Spring Cleaning: An Inside Job

As the title suggests, we are going to be examining one of the key elements to ensuring our ongoing and continual growth while in recovery. As is often the case, there isn’t a particular style of personal inventory that lays out perfectly, and specifically, how exactly to engage with this particular tool. Let’s take a look at, specifically, we are trying to accomplish psychologically and emotionally through the work in a personal inventory. The first category of great importance is that of resentments. Resentments are often the key offender in relapses and this is due to negative energy that is stored within our psyches; it was transformed from anger into a more “manageable” state of resentment. In other words, we are able to take our anger and frustration, put it in a secret compartment in the back of our brain, and try and hide it there for as long as possible. As we learned in the 1st law of thermodynamics, energy cannot be created or destroyed but can only be transferred. This is helpful in the context of psychic energy because this is what we do when we compartmentalize and suppress our anger. “What resists, persists” is another adage we’ve heard from time to time and it illustrates this point. If we do not work to identify our resentments at people, places, and institutions, we will never be able to rid ourselves of this negative emotion and energy and that can affect our sobriety in a substantial way.


Secondly, within our personal inventories, we want to try and identify maladaptive patterns of thinking and behavior. While 12-step programs often refer to this as “character defects”, this is an incomplete way of looking at the issue. Character defects implies that something is intrinsically broken and that is not the case. If we want to establish patterns of behavior that are effective, and that also acknowledge the moral and ethical issues that are inherent to daily life, we need to be able to view these defects as malleable, and with the ability to be changed. The key element to any productive inventory lies in our capacity for being honest with ourselves. These exercises will only work to the extent that we are willing to look at ourselves with clarity, adopt humility, and then engage in actions that will, over time, lead to less resentments and also to the restructuring of our perspectives so that we may begin to adopt new patterns of action that will ultimately facilitate the “software update” that so necessary to long-term sobriety.

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