STEP FOUR, PART 3: Unlayering the onion.
I'm Penny, a compulsive eater and food addict and this quarter's WTS
To paraphrase our literature, now that we've made our list of all the
things in our lives that have and continue to have an impact, the
first obvious thing is that there are a lot of people, places and
things that make us awfully angry - a lot of things that we are
afraid of. (Those who agree, please raise your hand??? Thought so.
) The Big Book (I believe) tells us that for some of us that's
about as far as we got. The world is out to get us, and we are its
victims. And if Step 4 were only about writing down how people,
places and things "done us wrong," we'd be done and could enjoy a
good gripe session. Obviously there's more to it.
As difficult as it is, we are going to continue searching our lives
for the reasons that we are so angry at and afraid of the world.
There's an OA sayings like "when I point a finger at someone, there
are three fingers pointing back at me" and "the person who angers me,
controls me." So true. And the Big Book says, "Though a situation had
not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person
involved entirely. Where were we to blame? The inventory was ours,
not the other (person's)." (AA, p. 67) We are searching out "the
flaws in our make-up which caused our failures." (AA, p. 64) I think
this part of Step 4 can be best summed in "Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict"
from the Big Book: "I need to concentrate not so much on what needs
to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and
in my attitude." (AA, p. 449)
It is so important to remember that we are not trying to make
ourselves feel miserable or to dump all over ourselves. The point of
Step 4 is "to see clearly how some of our reactions had served us
well while others had unbalanced us emotionally, setting up patterns
of negative thinking and self-destructive behavior." (OA 12&12, p.
I will tell you that I was very wary of this part of Step 4. I mean,
there's a certain safety and comfort in being a victim. No one can
blame me (hey, it's not *my* fault); I'm safe from being disappointed
in myself; I can enjoy my resentments and nurse those grudges as
though they were babies. And I complained regularly that no one was
going to tell me that *I* had anything to do with all those times
people did something wrong to me. Nope. Not a bit. The two issues
that I was SURE weren't my fault or responsibility at all were things
I had carried around for 15 - 20 years. I had nursed grudges and
hatred for two people for more than half my life. I was convinced to
my core that these people had permanently damaged my psyche and my
essence. These two episodes DEFINED my life.
Then I worked Step 4, and came to enjoy the peace and serenity that
comes from quitting the blame game and finally accepting personal
responsibility. Huge weights fell off my shoulders because I wasn't
shlepping around the accumulated weight of resentments and fears and
grudges. I'm still not completely sure how it works, but I can
personally testify that working Step 4 does miracles. Those two resentments? Well, several years ago I had the opportunity to meet up with some women with whom I had been friends during these two episodes. They were all over the place, brimming with resentment and yuckiness about these people that just a few years before I was
convinced were positively evil. Me? I honestly couldn't relate to my
friends' misery; yeah - they had been yucky people, probably
unethical, definitely not nice ... but I was no longer stewing with
hatred. Talk about miracles.
Let's keep writing.
Now that we've made a list of the major impacting events/experiences
in our lives, we're going to start to fill in the gaps. Because so
much of our compulsive eating and unmanageability of our lives is
caused by instincts run amok, our ultimate goal is to figure out
those out-of-whack instincts and the corresponding defects that are
generated as a result, and we are going to start with the instincts
that were affected.
My sponsor suggested that there are four basic instincts that each of
us have instilled within ourselves. They are (1) basic - food,
shelter, clothing, rest, money; (2) emotional - having people in our
lives who love us the way we want to be loved and whom we can love in
return; (3) sexual - seeing that our intimacy and sexual needs are
met; and (4) social - being involved in a community.
We need to look at each event in our lives and determine which
instinct is/was being affected. For instance, in my last post I
talked about my birth and my mother's insistence that her resulting
paralysis was caused by the anesthesia she was given. I felt
betrayed, hurt, angry, frightened.
In this next part, I am going to write the instincts that were
affected by this event: life itself (basic), the sense that I was not
really loved - how could I be if I had caused this horrible trauma to
my mother - a desperate need to be loved (emotional), a sense that I
never really fit in (social).
Another example I used: I stole pastries from a local store and ate
them on the way home from elementary school; involved: Store owner,
me; feelings: Excited, guilty, desperate. Instincts involved: basic -
needed food; social - eating that stuff made me feel like I fit in
with the group of popular kids; emotional - food helped me feel safe
In my next post (the last one), we're going to list our fears and
explore the character defects that are symptoms of instincts gone
awry and are out of balance.
Yours in recovery,