Many of us struggle with the idea of examining our character in depth - what horrors might we encounter, down there in the muck and mire of our crazed thinking? When we've been raised in families of dysfunction, we can have a self-image fragile and wobbly; I know I was afraid that I'd find out even worse things about myself than I thought I "knew" already.
What I discovered, was that much of my shame and guilt were assigned, and not deserved: that I had coping mechanisms which got in the way of my having a peaceful and serene life: that I was worthy of love simply for the fact of my existence - I didn't have to "earn" love.
Once I had a reasonable idea of my character, and my presumptions, conclusions, projections and assumptions, many of which I'd been unaware, prior to my first Step Four, my real self-improvement could begin. Without the inventory, I was a woman with no sense of direction, trying to find true north. Before Al-Anon, my deficits infuriated and distressed me, because they seemed to prove my unworthiness. In program I learned that I'm not unworthy, and that my mistakes, if I allow it, can be instructive.
Last night I was gathering the waistband of a dress I'm making, and laughed to realise that I was trying to get the gathers exactly perfectly distributed - unaware, I fall easily back into that lunatic perfectionism first acquired, when shame was a constant companion. I catch myself, because I know now how I operate, and I recognise my patterns of thought.
I know that when I have a sense of irritation rising in my chest as someone gives me feedback about myself, it's because I'm feeling defensive. I only feel defensive when I'm hearing the truth - so now, when I feel that irritation rising in that situation, I take a few deep breaths, and pay attention. My Higher Power is using this person as a conduit to teach me.
I do not have to like the lesson.
I don't float about my life, never feeling sad or bad or pissed right off - life is the way it always was, it's my response which has changed. It's the changed response which leads to serenity and peace.
The only way to a changed response, is to find out what my original response was, and why I had it - for that, I needed and still need, Step Four. I'm not afraid of myself anymore. I can be frustrated with my inability to grasp a message, but even that has paled and faded over time. I ruefully accept that I can be a very slow learner when I'm not thrilled with the reality of "It is what it is" and I can joke of this to my program friends, who will laugh with me, and give examples of their own dragging heels.
Some of the best laughing fits I've ever had, have happened while discussing character defects.
Pray for courage, and plunge into Step Four. Trust long-timers. when we tell you that you will be glad you did. Some things you just have to take on faith - this may be one.