The 12 Steps for Everyone- Step 4 & Step 5

This week we are discussing the 12 Steps of recovery...  You might be saying to yourself "But I don't have an addiction, so this doesn't apply!"  We encourage you to change your perspective on this!  So far this week, we have discussed Steps 1-3, and how they can apply to almost any difficult situation we face in everyday life-- not just with addictions.  The 12 Steps are about finding Peace-- with God (or your higher power), with yourself, and with others.  Considering how fast paced our lives can sometimes be in today's world, I think most of us could use some guidance or gentle reminders on how to have more peaceful lives!  Today we will discuss Steps 4 and 5. Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

This step is about self-examination.  It's easy to become defensive and blaming when thinking about the problems in our life.  This defensive and blaming stance can easily ruin our relationships with others, and cause us to become stagnant in our self-growth, while remaining unhappy in a situation.  This step is about shifting the focus from how your life has been impacted by others to how you are contributing to your own issues (and hurting the people around you).  Blame is such a powerful defense mechanism that keeps us from being able to see ourselves and how we hurt the ones we love.  And it's usually based in fear.  It can be scary to look at our own flaws, but we are all human and have weaknesses-- we aren't perfect!  This doesn't have to be something devastatingly huge-- it could be a personal habit like being habitually late, not being a good listener, or being naturally critical, judgmental or pessimistic.  If we can't take an inventory of our weaknesses and flaws, we continue to hurt ourselves and others.  This step is about looking in the mirror and walking 360 degrees around yourself and your issues... If you can see yourself from all angles, including your blind spots, you can figure out the things you need to improve.  This removes our "blinders" and promotes healing and growth. We can't change what we aren't aware of!

Step 5:  Admitted to God (or your higher power), to ourselves , and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

When we do things (knowingly or unknowingly) that hurt other people, we can carry around toxic guilt and shame from our wrongdoings.  Many people live years and years of their lives without ever admitting their fault in how they might have hurt others (and themselves).  This could range anywhere from lies, secrets or secretive behavior, cheating, to physical harm to others.  This breeds toxic feelings and behaviors (specifically unhealthy anger/rage or bitterness) because they are internalizing their shame (and denying their true feelings), while pretending to be okay on the outside.  It's much like keeping an unhealthy secret-- over time, it wears us down and impacts all aspects of our lives.  People can't fully be in a relationship with you if they don't really know you.  And people won't want to get close to you if you are bitter, cynical and angry.  Plus, keeping secrets eventually becomes exhausting!  Step 5 is about the discipline of confession-- not confession of a religious nature, but rather "coming clean" with the truth of who we are, our true feelings, and how we have been hurtful.  The saying "The truth shall set you free" is so accurate!  There is so much emotional freedom in admitting to yourself, to God and to others, who you really are (warts and all), and no longer "hiding" your "self" or keeping secrets.  This step also paves the way to achieve forgiveness, which we will discuss later next week.

Did you recognize any areas this week where the 12 Steps might be helpful for you in your life?  We hope so!  Check back with us next week, where we will continue to discuss steps 6 through 12.  We hope you are having a peaceful week!  As always, thank you for joining us....

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.