According to the book Cults in Our Midst by Margaret Thaler Singer the practice of love bombing is a common practice in groups who seek to control others. She states:
Most cults have specific plans for drawing in each recruit. As soon as any interest is shown by the recruits, they may be love bombed by the recruiter or other cult members. This process of feigning friendship and interest in the recruit was initially associated with one of the early youth cults, but soon it was taken up by a number of groups as part of their program for luring people in. Love bombing is a coordinated effort, usually under the direction of leadership, that involves long-term members' flooding recruits and newer members with flattery, verbal seduction, affectionate but usually nonsexual, touching, and lots of attention to their every remark. Love bombing---or the offer of instant companionship--- is a deceptive ploy accounting for many successful recruitment drives.
In addition, the newcomer is surrounded by long-term members. Not only are these more experienced members trained to love bomb the potential recruit, but are on their best behavior, proudly proclaiming the joys of membership, the advantages of the new belief system, and the uniqueness of the leader. Consciously or unconsciously, these members always speak and make their presentations in cult jargon, which they all seem to understand but tends to make the newcomer feel out of sorts, a bit alienated, and undereducated by cult standards. The lonely visitor or seminar attendee begins to want some sense of connection to the rest of the group. With all the surrounding reinforcement, soon enough the newcomer realizes that, in order to be accepted and part of the group, she or he simply needs to mirror the behavior of other cult members and imitate their language. pp114-115
I certainly recall talks right before the Memorial that we should welcome any newcomers who come. Make that extra effort to be welcoming. I remember mid-week talks reminding us to be extra friendly and welcoming to any new ones at the Sunday meetings. Especially when we had special talks or the CO came to visit.
Something that has always struck me about this love bombing was how it was used on me.
I had been in foster care for three years after my first exposure to the JWs. The night I went home to live with my mother again she took all of us to the meeting. It was a Tuesday night. She took me to the elder's wife who grabbed my hand and held onto it and told me she was so glad I was back. She just talked to me about how wonderful it was to see me again all the while holding on to my hand. Wow for a kid to have been abandoned and rejected so much this felt like heaven. All the abuse had made me feel untouchable. And here was this wonderful lady who I remembered holding on to me like she never wanted to let go. I just basked in the glow of someone being happy to see me. Almost immediately I wanted to be baptized but her husband (PO) suggested I wait a bit. I was finally baptized a year later.
Interestingly, 17 years later this was the same person who hung her head in shame and fear as I offered my condolences for the death of her husband when I met her in the mall. She was so scared someone would see me talking to her.
I can also see how this works for kids who were born in and knew the jargon. JW kids have a hard life in the WTS. Acceptance is conditional and they know it. They are pushed to perform (ministry school, commenting at meetings, service and vacation pioneering, getting baptized). Like the rest of JWs it was never enough or good enough. This is so hard on the developing self esteem. I can see how kids would do just about anything to feel part of the group and get the acceptance they needed. As the child enters their teens the pressure to conform and get baptized gets stronger. The negative attention for not getting baptized is strong. So the child caves in to the pressure in a desire to get the unconditional love that is so needed.
Sadly what they don't realize is that they just put a noose around their necks. They don't realize that once they are baptized the love disappears and the only thing left is the pressure to do more more more.
For the last few weeks I have been acutely aware of the attention new comers get here. And I have been wondering whether it is the same thing going on. I've seen a lot of posters come and go.
I've been on this board since June 29 2001. I've made 7862 posts (with this one included). Yes there were great people who welcomed me when I first got here.
But the difference here is that the caring hasn't stopped. In the 4 1/2 years I've been here the people on this board have helped me get through so much. The issues around my health, my separation from my husband last year, the death of my sister all happened since I've been here. The support has been overwhelming. When I post about my childhood the support again is overwhelming. People will ask how my health is or how I am doing even when that isn't the topic at hand.
There is never a demand to do more. Never a statement that I'm not doing enough.
I can't even begin to count how often people have expressed their appreciation for the information and support I offer here.
And I see this for others on the board as well. Just look at how long the threads are offering support for those on the board who are dealing with cancer treatments. The support people get who are being shunned by family and friends alike.
It seems that without the constant pressure to be loving and caring to newcomers our hearts are free to do what comes naturally. Be happy others are setting themselves free from a conditional love that needs to be "encouraged"