Step 4 Inventory: "Harms Category"

The 12 Steps are the AA program of recovery from alcoholism.

Step 4 Inventory: "Harms Category"

Postby No.3 » Mon Dec 14, 2015 9:46 am

I find that most all fears a person has will show up in the resentment, harms and sex inventories.


In the BB Chapter 5, I see nothing about a Harms Inventory. Resentment, Fears, Sex are separate categories which when 'looked at from a different perspective' reveal harms (Turnaround, "What is my role in this?"etc.) I've examined other, old Inventory Formats have more categories: I've never seen "Harms" listed as a discrete Category in old AA inventory.

We can see where "harm" (an action, not a thing!) is very briefly mentioned - p.69 of the Sex Inventory. Again, I fully understand how harms and hurt are output from whatever broad or narrow categories we chose to inventory, subordinate. Listed in a last column, 'Harms' remain part of, not independent from, the inventories; that makes sense. Of course, there are lots of other 'defect' words mentioned which could also constitute Inventory Categories. "Harms" doesn't fit the bill, however. "Harms" aren't a "cause or condition" of our behavior, harms are the result (our behavior.) Does this not make sense? Do people here generally not or mis-understand this?

Later, we write out Amends (Step 8 ) for any harms in a separate 'To Do' list, if we're following the Steps in the order suggested by the author(s) of the BB. I'm not insisting anyone must do that - you can certainly do whatever you want - but can you explain why to deviate from the instructions here? Thanks!

(I don't know when and where "Harms" became it's own assumed Inventory, but I first heard that nonsense in a Joe&Charlie tape. If there's an older or different source for that confusion, can anyone explain who &why?)
Last edited by No.3 on Mon Dec 14, 2015 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The Group demands total loyalty to the inner group. Some have had to leave the movement because of the Groups' demands which conflict with truth or duty." The Oxford Groups by Herbert H. Henson, 1933, pages 73-74.
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Re: Step 4 Inventory: "Harms Category"

Postby Tosh » Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:22 pm

Okay, I'll take this one on, and I'll be happy to be shown I (and my sponsor) did it 'incorrectly', but before I dig out my Step 4 sheets (and I have two harm inventories; Harms and Sexual Harms (those I harmed with my use of sex); I think on of the insights I received from doing my Step 4 was how my self centredness negatively affected me (I don't include selfishness because that emanates from self centredness; this is the real root of all our troubles).
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)
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Where did you see/read about the "Harms Category"?

Postby No.3 » Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:38 pm

Tosh wrote:Okay, I'll take this one on, and I'll be happy to be shown I (and my sponsor) did it 'incorrectly'

Did what "incorrectly" Tosh? Sobriety?! If you're an alkie who's stayed sober (physically,emotionally,spiritually) after having had a spiritual awakening, you did it right ... that's readily inferred from the BB, anyway.

"Harms" and "Sexual Harms" are separate inventories in the 4th? Hmm. o.k. I'll reiterate my obvious point: anyone can do whatever s/he wants, but that's still not described in the BB. Nor are either/both those discrete Categories in any other old inventory formats I've seen.

I'm curious what you did though, and who started that? Although I scrupulously follow the BB inventory instructions as illustrations, I also encourage my own sponsees to consider Bill's 12-Category Inventory for his spons Ebby T. If it worked for Bill in 1934, why wouldn't it work for us in 2015?
"The Group demands total loyalty to the inner group. Some have had to leave the movement because of the Groups' demands which conflict with truth or duty." The Oxford Groups by Herbert H. Henson, 1933, pages 73-74.
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Re: Step 4 Inventory: "Harms Category"

Postby Tosh » Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:43 pm

No3, I put my 'incorrectly' in apostrophes to show that I don't really think I really did it 'incorrectly'.

But you're correct; I can't find anything that says we do a 'harms inventory', though I reckon there's enough in there to do a sexual harms inventory.

Here's the full instructions and I'll highlight the stuff that I think says we do a sexual harms inventory:

Now about sex. Many of needed an overhauling there. But above all, we tried to be sensible on this question. It's so easy to get way off the track. Here we find human opinions running to extremes--absurd extremes, perhaps. One set of voices cry that sex is a lust of our lower nature, a base necessity of procreation. Then we have the voices who cry for sex and more sex; who bewail the institution of marriage; who think that most of the troubles of the race are traceable to sex causes. They think we do not have enough of it, or that it isn't the right kind. They see its significance everywhere. One school would allow man no flavor for his fare and the other would have us all on a straight pepper diet. We want to stay out of this controversy. We do not want to be the arbiter of anyone's sex conduct. We all have sex problems. We'd hardly be human if we didn't. What can we do about them?

