To make attendance at my second District Convention "mentally out" both a little more bearable and meaningful, I decided to take some notes of key points as if I were an outsider studying the thought reform methods of Jehovah's Witnesses. At first, I was only going to share these notes with my therapist, but inspired by the "Parsing the Watchtower Double-Speak" thread, I figured I would share my amateur analysis with everyone. Here are some of the highlights:
The "Chairman's Address: Why We Must Safeguard Our Heart" begins by giving us a working definition of the "figurative heart": it is the whole inner person; all thoughts, intentions, feelings, emotions, goals, dispositions. Essentially what they have in mind is a person's self-concept -- everything you believe yourself to be. That's all well and good, but why do we need to "safeguard our heart" or safeguard our self-concept? Here's where things get tricky.
The speaker gave five reasons why we should "safeguard our heart":
-the heart naturally inclines to "bad", and is attracted to "wrong"
-the heart is desperate, treacherous. It makes excuses, is likely to deceive you, and excuses wrongdoing
-if your heart turns away from God, your current life will be desolate
-the condition of your heart will determine whether you gain everlasting life or not in the future
-you want to please God
In the end, these aren't really reasons why a person should "safeguard their heart"; rather, they are psychological tools designed to undermine a person's normal self-concept and help create self doubt, anxiety, and fear. These concepts condition the listener to view their very own self as the "enemy inside" rather than an ally and trustworthy friend. And the stakes are high: not only will your life right now be "desolate" if you trust this deceptive inner voice; you also stand to lose out on "everlasting life." Suppressing one's natural sense of self thus allows the separate "cult self" to surface and await further and more extreme programming.
The symposium "Beware of Dangerous Heart Conditions!" amounts to yet another assault on the accepting listener's self-concept. Especially notable was the part on "Double Heart" which heightens the anxiety of those whose cult self shares mental space with their true self. In fact, the speaker warned that "figurative double-heartedness results in everlasting death." Again, out of fear and anxiety, any natural sense of self should be suppressed as there is only room for the cult self.
By the end of the morning, they've done a pretty good job of weakening an individual's true sense of self. In their loaded language, they call it "cultivating a prepared heart." In reality, the true self has been compromised, and even the cult self has been softened up, ready to accept further conditioning and indoctrination. Let's take a look at some of what gets programmed into this cult self later in the session:
"Avoid Testing God In Your Heart" offers a list of requirements for the cult self:
-do not murmur about organizational adjustments
-do not even secretly doubt the organization's view of disfellowshipping
-higher education is unnecessary to find 'acceptable' secular work
-spiritual food comes only from the Faithful Slave; independent study groups are not necessary
-God's sole channel of communication is the Faithful and Discreet Slave
-do not doubt the validity of theocratic appointments
-do not view apostate propaganda which "picks at" the Slave Class
-Jesus said "He that is not on my side is against me"
The "Sound Drama" offers further instructions:
-unfulfilled expectations of when the system will end are no reason for discouragement
-truth is revealed progressively: expect doctrine clarification
-only the Faithful and Discreet Slave illuminates the Scriptures for us
-do not harbor doubts as to whether Jesus is ruling as king of his kingdom
-the Faithful and Discreet Slave gives ample evidence that we are in the last days and that Jesus is ruling as king
At this point, let me add that the bulleted points are not my "take" on what was said at the convention. These are direct quotes from the podium, most likely from manuscript talks.
It becomes quite obvious that the listener's weakened sense of self is being exploited to bolster shaky spots in doctrine, manipulate emotions related to loyalty to the organization, and harden the perimeter of information control. The thought control at this point is hardly even disguised, and it doesn't need to be. As the audience member's "figurative heart" or true self-concept has been reduced to tatters, the cult self eagerly steps in to assuage the individual's doubts and uncertainties, nestling itself in the comforting arms of the organization.