The inventory starts with three related lists. The first has the people, institutions, and principles we are angry with or resentful about; the second sets down exactly why we’re angry; and the third specifies how we are affected. These can be written on separate pages, or, as the book suggests, set up as columns in a table as I’ve done here:
I’m resentful at:
||Doesn’t understand me. May be unfaithful. Always wants more $.
||Pride/Self-esteem (fear). Sex relations (fear). Financial security (fear). Personal security (fear).
||Unfair. Punishes me for being successful. Changes the rules every year.
Financial security (fear).
||I can’t stop drinking. I’m losing friends over it yet I still drink. Might lose my job.
||Personal relationships (fear).
Self-esteem (fear). Financial security (fear). Ambitions (fear).
So who’s inventory is this? Anyways?
This should be an inventory of my character defects, not everyone else’s, right? A little further in the book we read “We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future.” We’re directed to refer back to the lists, looking for two things (which will make this our inventory):
1) To see just how much the world and the people in our life dominate us.
Consider how much of our time we spend reacting instead of acting. Contemplate that those people on our list are every bit as human as we are, with problems of their own, and it’s probable that, rather than being out to hurt us, they are reacting out of fear just like we’ve been doing. All of this should lead us to a crucial element of recovery–the first faint feeling of compassion for others.
2) To find our own mistakes.
Forget the other people and what they’ve done. Where had we been acting selfishly, unfairly, dishonestly? Where were we reacting out of fear?
“When we saw our faults, we listed them.” While we’re looking back on the inventory to find our own mistakes (faults), we write them down. This will be our fourth list, the “Faults” list.
Did you notice that ‘fear’ accompanied each of my sample resentments above? While I fabricated those specific examples, fear of one sort or another was behind each item in my real inventory. Which brings us to the fifth part of the inventory, a list of our fears. “We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them.” Write your fears down, along with why you have them. Once we identify our fears, name them, we can begin to deal with them as we see them at work in our daily interactions.
One final list remains now. This sixth list is for our sexual relations, and the routine should be familiar by now: Whom have we hurt? Where had we been selfish, dishonest, inconsiderate? Did we cause jealousy, suspicion or bitterness in the other person, use sex as a weapon? What could we have done instead?
These six lists make up our inventory. When you’re writing, keep it all down to single words or short phrases. This is not the time to write your memoir; the inventory is just a tool to move you toward recovery.
Also, try not to get overly emotional while doing it. Yes, anger and other strong emotions will no doubt come up as you think about it all, but when they do, take a break, go for a walk, eat some chocolate until the feeling subsides.
If you’d like a download-able form to get you started, pay a visit to Heidi’s awesome blog, Good Life, where she has a PDF version available. And check out her thoughts on Step 4 and other topics while you’re there. You’ll be glad you did.
Share your thoughts with us! Do you have misgivings or questions about the inventory, or maybe another format that helped you more than this ‘by-the-book’ method? Let’s talk–leave a comment or send me an e-mail.