Step Four: Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

I wanted to write about my “character defects.”  When we did the confession in Church I thought I could own some things.  I think about hardening my heart or closing my heart against God.  But I have good reason to do that.  Of course I would protect my heart against the “capricious, malicious and willful” God.  I am desperately willing and eager to hear the Voice of the real God, Creative Power of the Universe, and it happens so rarely.  Perhaps I’m too eager?  But that’s a problem for parents and boyfriends, not for God, surely, whose “no matter what” love is always coming toward me.  When I can’t hear or feel Divine Presence — suddenly she’s right behind me now, her hands holding my shoulders, sending me a wave of warmth and love — it’s because I have so much trouble trusting, especially Higher Power, because my deepest understanding of Higher Power is based on my untrustworthy parents.  I’m not trying to blame them to get myself off the hook.  I’m just trying to understand how early experiences have shaped my expectations — and my expectations either bring what they expect, or only let me see what I expect.  I think of the trip with Ricky where the people I was comfortable with were always leaving, and I would feel the pain of abandonment and not look forward to the “next friend.”  It was years later that I saw that “next friends” kept showing up.  Far from using my parents as an excuse, I have struggled “unrelentingly” to change those things about me that darken and restrict my life.  One is my unwillingness to inflict my ugly and depressed self on anyone else.  This causes me to hold back, isolate, and not ask for help.  I’m working on the “asking for help” piece because I see how much I need it, and I also have some experiences of people being delighted to help me.

One of the “character defects” that comes to mind is spilling food on people’s furniture and failing to notice it or apologize.  I think of myself as a perfectionist who would never make a mistake, but there are a number of times when I have inconvenienced people, and not only did I not apologize, I didn’t even  notice that I’d done it.  I can see the cause, mother’s inability to forgive or accept amends, so I don’t beat myself up about it, but I still feel badly that I was so unconscious and and also lacking in self-knowledge.

I was thinking recently about character defects and hating myself, and wanted to write down why it makes sense to hate me, and I couldn’t think of a thing.  That was an odd — “slap in the face” are the words that come — but it was more in the nature of a wake-up call.  I thought of selfish, but I don’t really believe I’m selfish any more.  I’m beginning to see my enormous generosity — building and endowing Neskaya, large sums of money donated to good causes, helping my friends financially — “selfish” and “stingy” are things my mother called me or implied that I was, but she’s the one who was selfish and stingy.

I think about the labels I have for myself: “doesn’t deserve to be alive,” “worthless and rotten and should be dead,” although I don’t think them in those words, it’s just a felt sense that I’m trying to verbalize.  I see now that they aren’t “character defects” at all, they are judgements. and they are not things I can change by effort.  Either they are true or not true.  Another thing is that when I am doing something like teach dance or make art, the question of “deserving to live” just disappears, I don’t even say “I deserve to live.”  It’s meaningless.  I’m here.  Whether or not I deserve to live has nothing to do with that.  I also see that those “judgements” reflect how I was treated as a baby.  I was treated as though my needs were unimportant, my cries for help were often unanswered, I never felt loved and cherished.

I see that “too quick to make judgements” both of myself and of others is a character defect and I’ve been working hard to change it.  I think of a number of people who have told me that I’m their only friend that doesn’t judge them, and I’m always surprised to hear that.

Any other real character defects?  I have a tendency to judge myself as “lazy,” to say I haven’t done anything, and other people have pointed out that I’ve done a lot, and don’t value what I do. Then there’s pushing myself instead of taking care of myself.  That’s also something I’m working on, because it can be tricky to discern whether or not something I want to do, or something I think I “should” do, is draining myself too much.  There are times when I want to do something and simply don’t have the energy.  The things I think I should do, rather than want to do, are probably — surely — applying someone else’s judgement not my own.  I am working to get this very tricky balance and it’s a body feeling, a sort of IRNK inside me, that lets me know that something isn’t right.

“Character defects” is wording used by AA.  For myself, and I think mostly for other people, including alcoholics, what we are calling “character defects” are not inborn defects, but dysfunctional behaviors learned from dysfunctional parents and a dysfunctional culture.

“Unrelentingly” is a word my therapist used to describe my pursuit of healing.

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