Step 4: Column 3 Buddy Burner Gut Ignites

Back to what Bill calls our Grudge List, we are ready for the third column: what happened to us as a result of the perceived or real injuries we’ve listed.

In the first column, we have people, institutions or sayings that made us angry. In the second column, we listed the causes or what sparked our angry reactions.

I’m a Fighter from a long line of Fighters. I don’t know what happens to you when you’re angry but me… I have a little buddy burner that ignites in my gut. Little flame, then bigger fire, followed by an explosion of words!

Anger ignites. No one likes to be around me when I’m angry. 

We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened. ~ Alcoholics Anonymous, p 64

Anger isn’t the only emotion that is stirred by the life-shaping events that make us resentful. Also, look for guilt-inducing episodes and times when you were afraid. While mine mostly fell under the anger inducing category, yours might lean towards the kind of thing that caused great hurt. We’re looking for events that became meaningful because of the trauma.

The third column heading is Affects my:  self-esteem, security, ambitions, personal relationships and sex life.

The AA book was written in the 30s and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions was written in the 50s. What was perfectly clear to Bill and his readers, may no longer be clear to us. I use The Little Big Book Dictionary for clarification.

Self-esteem: a confidence and satisfaction in oneself, generally happy with who I am

Security: feeling of being safe from danger, fear or anxiety

Ambition: a desire for success, achievements or accomplishment of goals

Personal relationships: comfortable with friends, family, co-workers, etc.

Sex relations: prospect of sexual satisfaction

In the third column ask: Is it a threat to my self-esteem? Is it a threat to my security? Is it a threat to my ambition? Is it a threat to my personal relations? Is it a threat to my sex life?

Let’s return to the nerve toy on wheels, my quacking duck, Step 4: Column 1 and Step 4: Column 2. My brother’s being allowed to take my things, and later the lack of communication in our family were the causes of my anger.

In column three I had decided that the greatest areas of my life that were negatively affected were two-fold. The first was self-esteem. I often felt judged by him. When he judged me to be a failure, I believed it. (We’re not concerned in this column that I also judged him and provoked him!)

The second area that was affected was personal relationships. This is part of a whole convoluted pattern. There’s an ‘I’m not talking to you’ pattern in our family that comes from both branches of our family tree and has been re-enacted for generations.  It affected my personal relationships with the whole family. Currently, I do what I can to stop my involvement in that kind of thinking. My brother and I are now on great terms and it’s one of the greatest joys of my life.

Next was my mom telling the OB doctor to “put her back and get a boy for Fuzz (my dad)”. I let this preference for guys over gals affected my self-esteem. I also let it affect my personal relationships. I became competitive with the boys, trying to prove I was worthy. I could out-shoot, out-run, and out-fish most guys. When I drove the little black go-cart around the track better and faster than the kid who owned it, I wasn’t popular. Go figure!

We alcoholics could over-think this process and make most things apply to nearly every one of the 5 areas. For me, it was most valuable to discern the top two or three areas of my life that were majorly affected. Self-esteem is usually right at the top. How we look to ourselves and others is a huge motivator!

When I finished the entire column 3, I made slash marks by each of the 5 topic areas. One slash for each time I’d written the word. From the 2 examples above, I had 2 slashes for self-esteem and two for personal relationships. By tallying them, I found that my self-esteem and personal relationships were by far the top areas of my life that were affected by the things that made me angry.

Those areas called for more reflection.:

  • How had I tried to compensate for feeling low self-esteem?
  • How had I turned to numbing and escapism in an effort to make myself feel better. 
  • What had I done in order to feel better about myself?
  • What compulsions eventually stopped working?
  • What choices did I make because of personal relationship failures?
 PS: I also had the chance to chuck the resentments once and for all. Frankly, after putting all this on paper, most of the resentments look so foolish (my duck) that I could easily let go of them. For the few things that don’t immediately shrink back into perspective and disappear, the Big Book gives us a solution. The solution is removing what blocks us from the Sunlight of the Spirit. The goal of these Steps is to have a personal, spiritual experience. The resulting lightness and freedom are amazing!

 Reminder. The 4th Step Not-So-Scary Inventory Worksheet is below each post, or just click here for printable pdf