you only deal with the negatively charged beliefs or do you skip them altogether and do you focus on the Inner Unsafety that lies behind it? Which ‘exit’ do you take?

Take, for example, the belief “Women gossip with their girlfriends about their husbands.” As a relationship coach we saw this one quite often. If we had only focussed on the belief, we would have come to an understanding with the woman that she will stop gossiping about her partner and from now on will only talk about herself with her girlfriends.

But the minute we link this negatively charged belief to Inner Unsafety, the conversation is now about how unsafe the man feels with her because she gossips about him with her friends. When her girlfriends come to visit, he can feel their critical looks, and in his mind he can hear their nasty comments and all this is not only very unpleasant but above all it makes him feel inwardly unsafe. But more so it makes him angry because his partner is not straight with him. And with him putting his Inner Unsafety on the table, she too will be able to admit and express her own Inner Unsafety in the relationship. She may have the feeling that he is emotionally not available, and that he is dodging his responsibility when it comes to raising the kids together.

Linking Inner Unsafety to a negatively charged belief automatically enables people to go to the core. The essence of any relationship conflict is always about how Inwardly Safe or how Inwardly Unsafe is our relationship? How Inwardly Safe or Inwardly Unsafe am I within myself when I am with you? What do you amplify, my Inner Safety or my Inner Unsafety?

And that is the main issue in many relationships: ‘I am feeling Inwardly Unsafe within myself, and you, being my partner, are amplifying my Inner Unsafety’. So the minute you work on the individual Inner Unsafety you automatically work on the dynamics of the relationship

This is of course just one example but if we would deal with all negatively charged beliefs through linking them to Inner Unsafety, we would always see the following questions emerge:

How Inwardly Unsafe do I feel when I am with you?
How Inwardly Unsafe do I feel in this situation?
How Inwardly Unsafe do I feel within myself?

3. Inner Unsafety originating from Loyalty

To whom or what are you loyal and to whom or what aren’t you loyal? That is THE question that is answered every second of your life. Whether consciously or not, you choose every second of the day what you are loyal to. Let us give you some examples: When you are loyal to yourself, you are not loyal to somebody or something else. When you are loyal to someone or something else, you are not loyal to yourself. When you are loyal to the result, you are less loyal or not loyal to the process. When you are loyal to the process, you are less or not loyal to the result. 

Just like beliefs, loyalty is always linked to Inner Safety and Inner Unsafety. However, with loyalty we often see that nothing is what it seems. For example, being loyal to your partner can on the surface be the logical thing to do and it can even feel safe, but going to the core, you might be choosing loyalty to your partner to avoid feeling Inwardly Unsafe. Or the exact opposite, you choose being loyal to your partner because you’re already feeling Inwardly Unsafe.

Examples of positively charged loyalty are:  

As an entrepreneur you choose to make yourself visible on Social Media because you are loyal to the goals you have set in your mission and vision statement.
 
Because you are loyal to the happiness of your child you have committed yourself to driving him and his friends to the away matches of his soccer team.

Examples of negatively charged loyalty are: 

Your relationship doesn’t go well and even-though you feel inwardly unsafe, you are staying way longer than you should because you are more loyal to your partner than to yourself.
In a divorce situation, in an unsafe relationship between father and mother, the custodial parent will always choose being loyal to the children above loyalty to the relationship with the other parent.
In a work situation, in a labor dispute, an entrepreneur will always be loyal to his company instead of being loyal to the employee. Colleague employees, on the other hand, are often loyal to the employee being in the labor dispute and they are not loyal to the entrepreneur.

Loyalty forces you to make choices. Consciously or unconsciously, you will always make choices based on loyalty. The question is what does your loyalty look like, what do you choose, when you are in a situation where you feel inwardly unsafe? What does your loyalty look like and what do you choose, when you are in a situation where you feel inwardly safe? Because to whom or to what you are loyal to, makes a world of difference when you are feeling inwardly safe or when you are feeling inwardly unsafe.

As a coach it’s your challenge to be able to distinguish between the two. What is the basis of my clients’ loyalty choice? Inner Safety or Inner Unsafety?

If you don’t recognize that your client is feeling inwardly unsafe and you ask your client to choose for himself (instead of his parents for example), your client will do it for you. Or your client will only say to you that he will do it but in reality he won’t do it. Or your client will be in resistance and will verbally fight with you. The age, the intelligence and the life experience of your client is of no influence what so ever here. As soon as your client is “forced” to be loyal to something or someone while (s)he feels inwardly unsafe, your client will never make an autonomous choice.

A good example of this is the following situation:

During our education in systemic constellation work, in a particular constellation we were shown how a daughter had to stand up to her father. The daughter in question was in her mid-thirties and she still felt like being daddy’s little princess. She found this a very pleasant feeling and at the same time it stopped her in her adult life because she felt that this relationship with her father was keeping her small.

During the constellation it became clear how much the daughter was pleasing her dad and how much her father was on her back all the time. How he always disapproved of her life, how he always disagreed with her choices. What we saw was the desire of a daughter who wanted to live her own life and at the same time wanted to be acknowledged by her father. And what we saw was that the reality was very different: without realizing it the daughter always asked for her father’s approval and by doing so she was at the same time giving him the opportunity to openly disapprove of her ‘wrong’ choices.

The trainer who supervised the constellation made her squat in front of her father so that she could literally feel how she was still the little girl in her relationship with her father. Next, the trainer asked her if she was willing to stand up to her father to literally see eye to eye with him. To do so she had to be loyal to herself for the first time in her life, instead of being loyal to her father. He also explained to her that once she had chosen there would be no point of return after that. She would never be able to go back to being daddy’s little girl. In the end she chose to stay loyal to her father instead of choosing to be loyal to herself.

