Step Ten is not about maintenance, because there is a rule in our universe that nothing ever stays the same. All living matter is either in a process of growing or in the process of regressing. Up until now, if you followed the first nine steps with an honest heart and the direction of a Higher Power, you will have grown considerably. If you do not keep growing, you will start sliding back into your old behavior patterns and ways of thinking. As you may now realize, spiritual growth is an experience so precious and valuable. As with the preceding nine steps, the Tenth Step is one more power-tool to help you succeed during the day.
Step Nine is no different than the other steps, and it reminds you once again, that you cannot overcome personal difficulty alone. You have prayer as your constant companion to get you through. You pray for the willingness to be willing, whenever you find yourself not willing to take the next right action. If you have people on your list where there has been, or still is, mutual harm being done, you may have difficulty with this step. There may be people on your list for whom you do not feel it necessary to make amends. You may simply not want to.
Step Eight is about unfinished business. This step sets the stage for you to relate to yourself and others in a new way. The first order of business here is to define “harm” and “amends”. Harm includes the following: damage, impairment, wound, injury, trauma, and change for the worse, any act of sexual abuse, incest, physical injury, and psychological harm, financial or emotional damage. It is the act of spoiling something, or damaging someone. If you committed harm the way to restore the balance is to make an amends. Amends includes a verbal acknowledgement of what was done, accompanied by a change in behavior. The change in behavior should mirror the opposite of the harm done.
Step Seven is about humility (realistic, selfless, and modest) and asking for help to make the changes you are now prepared for. Consider Step Seven as a portal into openness for change. Once you take Step Seven, you step out of the way so your Higher Power can handle the rest of it. The combination of humility and asking provides a survivor with a perspective beyond the traumatic events. Sadly, you can form an inaccurate perspective based on how you internalized the traumatic event(s). Through prayer (humbly asking), you can trust that your prayers are heard, shall be answered in God’s time only.
When I first attempted this step, I had two immediate thoughts: 1) How and why would my Higher Power “remove” anything from me, and 2) What would I feel like if I were “entirely ready” to give up all my “defects”? I felt that if I would attempt this step, I would allow something extreme in my life, and this seemed intimidating. My fear was that Step Six meant I would have to open up in a way that felt unnatural to me. Frankly, I did not want to let go of what I thought would have to be too much, too fast, or parting from my vital survival skills. Taking this step did not seem at all appealing to me. The way I processed my fears was by asking which parts of me I thought would be removed, and was I afraid of having to live a life without these very necessary parts of myself. My fear was that this meant I had to become someone fundamentally different from my basic personality and nature. This was because I believed that I was defective, and who I was must be problematic. This too, is another tragic result of trauma and victimization. It is not the intent of Step Six at all.
At first glance, you may feel absolutely resistant when you look at this step. How can I let someone find out about me? You may feel fear, dread, anticipation of rejection and humiliation if anyone knows of your past or “secrets”. Perhaps you may feel knots and tangles in your body with no vision or understanding as to how to “untangle” those knots. “Fearlessly” writing an inventory takes enough energy, and trips your trigger wires badly enough – now you have to actually share this with someone. When I got ready to share my inventory with my beloved therapist, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that this process became the validation I had always longed for.
Most survivors, unless they are in a crisis, do not put much thought into what happened; the people, places, things, and reactions to events that have long-shaped their life. But if you have not yet taken a look at what traumata shaped your personality, behaviors, fears, and ways of responding in life, Step Four is a good opportunity to stop and think about it. Perhaps you have reached the day when you realize that you are not living your life as you really want to. Perhaps you feel a deep inner longing for healthy, secure attachment, love and a more kind relationship with yourself. You may experience a longing for life as you were told it was supposed to be but you have no evidence that you are living such a life.
When I first met Adam, it was not obvious why he came to me for help with the Twelve Steps. From a superficial look at his life he appeared to have every reason to be a trusting person. He described his successful love-relationship, healthy and smart children, a genuine love for his work, and a satisfying social life. His life would be the envy of most people, with a bank account, and external factors that most people dream of. Unlike many people who turn to the Twelve Steps because of addictive patterns of behavior in their lives, Adam turned to the Twelve Steps because a friend had urged him to seek help using spiritual principles that have helped countless others.