AA speaker Dr. Mike presents a Big Book study podcast and thoughts on recovery

Thoughts on Recovery – No. 35 – Step 4 – Self-will and how it relates to Step 4

Before I get into the specifics of step 4 I want to look at what is self-will . Why? Step 4 is where I take a truthful inventory of myself. It is a process to look at my thinking based on a life based on self will rather than God’s will.

We are supposed to take stock of our life. The first thing they suggest is I search out the flaws in my personality which caused my failure. The flaws are a result of self will and step 4 is an inventory of the common manifestations of a life run on self will.

So what is self – will? You hear it talked about all the time at meetings. Why is it harmful?

On the site under resources on recovery is a handout on what makes up self will. There is a circle in the center which has self inside of it. There is above it the three instincts of life that make up self. They are God given and necessary for survival of the human race. They are social, security and sex instinct. The social instinct is composed of companionship, prestige, self-esteem, pride, personal relationships,and ambition.  The security instinct includes material, emotional, and ambitions for me to feel secure. The third instinct is the sex instinct and is how we use this instinct. Do we use it selfishly to satisfy the other instincts or to dominate or manipulate?

If I am running my life and centered on me and what I think I need to be ok in any area of my life, my instincts are constantly being threatened. For example, if I decide what I need to satisfy my material instinct if anything threatens my money, job , or material goals I get threatened and either afraid or angry. I become dependent on satisfaction of my instincts at the level I determine to feel good. Unfortunately they are never satisfied. I always want more it is never enough. The alcoholic never gets enough.

The problem is I am self -will run riot! Trying to manage my life to satisfy these instincts to the level I think I need I never get enough to be ok. I am in constant fear of not getting what I want, they will take away what I have, or I will be found out about how I was dishonest to get what I wanted. My instincts are constantly being threatened and I am angry all the time. To satisfy these instincts I will take actions that cause harm to me and others.

So the manifestations of a life of self-will are resentment, fear, and shame and guilt from harmful action. The wrongs are wrong thinking which results in wrong actions.. Resentment is wrong judgement, fear is wrong belief, and harms are wrong conduct toward ourselves or others.

In step 4 we inventory the wrongs above and work through the process to see how self centered thinking triggers our character defects . Then we know the exact nature of our wrongs to work step 6 and 7. We make a list of those we have harmed and use that information to work steps 8 and 9. In the next thoughts I will look in detail at the instructions and prayers in this vital step.


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