We reviewed our own conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it.

In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life. We subjected each relation to this test--was it selfish or not? We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed.

Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it. We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still more harm in so doing. In other words, we treat sex as we would any other problem. in meditation, we ask God what we should do about each specific matter. The right answer will come, if we want it.

God alone can judge our sex situation. Counsel with persons is often desirable, but we let God be the final judge. We realize that some people are as fanatical about sex as others are loose. We avoid hysterical thinking or advice.

Suppose we fall short of the chosen ideal and stumble? Does this mean we are going to get drunk? Some people tell us so. But this is only a half-truth. It depends on us and on our motives. If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson. If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink. We are not theorizing. These are facts out of our experience.

To sum up about sex: We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right thing. If sex is very troublesome, we throw ourselves the harder into helping others. We think of their needs and work for them. This takes us out of ourselves. It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield would mean heartache.


But in looking at my own harms inventory, I've stuff on there that may not have come out in a Resentment, Fears, or Sexual Harms inventory, such as not paying child maintenance (which harmed my ex-wife and two kids), or how I harmed my mother by just 'being me'.

Sure, their names may have appeared on my Step 8 list, but thinking about how these harms affected me was a useful process and just added more weight to the realisation that my self centredness really is the root of all my troubles. Also, knowing - SPECIFICALLY - how I'd harmed each person made making amends a lot clearer, as in I was clear in my mind what I was making amends for.

I think I'll still carry on showing the guys I work with how I did my inventories; though I will point out that it's not exactly Big Book.
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)
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Spinoff Topic? "SEX IDEAL"

Postby No.3 » Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:56 pm

Tosh wrote:
In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life. We subjected each relation to this test--was it selfish or not? We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them.



I'm not sure I'm following you, Tosh. Specifically, that last red bit. Are you conflating our future sex relations - as we define our Present-Future Sex Ideal - with our past conduct? That's certainly inconsistent with what Bill W. did, or intended. The next paragraphs answered Hank P.'s questions about future "Sexual Relapse" - YES, that's actually what they called it.

I have sponsees write out (define) their future Sex Ideal... then hold themselves accountable, get honest w/others, and revisit with the spons periodically. That's how the BB instructions read to me.

The "Sex Ideal" is another, and and a very different, subject though. It's not past Harms, Sexual or otherwise.
Last edited by No.3 on Mon Dec 14, 2015 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The Group demands total loyalty to the inner group. Some have had to leave the movement because of the Groups' demands which conflict with truth or duty." The Oxford Groups by Herbert H. Henson, 1933, pages 73-74.
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Re: Spinoff Topic? "SEX IDEAL"

Postby Tosh » Mon Dec 14, 2015 4:01 pm

No.3 wrote:Are you conflating our future sex relations - as we define our Present-Future Sex Ideal - with our past conduct?


Yes I am; apologies.
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)
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Re: Step 4 Inventory: "Harms Category"

Postby dave lynne » Sat May 28, 2016 2:13 pm

I'm a little confuse with the harms sheet as the BB is not very clear what constitutes harms
the obvious is stealing and phyisical harm.
But regarding emotional, mental cruelty and what impact you had on people in your past it seem to me guess work !
I never got marriaged, did not have children that leaves my mum, my sisters ( my dad died years ago)in fact at 54 most of my realitives are dead that counted (grandma's granddad's).
I lost the love of my life Lynne to cancer in 2010 and with lynne help and AA I had three and a half years sobriety (walk awayy from AA after 18 months(self will run riot, I was FIXED).
Up to this point I had always gone for causual relationships and as soon as there was an attempt
to change me( you Know commitment) I was heading for the door!!!(Me , Myself and I).
In fact
I realised along time ago relationships of any kind take work,comitment(varying degrees) time and Energy.
I now know today this is because off trust.
I could Never trust anyone because I could not trust myself.
I Now know this is because I am alcoholic with all the issum's( I personal think it in my Jeans,but today it not relevant, I just accept it and have hope that I can heal with what suggested and working the program of 12/12
My Grand Mother Try to Help me in my late Twenties, she told me some people should not drink
Because they are allergic to alcohol(my Grandfather died in 1982 of cancer, I found out a few years back, that my grandfarther was a functioning alcoholic and a bully. he was partly responsibly for my farther's inabillity to cope with life on life terms. seems there a pattern but I am trying to avoid Blame but that what I've done all my life: blame others, blame me).
I'm still not very trusting. I am just finishing step 4 Harms and realised through writing this blog
the Harms I done others is due to inability to trust myself frirst or the flip side: I can always trust myself to destroy what good in my life.

