My sponsor is taking me through the 4th step really slowly and exhaustively thoroughly. The box with my paperwork must weigh like 14 pounds. We’re doing an AA-style inventory, but it’s almost absurd what’s included. I like it. I’ve been at this for almost a year and a half, and I’m midway down the 4th column.

I’m learning some very interesting things. For instance, nearly all my work-related resentments have to do with lack of detachment, lack of boundaries, or both. I tend to take ownership of the behaviors of other people, and thus deeply resent the uncool things they do as some reflection on me. I don’t set a protected area for myself or make a decision about what to do if unacceptable behavior occurs, so I wind up feeling stuck with it and resenting it.

One really neat thing that dawned on me was the cascading nature of some of my three biggest failings.

1. Lack of acceptance – I tend to have trouble accepting people for who and what they are, forever wanting them to be what I figure they should be. Funny thing is, I never thought I was doing that. But anytime I became angry at someone from failing their potential, that’s exactly what this was. Anytime I expected someone to do or be what I needed, when there was no reason to believe they were naturally inclined to, that’s what I was doing.

2. Lack of detachment – As mentioned before, I was personally invested in the behaviors of others. I also took on resentments that were not mine, being angry at people who had hurt people I cared about, whether that was deep in the past or not, whether I had any objective information about the reported harm or not. I thought of it as being loyal, but it was really just poisoning everything.

3. Lack of boundaries – When faced with a pattern of unacceptable behavior, I didn’t know I could plan ahead healthy things to do to remove myself from a toxic situation. I can decide, “If so-and-so starts to do that, I’ll excuse myself to go to the bathroom,” for instance. I used to let people run roughshod over me, or I’d build walls to shut them out. One of the daily readers has a passage that describes a boundary as not a wall, but a bridge, to help facilitate linking ourselves with others. Sounds weird at first, but I get it. I can connect with you, and still have room to lovingly withdraw if I need to. That’s cool.

I can’t get boundaries if I can’t detach my emotions from someone else’s behavior, and I can’t get decent detachment if I can’t accept them as they are. So, like the first step says, it starts with acceptance.