Step Four: Analyzing our resentments

Weanalyzed our resentments.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 70)


You have possibly heard someone say, “Utilize, don’t analyze!”, then play (or continue) on a bit of general ignorance or misunderstanding and cutely warn against some kind of so-called “Analysis Paralysis”.  Be assured and do not be dumbed down: Analyzing anger and resentment in relation to ourselves (or vice-versa) is not going to paralyze anyone.  In fact, the analysis we do in Step Four is quite essential if we are to recover from the troubles that have been killing us.  And as long as we are cautioning you about that “Utilize, don’t analyze!” bit of mis-direction, we would also warn you about its accompanying idea of “working the Steps” in any kind of utilitarian way as opposed to “Here are the Steps we took” (page 59) to have our problem solved for us (page 45).  A skilled potter might “work” a lump of clay into a useable vessel or a blacksmith might “work” a piece of iron into a new horseshoe, but we are not craftsmen “working” ourselves or anything else into anything.  Rather, we are simply “taking the Steps” so the Creator of all both can and will do His own kind of work both within and through us.  Remember:

“God, I offer myself to Thee – to [‘work’] me and to do with me as Thou wilt…”
(“A.A.”, page 63, Step Three)

“…’Of myself I am nothing, the Father doeth the works’…”
(“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”, Step Seven)

Shall we proceed?

“When we were finished (setting our resentments on paper) we considered it carefully.  The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong.” (pages 65-66)

Step Four is not about judging others, so it is fine if you might not fully agree “that this world and its people were often quite wrong.”  The primary point in all of this is related to our having natural instincts and desires (see Column Three) this world and its people (listed in Column One) do not always satisfy (as apparent in Column Two), and that we need a new manner of living (something other than self-reliance or self-sufficiency) for dealing with that kind of circumstantial deficiency (unsatisfied instincts and desires) in our lives.  Or to word all of this in another way:

“In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper…
“…The first thing apparent was that this world and its people [often do not satisfy (and sometimes even greatly harm) our natural instincts and desires].”

Then next:

“To conclude that others were wrong (or occasionally fell short in relation to satisfactions of our natural instincts and desires) was as far as most of us ever got.  The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore.” (page 66)

There is where our anger over frustrated instincts and desires can produce resentment (where we re-hash, re-think or re-feel the actions of others) deep within us.  Even if we are not consciously demanding great things from anyone, we still hurt or “feel it” and seek relief whenever our natural instincts and desires are not satisfied.

“Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves.”

Sometimes we realize we are at least partly at fault when other people do not treat us properly or respond to us as well as they should…

“But the more we fought and tried to have (our natural instincts and desires met in) our own way, the worse matters got.  As in war, the victor only seemed to win.  Our moments of triumph were short-lived.” (page 65-66)

Is all of this making some sense?  We need other people in our lives so we can feel safe, secure and satisfied, but other people do not always do as they should.  We typically become upset about that and try even harder to make things better for ourselves…

“Is s/he not a victim of the delusion that s/he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if s/he only manages well?” (page 61)

…then ultimately end up even more upset and eventually find ourselves in great need of learning this:

“It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness.”

For many of us, anger and resentment have been driving forces in our lives, but now we can see this in relation to that as first encountered at Step One:

“Our human resources, as marshalled by the will, were not sufficient (for satisfactions of our natural instincts and desires); they failed utterly.
“Lack of power, that was our dilemma.  We had to find a power (and a manner of living) by which we could live, and it had to be a Power (offering a manner of living) greater than ourselves (or greater than any form of our past self-reliance).” (page 45)

So overall here in Step Four:

“To the precise extent that we permit (anger and resentment to drive or determine our thinking and actions in life), do we squander the hours that might have been worth while…(and) shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit…
“If we were to live, we had to be free of anger…
“We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future.” (page 66)


One thought on “Step Four: Analyzing our resentments

  1. Dollyk

    Taking step four and I have as thoroughly as possible completed the first three columns. I’ve listened to Joe and Charlie step audios and read the detailed information here, and of course the Big Book. The 12 steps and twelve traditions book is also so helpful… Dolly

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