Please Reply Any advice is greatfuly welcome.
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Re: Step 4 Inventory: "Harms Category"

Postby Brock » Sat May 28, 2016 3:24 pm

Welcome here Dave.

Personally I found the harms section a little difficult myself, I included just like you are thinking every girl I walked away from when things got too serious for my taste. I didn't settle down until I was over forty, and thought I had harmed many people, then I didn't do this step until about six years ago when I was over sixty.

I got a sponsor just for the fifth step, and he pointed out that he felt I was being way too hard on myself, in retrospect I would have been better off having a sponsor when I was writing the forth, I wouldn't have put down much of the stuff I did.

The main thing I have learned, both from doing the step and practicing the program for a few years, is that we alcoholics do tend to be too hard on ourselves. I expect others may give better advise, it's not that easy however, because I believe we must each let our conscience be our guide, but keep in mind that everybody makes mistakes and sometimes hurt others, it's part of life, go easy on yourself and best of luck.
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Re: Step 4 Inventory: "Harms Category"

Postby ezdzit247 » Sat May 28, 2016 3:33 pm

Hi Dave and welcome.

So sorry for your loss and so glad you made it back to AA!

My ESH is that I did my first 4th Step after reading Bill's directions in the BB, I didn't do a "harms inventory" when I worked that Step. When I completed Steps 5, 6, 7 and got to Step 8, I did make a list of all the persons I had harmed, again--according Bill's directions for this Step in the BB, and became willing to make amends. I guess it all depends on whose directions we follow for the 4th Step. I don't think there's really any wrong way to do a 4th Step, but--and this is just my opinion--I do think combining Steps 4 & 8 is a bit much and can't be nearly as productive or effective as working each Step, one at a time, in the order Bill wrote them. I've done many 4th Steps over the years and each time I go through the process, I've been able to dig a little deeper, remember more things I'd forgotten, and each time more has been revealed to help me learn and grow. Hope that helps.

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Re: Step 4 Inventory: "Harms Category"

Postby Brock » Sat May 28, 2016 5:09 pm

I guess it all depends on whose directions we follow for the 4th Step.


Big Book step 4 -
We reviewed our own conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it.

This is especially relevant in the sexual harms section which we were talking about, and most posters here report that a sponsor should assist in writing a list of people he believes we should make amends to, based on what he hears in the fifth, if we don't write it in the fourth they won't hear it.
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Re: Step 4 Inventory: "Harms Category"

Postby Reborn » Sun May 29, 2016 10:36 am

The Big Book describes how we do a 4th step on pages 64-71. It is very important to be completely thorough and honest in the 4th step. We have to be prepared to look at the wrong doing of others "fancied or real" in a completely different light. Before I did a 4th step I had my "ideas" of what happened...doing a harms list (where was I selfish, self-seeking, dishonest and affraid) helped me see the reality of what happened and how I played a part in all of it. The harms list is the most important part of the 4th step...it shows us what we were responsible for and how our selfish behavior played out in our life. We also find for the most part our character defects writing the harms list...I'll give you a hint they all come from EGO.
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Re: Step 4 Inventory: "Harms Category"

Postby Patsy© » Thu Jun 02, 2016 5:03 pm

Reborn wrote:The Big Book describes how we do a 4th step on pages 64-71. It is very important to be completely thorough and honest in the 4th step. We have to be prepared to look at the wrong doing of others "fancied or real" in a completely different light. Before I did a 4th step I had my "ideas" of what happened...doing a harms list (where was I selfish, self-seeking, dishonest and affraid) helped me see the reality of what happened and how I played a part in all of it. The harms list is the most important part of the 4th step...it shows us what we were responsible for and how our selfish behavior played out in our life. We also find for the most part our character defects writing the harms list...I'll give you a hint they all come from EGO.


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