Step 4: Fear Inventory

Don't tread on me

I thought I was unique until I began to go to AA meetings and heard around the tables the same fears and worries that I had. It’s just another reason I immediately felt at home in AA…so safe and understood.

This short word (fear) somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. ~ Alcoholics Anonymous, 2012, p 67

Using the same approach we used for resentments, we are now going to list our fears.

Not-So-Scary Fears Inventory Worksheet link

My best friend’s father once said to me, “Why, I never knew anyone who was so afraid of everything!”

Who or What I’m afraid of? On the left-hand side of the Not So Scary Fears Worksheet of Step 4 (see sidebar for Not So Scary Resentment Inventory worksheet also) we write down the people, institutions, and principles we feared. We experience in this activity some of the same revelations that we discovered in the resentments inventory, beginning with the discovery that there are more fears to list than we realize. 

 (link to Not-So-Scary Resentments Worksheet) 

We ask ourselves: 

What Am I Afraid Of?  Column 1 

Ex: spouse, partner, children, church, organizations, IRS

What I’m Afraid Might Happen? Column 2

We ask ourselves: Am I afraid of losing something? (relationship, marriage, family, job) Is there a consequence I fear from one of my past actions? (jail, fines, public humiliation) What are the things that crowd into my head when I try to sleep? Most fears center around losing what I have; not being able to get what I want, or consequences of past behaviors and what they’re going to do when they catch us.

Part of Self Affected? Column 3

Choose from: Self-esteem, Security, Ambitions, Personal Relations or Sex Relations.

When any one of these areas of life is threatened, we experience fear. Finally, we can see where our fear comes from. Just getting it out on paper helps.

What Did I Do?

We ask ourselves: How did I set this problem in motion?. As Charlie McQ says, Fear is incorrect believing. Our fears started as true but over time, we’ve distorted them. We’ve transferred the blame to others. Can you find something you did to set the fear cycle in motion for each item on your list; or are there items where you feel completely innocent and baffled?

Now it’s time for the same process that we used in removing difficult resentments. While we are feeling like the victim of random fears that run in circles in our minds, we’re most often, in reality, the one that began the fear producing cycle.

Simple Character Defects: Selfish & Self-Seeking, Fearful, Dishonest, or Inconsiderate

We ask ourselves: Was I selfish in this instance? (because I was afraid of losing something or not getting something I wanted?) Was I self-seeking? (Was I inconsiderate of others; wanting what I wanted when I wanted it)Was I dishonest? (Did I take things that belonged to others? Did the drive to be successful cause me to be dishonest?) Was I afraid of something? (trying to avoid or control?) Was I dishonest with myself or others? (denying reality or avoiding responsibility?) Was I inconsiderate?

Summary: Just as resentments create a block between us and God, fear also blocks the sunlight of the Spirit.

If my spiritual life is in order, you can do just about anything to me and I will not react with resentment or fear; but if it is blocked, I’m going to experience the negative consequences of resentments and fear. If blocked, I will do things that damage my relationships and my life becomes riddled with fear.

You will find a lot of the same people and names on this fear inventory that you already listed on the resentment inventory. If you think resentments looked stupid once you had them down on paper, wait until you set the fears on paper. They really do look ridiculous. Just as with resentments, they look so dumb that 95% of them will disappear once they are written out.

For the few stubborn fears that are left, there is the second Step 4 prayer.

We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.” ~ Alcoholics Anonymous, 2012, p 68

Some say faith and courage are opposites of fear. As we become willing to remove the fear by taking this step, God fills us with courage and our faith grows.

We can use fear, however, to rationalize and justify. Fear of failure, hard work, and criticism will keep us from the things God would have us do. Those things that bring us the greatest pleasure may never happen if we refuse to let God remove the fears. While we remain fearful, we have an excuse. Again, read the following from the Big Book.

It (fear) set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling? ~ Alcoholics Anonymous, 2012, p 68

Here’s an example from my little life. When you see the picture, you’ll understand.