The fourth step inventory is one of the most well-known steps in the 12 step program. The 12 step program uses simple steps to help addicts recover. Each one provides a recovering addict with a new way of looking at life. It is very progressive. It looks at the person as an individual that is made up of parts. It provides a way for a person struggling with addiction to sort out their thoughts. It also helps one find more authentic happiness.
The fourth step inventory is a great example of how one can use positive psychology in addiction recovery. The science of positive psychology is amazing for addicts because it helps them dive deep into their feelings. This can be really hard to do without guidelines. Before we talk about the application of positive psychology, let’s take a look at the fourth step.
A Note of Meaningful Life Experiences
The fourth step, as written in Twelve Steps and Traditions is “making a searching and fearless moral inventory of oneself.” You take three aspects of life and comment on how they affect who you are. The seven parts of self that are focused on in step four are self-esteem, pride, emotional security, finances, ambitions, relationships and sexual relationships. The three aspects of life that are examined include resentments, fears and sexual conduct.
You begin with writing down your resentments. These can be places, people, things, ideas or concepts that you feel hurt or threatened by. You identify these resentments and think about how they have turned into meaningful life characteristics. Maybe you have resentment towards a parent.
How has this affected your self-esteem, pride, and relationships? How has this contributed to your abuse or addiction? How has this taken away from your character strengths?
Next, you write down your fears. You also write down a possible cause of why you have these fears. This could be anything from fear of alcohol to fear of change. It’s important to be honest about these fears so you can later feel the positive psychology of fear.
Think about the times when you have turned to drugs to cope with fear. Make a note of how that has affected your seven parts of self. Sometimes our fears blind us from what makes life worth living. Getting them out onto paper is a relief.
Sexual Conduct and Harm Done to Others
After listing fears, you list out sexual misconduct and harm done to others. You will think about what happened in each instance and how it made you feel to go through each instance. This can be uncomfortable, but in the end, you will feel positive emotion for accepting what has happened.
Human functioning can be so hard when guilt gets in the way. Happy people take the time to rid themselves of guilt by accepting what has happened.
What on Earth is Positive Psychology?
Martin Seligman founded positive psychology when he became president of the American Psychological Association. At the time, this field of psychology was new. It was seen as a visionary new understanding of Carl Rogers’ Humanistic psychology, which focuses on personal growth through therapy. It also focuses on people with mental illness more as individuals. It looks more at each happy person rather than happy people as a whole. The idea of focussing on the individual gives patients a more personal sense of wellbeing.
Positive psychologists focus on what makes life most worth living. Rather than focusing on being upset about bad things, positive psychology focuses on using positive human emotion to react from bad experiences. The application of positive psychology to recovery is very effective. Having an understanding of happiness after going through negative experiences is extremely helpful.
Positive psychologists use character strengths and virtues to report on someone’s personality. These character strengths and virtues are wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. This break down makes it easier for people to understand how they can be a happy person.
The best thing about positive psychology is that it can be used anywhere, not just in clinical psychology. It is a mindset. It is the simple idea of valuing the things that make us feel good. This paves the way for personal growth through the recognition of our own personal strengths.
Positive Emotional Responses to Negative Things
When we have a good understanding of sadness and pain, we have a better understanding of happiness. It may seem negative to list out the things that you don’t like about yourself or to list the people who have really hurt you. In reality, this is the best thing you can do because it then makes you think about the things you love. That is the main point of positive psychology.
It is important to list out how you may have been at fault in each bad situation. When we think about what we resent, we learn to cherish more the things that we love. When we think about what we fear, we think about how that fear can help us. When we think about our sense of pain, we think about our sense of wellbeing. When we think about our faults, we think about our personal strengths.
Think about a time where you used alcohol or drugs because you could not cope with your feelings. Now, think about how that made you feel. Now imagine writing about what hurt you. Imagine thinking more about the reason is hurt you before using. That is what the fourth step teaches you. It helps you to look towards positive human nature when solving problems.
The Science of Happiness Hidden in the Fourth Step
As mentioned, positive psychologists focus on the things in life that contribute to our authentic happiness. It can be hard sometimes to understand what makes us happier and what makes us upset. When substance abuse is added to this confusion, things get hard. It is natural for humans to forget to stop and think about their life on a deeper level.
Chances are, addiction comes with mental illness that can cause some pretty low self-esteem. Being so addicted to something that is bad for you can make you question if life is worth living. It can make you question your personal growth and your personal strengths.
The fourth step inventory is a reminder of how many amazing things you have in your life that you may have forgotten to recognize. You may have overlooked how awesome certain things are during your struggle with abuse or addiction. The fourth step inventory reminds you of the parts of your life that make it worth living. It also reminds you of the things you need to improve on for a better sense of well being.
Character Strengths After The Fourth Step
So, there you have it. There are many types of therapy, but this kind of self-therapy is the most simple. Through this fourth step and the study of positive psychology, a person struggling with mental illness is able to open their mind to the things they value most in life. They can use this understanding of happiness to fuel their recovery.
The best part of this inventory is that it can always be used. You don’t have to be going through an addiction. If you’re feeling mentally unwell, you can use this idea of writing about yourself to feel better. You can truly feel a difference in your mindset about life after you take the time to look at what could take away from your happiness and well being.
Make sure to spread this method to others. Positive human interaction will benefit you. Now that you have gained insight into the science of happiness, why not help others? Authentic happiness only increases when it is shared.