ICSA Conference Listening to the Still Small Voice

by Lady Lee 16 Replies latest jw experiences

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    This was one of the last presentations I took in. Very powerful stuff.

    ICSA 2012 Conference Listening to the Still Small Voice: Reclaiming the Self after Leaving Religious Totalistic Groups

    Who Am I? Most people go through a stage in late adolescence or early adulthood where they ask this question of themselves. They are moving towards independence from their families and into a whole new world where they will be required to face many decisions regarding who they are and what type of life they want.

    But especially for people who are raised in a cult this question never really gets addressed because the group only allows for a broader response to the question. I am (a member of this group). It does not address the issue of who am I as an individual. The group only asserts that there is a social identity as a member of the group. Therefore true independence can never be achieved.

    Catherine De Boer has been doing some research on this question with a focus on people who leave cults. Leaving any social group, whether it is the family, a club, a sports team or a school can be a challenge because we all gain a certain identity from belonging to the group. If the experience was good we will be proud to say we belonged there. If the experience wasn’t positive we probably won’t be telling too many people we were part of it. But generally we can be part of a family, participate in a sports club, go to college and still develop a sense of who we are as an individual. Rarely do any one of these demand that you surrender who you are as a person.

    Cults are different. They do demand that you give up your personal identity. Other interests are forbidden. The only group you belong to is the cult even to the point of giving up family members if they are not part of the group and in some groups they even separate family members who are also members of the group. The denial of individual identities and in some cases familial links has one purpose – to control the individual. If you can limit what they enjoy, associations with disapproved people or other groups then you have a stronger hold on them.

    So what happens when a person leaves or “disengages” from a cult?

    Generally when we leave one group we find another that meets our needs better. At one point we may have gotten a lot out of playing hockey or chess. But times change and we may find our interests change. So we leave the one group to look for another or something different. But this assumes that in the course of our development we have learned who we are and it is that knowing that moves us in other directions searching for other ways our needs can be met.

    Disengagement from a cult however is different. The person may not know what they like, what their interests or even what talents or skills they have. They haven’t had social interactions with enough interests or activities to know what they want, what their interests are, their talents. They have to start exploring these things at the same time that they are dealing with leaving the group, all their friends, sometimes their families or their work. They may have to deal with a traumatic and forced disengagement from the group. These things can make adjustment into living in the real world extremely difficult.

    I sit and think about how I felt when I was forcefully disengaged from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I felt lost. And the first thing I did was jump head first into college. That kept me busy for several years. But I wasn’t working on who I was as a person. Granted I was a sponge and absorbed so many new thoughts and ideas. It was fabulous. Eventually though I had to sit back and think about that question: Who am I?

    A person can experiment with groups, or interests, take courses, read books and just talk to people. But ultimately you still have to wade through all of it and decide what is right for you. And that is where the “still small voice” comes in. We need to sit quietly and sort through it all, the good, the bad, and what falls in between to find that voice inside that says: “This is who I am.” And then you find the courage to stand by your beliefs simply because they are your beliefs and say something about who you are as an individual apart from any group.

  • breakfast of champions
    breakfast of champions

    Thanks for posting this, LADY LEE.

    I think this is the #1 psychological hurdle for ex- JWs to overcome. Losing your sense of self is one of the scariest experiences a person could ever have. I know because that's basically what happened to me about 7 years ago.

    Right now, I am seeing a psychologist who specializes in dissociative disorders, which unfortunately, is what I was diagnosed with, and is a pretty nasty and difficult one to deal with since it drills down into the self and fractures what and who you are and who you will ever be.

    The religion and the abuse really went hand in hand. Without getting into particulars. . . I don't know, they really are inseparable.

    I TOTALLY understand what Hassan means by the "cult self" an true self. I honestly think this is a form of dissociation.

    Well, even just typing a few sentences about this is getting me worked up, so let me leave you with a reading recommendation that may help:

    "The Haunted Self" by Kathy Steele, et al. Available on Amazon. A bit pricey, but worth it to me. Perhaps you can find it in your library.

    They preach:

    "Safeguard Your Heart." "Safeguard Your Mind."


    They are systematically destroying people's identity.

  • nuthouse escapee
    nuthouse escapee

    Thank you for sharing this Lady Lee. When I first left the cult I cried a lot because I felt completely lost. Here I was 48 yrs old and didn't know myself. It was pretty scary. I had no idea who I was as an individual. I wasn't even sure of what I liked or disliked in myself and others. Gradually through sitting and listening to the small voice the real person came out. For the first time in my life I finally know who I am and it's a great feeling.I'm now 57 and I wouldn't trade the new me for a younger cult-controlled me. -Leslie-

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    You don't have to convince me that they create a false self. A few years after I left I saw an elder's wife in the shopping mall. I had heard that he had passed away. I was DFed so I knew she would not talk to me. Initially I passed the store she was in and them I changed my mind and went into it. We stood across a low counter of things for sale. I looked at her and quietly said I was sorry about her husband. And then I watched as this mature woman take on the stance and appearance of a small child who was afraid of being caught doing something wrong and she whispered thanks. I left. I figured she was in enough agony without me standing there in front of her.

    In my work with adult survivors of incest I had a few clients with DID. I was very familiar with it and having people switch in my office. But watching her switch in front of me was no different than watching the switch between the parts of any person who suffers from DID.

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    Leslie there was so much that we were deprived of when it came to our personal likes and talents. Nothing was encouraged that would bring "undue attention" to someone. I sure burst that little bubble for myself as a JW. Nothing like standing out from the crowd when you are standing in front of one interpreting into sign language.

    I struggle as a JW to find myself. And the harder I tried the more depressed I got because individuality was so discouraged. No wonder so many JWs are depressed

    Glad to hear you are now free to discover and keep learning about the real you.

  • nuthouse escapee
    nuthouse escapee

    People are so much more interesting when they're not forced into being carbon copies of someone elses ideal. There were a lot of people in my hall that were visibly unhappy, depressed and on medication to cope with it all. I have pity for them now and hope more wake up and 'find' themselves.

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    One thing I really hated was pretending that I wasn't as smart as the men I knew. Some of them were so dumb and you couldn't say anything when they were wrong because then you wouldn't be in submission. Thank goodness that most of the real world isn't like that.

  • 00DAD

    Great thread Lee. It really resonates with where I'm at.

    BTW, you have PM on an unrelated subject.


  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    Other than the first day's workshop (that went on all day) I probably took the most notes on this one.

    Got your PM and replied

  • Heaven

    Excellent article. My parents never encouraged me to follow my dreams. I had to get a good job at a good company because I was told that they couldn't afford to support me. Oh, but I couldn't go to College. (Yeah, didn't heed that advice).

    I think part of that came from their experience going through the Great Depression as well at being JW and that they didn't have a lot of money. They definitely had a very narrow view of what I should do. Having your own business was definitely not an option -- too risky.

    I also remember having to justify why I wanted to do things. For some reason, my Mom would ask the question "What do you want to do that for?" many times in my life. I suspect it was largely due to the Watchtower influence along with her depression.

    As my parents got deeper into this organization, they stopped doing things. It made me sad to watch them become 'do nothing' people. It certainly isn't a behaviour of a happy, thriving, joyous person.

Share this