Having trouble with Step Four? Capture your insights as they occur
I WAS SHAMED into the program nearly four years ago. Since then, our family has experienced a number of positive changes that I would not have believed possible. I am now aware of the influence in our lives of a benevolent Higher Power who is pulling the strings. I have become reasonably comfortable with the first three Steps. Those realizations have encouraged me to press on with the Fourth Step and further recovery.
Until recently, my progress with the moral inventory was halting and erratic. I had little sense of accomplishment in establishing a personal profile of beliefs, attitudes, values, needs, and talents. Yet I know that self-understanding, integrity, and the ability to love all depend upon meeting this challenge.
The specific limitation seemed to be that the entries I made in the inventory list looked unrelated and unimportant to me when I reviewed them weeks or even days later. I often could not really identify with what I had previously written about myself, and I began to believe that there was a credibility gap between reality and the neat summaries on paper. I began to be concerned about my ability to be honest about myself, especially in view of the Big Book’s statement (fifth chapter) that failures in recovery are related to a lack of honesty.
I lived with this dilemma for months–until I noticed that I could in fact be honest, however briefly, under certain conditions. Meetings were and are the most conspicuous promoters of self-truths. The light may come on when I am listening to a lead, or when I am searching myself for something to say during a discussion, or while alone with my sponsor.
Being totally involved in some kind of manual activity also apparently leaves my mind a fertile ground for revealing insights. In general, these personal revelations are unpredictable in content, but they all share the one characteristic of happening when my mind is relaxed. Specifically, I cannot be meeting deadlines, dealing with criticism, or putting on an act and expect to learn about myself. I now believe that my personal honesty will develop as long as I continue to keep myself in a loving environment (meetings in particular) on a regular basis.
The problem remained, however, of preserving these flashes of perception as the basic stuff of an inventory, since they seemed to come so spontaneously and slip away so easily with the least distraction or interruption. I couldn’t remember them later when I sat down with my inventory list.
The technique that is actually working now is to carry with me at all times a tiny notebook and pencil, and write down the gist of these flashes as soon as possible after they happen. Never mind the details; I can fill them in later. It requires discipline to carry the tools and to record things as they are, but the result has been more significant personal findings in one month than in the whole previous year without a little notebook and pencil.
Capturing the nuggets of personal truth as they are revealed almost daily has turned into a kind of adventure. They don’t slip by nearly as easily as before. Now, I merely have to accumulate and sort them. The Fifth Step will take care of the appraisals later.