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12 Steps for a Better Life (part 2)

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So now that we have gone through the first three steps, its time for the dreaded 4th step and 5th step. Step 4 is usually very scary for people in recovery, and I assume it might be for the average Joe as well. Have no fear, I will try to help guide you through in a non-judgmental, accepting of all flaws, and trauma informed way.

Step 4 and Step 5 are described by many as "the hardest steps." They are all about taking a look at yourself.

I honestly am not even sure how to put this into words that wouldn’t make people think, “no way.” Who wants to take a cold, hard look in the mirror and write down every not-so-pretty thing about themselves? It sounds daunting, because it is. The fourth step is about accepting that we are responsible for our behaviors. It is learning how to drop the word “blame” from our vocabulary.

Step 4: Made a Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

First, we are going to make a list of our resentments.

A resentment is any sort of anger, bitterness or dissatisfaction towards someone or something due to feeling like you were being treated unfairly.

This can be a person, place or even something that isn’t tangible (like a religion). Then we examine our resentments by asking ourselves: what caused this, how does this affect my daily life and where was I to blame?

I think it is important to talk about the question “where I was to be blame” in the most trauma informed way we can.I am going to start by saying that sometimes, when we are talking about trauma, you have no fault in a resentment.

  • Sometimes your feelings of anger are justified.
  • When we are dealing with trauma, survivors often already heavily blame themselves for things that happened in there past, and it is important to remind a survivor of trauma that they are not there past
  • Sometimes the trauma is what made someones using, binge eating, gambling, etc., spiral out of control.
  • If it is what caused your behavior to spiral out of control, that is okay. That is how your brain coped with the trauma.
  • It isn’t your fault, whatever “it” is.
  • Bad things happen to good people, and that’s not fair.
  • Your feelings are valid

However, it is not the trauma that you are at fault for, it is the anger you are holding onto. Anger is a poison that we are consuming, that we believe will hurt the person we are angry at, when in reality it is just hurting us. If you are using your past as a reason to justify the negative way you are acting towards yourself or others, its time to let that go. That is your fault. Do not let your past dictate your future, and that is what this part of step 4 is teaching us about our traumas.

PTSD dictionary
Sometimes we deal with PTSD that stems from any sort of traumatic event in our lives. This trauma is not our fault, however how you deal with it is.

Second, make a list of all your fears- from spiders to death, and ask yourself:

Why am I afraid of this?

 

Fear causes us to do things that aren’t always for the best, an example is being afraid of getting fired so, you might place blame for an unfinished project on someone else in the office, in hopes that they take the brunt of a punishment and not us.

Once we learn to let go of the fears that hold us back and keep us acting in ways we don’t want to, we can become happier and trust that anything that happens, is happening for a reason.

There is nothing to fear but fear itself, right?

 

Third take an inventory of the people you have harmed, ask yourself: what happened, how did I feel hurting this person, why did I do this?

We hurt a lot of people. Period. Doesn’t matter who you are, chances are you have done something that you look back on and think, “I could have handled that differently.”

Understanding ourselves and asking ourselves why we are doing something can open our eyes to a way we can change the negative behaviors into more positive ones.

Fear ball and chain
Don't let your fears hold you back, write down everything from the future to spiders on your list of fears.

Then look at all these things and decide where you were being selfish, where you were being dishonest, where you were being self-seeking (pursuing only your own interests or profits, even at the expense of others) and where you were living in fear. These four categories are the main defects we all have as human beings. Learning to recognize where and when we are using these defects is an important step to learning how to improve yourself.

 

We then come up with resolutions. The resolution can be as simple as “I will work hard to treat my family better, I will work less hours to spend time with them that they deserve,” or more in depth like, “I will tell my wife about my affair with Tina, go to marriage counseling and find a new job.” The resolution is up to you, and in some ways is an amends (which we will get to more in depth later), but it should be well thought out and not come from a place of fear or selfishness.

trust blindfold
Share your 4th Step with someone you trust.

Step 5: We admitted to our higher power, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

So, this to, might sound very crazy, and unachievable. In NA or AA step 5 is when you read your inventory to your sponsor and pray together. I know, not everyone has a sponsor or wants a sponsor or is in AA or NA or EDA or any other 12 step programs. However, try to find someone that you trust, maybe a friend or family member (that isn’t on that list) or maybe even a therapist, to share this list with. The point in sharing is that you will feel better getting honest with another person. I swear. I have been the person sharing my inventory and afterward I felt awkward, but I also felt way better to finally be 100% honest with someone. Also, there is probably some things that you wrote down and said, “I did nothing wrong,” and this person might be able to help guide you into a new train of thought.

time-to-heal
It's time to heal from your past and move forward in life.