Step 4 is a proactive form of introspection. The addict digs to his or her core being and as they dig, they free themselves from the waste that they collected within, obscuring their judgment. The open space they clear out by making this “moral inventory” further allows the higher source, spoken about in Step 2 and Step 3 to take root. If anything this is the positive impact of Step 4.
“We want to find out exactly how, when and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move towards their correction. Without a willing and persistent effort to do this, there can be little sobriety or contentment for us. Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, most of us have found that the faith which really works in daily living is out of reach,” reads a quote from 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.
Philosopher Michel Foucault compares this step to a confessional, offering the beginnings of exoneration, purification, liberation and salvation. The recovering addict examines past behaviors, seeking the truth about the thoughts and actions that have dominated their thinking or harmed other people in whatever fashion. The Big Book actually recommends list-making each person or principle which is the source of resentment or violation, along with a list of the events that brought on that resentment.