This may sound bizarre, a woman in her mid-thirties who doesn’t dare to stand up to her father. But we see it all the time, whatever the example is, it always has to do with a situation where the client doesn’t feel inwardly safe to do what makes perfect sense.

That is why we recommend linking loyalty to Inner (un)Safety. Observe if your client makes a loyalty choice from Inner Unsafety or from Inner Safety. If your client chooses from Inner Unsafety, you will always have to make the transition from Inner Unsafety to Inner Safety with your client before you can work on any loyalty issues.

4. Inner Unsafety from Memory & Trauma

Inner Unsafety related to Beliefs and Inner Unsafety related to Loyalty originates from and happens on 

  1. an unconscious level and 
  2. it can relatively simple be traced back to its source of origin.

❥ Because you believe men will betray you, you don’t trust men. So every time you are in a relationship with a man you feel inwardly unsafe the minute your distrust gets triggered. 

❥ Because you are loyal to the financial wellbeing of your family you put up with your employers unacceptable behavior. Although his behavior makes you feel Inwardly Unsafe you don’t stand up against him because that would cost you your job.

The Inner Unsafety related to Memory & Trauma originates from and happens on a subconscious level and in most cases it’s lingering, it’s always present and constantly activated instead of acute or temporary.

Inner Unsafety from memory and/or trauma is always linked to a ‘charged emotion’ or a ‘loaded memory’ stored in your subconsciousness. 

Example of Lingering Inner Unsafety:

Karen has had an abortion at age 15 because her parents decided she was too young to have a child. She was sent away to another city and had to go through the whole ordeal by herself, without any relative being present. To avoid shame and embarrassment this whole ‘incident’ was kept secret from the rest of the family. Her boyfriend, the father of her child broke up with her after the abortion. 

After the incident, life went on and Eileen and her father and mother soon forgot about it all. At age 17 however she started to develop bulimia and after years of suffering from this eating disorder she conquered it on sheer determination and willpower. After having conquered her eating disorder she soon started to drink more and more alcohol and she also started to use drugs on a regular basis.

By the time we started to work with her she was 42 and she was ready to meet her demons. What soon surfaced in the sessions was that she had a strong tendency to avoid looking at and being present with her true feelings. She had a strong tendency to turn away when it came to facing her reality. What occurred was that there was this constant presence of Inner Unsafety when it came to being present to her true feelings.

After a few sessions we came upon this painful teenage memory of her abortion, loaded with unprocessed and traumatic feelings. Through the use of various healing modalities we were able to help her finally process these traumatic feelings and memories and by doing so this whole charged cluster of painful denial was discharged and neutralized. Where there once had been a constant source of painful Inner Unsafety she was constantly trying to get away from, there now is an integrated memory and restored Inner Safety.

In general it is safe to say that:

One of the main reasons permanent Inner Unsafety occurs is because of charged memory and/or trauma. Inner Safety indicates there is absence of charged memory and/or trauma.


The Pyramid of Inner Unsafety

You now know what the 4 levels of the pyramid of Inner Unsafety are.

At the tip of the pyramid you find Acute Inner Unsafety. It’s where Inner Unsafety manifests itself in the here and now. At this level you are fully aware of the body sensations that come with your Inner Unsafety. And it’s either because of an isolated situation that happens for the very first time or it’s because of a situation that is linked to the other 3 levels of the pyramid.

The second layer of the pyramid are your Beliefs. The beliefs that you’ve adopted from others, and the beliefs that originate from everything you’ve experienced in your life. This is the layer where your clients convince themselves that their negatively charged beliefs are valid and true. This is also the layer where your clients don’t allow themselves to feel how unsafe they really feel.

The third layer of the pyramid is about Loyalty. It’s always about choice, you either choose Loyalty to self or you choose Loyalty to someone or something. Loyalty is complex and it’s often governed by right and wrong, by morality and by guilt and shame. It’s also governed by belonging, by dependence, by boundedness or by freedom. In this layer your clients have the feeling they have to choose between right and wrong. It’s the layer where your clients will experience a struggle to connect Inner Unsafety and Inner Safety to the choices they make.

The memories and traumas are in the fourth and last layer. This layer is directly linked to a permanent feeling of Inner Unsafety that can and will show itself in many different ways. This is the layer where nothing is what is seems. In this layer Inner Unsafety is always ‘hiding behind a mask’. What you will see in this layer is that Inner Unsafety is showing up as fear, anger, numbness, indifference, denial, substance abuse or mental and/or emotional disorder, to name a few. But they are only an expression of permanent Inner Unsafety, the root cause of this behavior is in the subconsciousness. 

As a coach, we challenge you to look at your coaching practice from a completely new perspective. To be able to see where your client feels Inwardly Unsafe. To observe and ask yourself, ‘am I right’? To ask your client, ‘am I right’? To give words to what you observe. To be able to be the holding space for Inner Unsafety and Inner Safety for your clients. Strange how it may sound but Inner Unsafety is a living and many splendored thing.

If you don’t know how to take the next step because you’ve never worked with Inner Unsafety and Inner Safety on this level before, please contact us. We’re happy to talk to you, no strings attached.

About the author
We are Briant [1958] & Jaldhara [1960] both Dutch. We teach coaches to Awaken the Power of Inner Safety so they can Coach their clients to their Next Level.
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