Fear of Freedom

by Phizzy 7 Replies latest jw friends

  • Phizzy

    When a long term Prisoner is released in to society, they are often bewildered and at a loss what to do. For many years they have been told what to do, now they have to make their own decisions, and make their own way in life, more often than not with little or no support.

    The same is true for those leaving the J.W religion, in excatly the same terms as the last sentence.

    Do you think that is why some stay within the confines of the prison like WT ? fear of Freedom ?

    Many such Prisoners of the penal system who find "freedom" too much to handle, seek ways to be returned to Prison, they may not be sent to the same one, but a similar institution that tells them what to do, and feeds them, is O.K with them.

    Is this why some who free themselves of the WT enter a very similar institution ?

    Recognising that you have been "institutionalised" and need to stand on your own two feet is important to avoid the "out of the frying pan .." syndrome.

    Those who leave the WT have a wonderful opportunity to use their freedom to carve out the very best life for themselves, it pains me to see some waste that opportunity.

  • notjustyet

    Good point,..

    I have heard to that if you take a small animal such as a kitten or a puppy and continually pick up the animal when it approaches the threshold of a doorway and set it down on the other side it will stop at the threshold and wait for you to help it across as it does not know that it can simply cross the doorway on its own.

    I think in a way we can be that same. If we get to the point where we depend entirely on others it can cripple us from being able to move forward.


  • Oubliette

    This is an excellent point, Phizzy.

    It doesn't apply to everyone, but I think it explains the behavior of many that choose to stay as one of JWs or return after being DF'd. It is a prison without bars.

    On the other hand, many people in real priisons leave and never return. Some even plan a jail-break to leave. So just as there are a variety of personalities in prisons and a corresponding variety in how inmates handle the situation.

    The difference is that (in theory at least) prisoners are in prison because the committed some sort of a crime. They know this. JWs could be born-in and know nothing different or they could become one as an adult and not realize what they are getting themselves into. In this regard the prison/prisoner analogy breaks down because the reasons for being confined are so very different.

    Here is where the situation is really analagous to an individual in a codependent relationship. The WTBTS is the abuser and the individual JW is the abused enabler. Just as many abused people will continue to return to an abusive relationship, many JWs will continue to return to the organization.

    The psychology of cult behavior is fascinating.

  • DesirousOfChange

    By the time many are released from incarceration, they have lost all of their "outside" contacts. They are unable to find employment. They have no where to live and no way to for it. Perhaps due to their crimes, they have been abandoned by friends and family.

    How is this any different from someone who leaves or is "let out" [DFd] of the Organization?

    They have avoided making "outside" friends and typically have had only minimal contact with "worldly" family.

    By leaving (voluntarily or involuntarily) they may find they have no place to live; no job if they worked for another JW; and lose all of the JW friends & family.

    They find themselves out in the cold and all alone with no network of support. For many, they likely feel the easiest way is to go back where they once felt loved.


  • SAHS

    “When a long term Prisoner is released in to society, they are often bewildered and at a loss what to do. For many years they have been told what to do, now they have to make their own decisions, and make their own way in life. . . . Do you think that is why some stay within the confines of the prison like WT ? fear of Freedom ?”

    I think much depends on a person’s fear and level of anxiety regarding death. Don’t forget, a large factor in the emergence of religion itself had to do with the psychological fear of death – the ultimate unknown – and the need to somehow come to terms with it through imaginative conjecture. I would think that those who become atheists or agnostics would have less anxiety and dissonance with taking a more personal and independent approach to their life’s course because they wouldn’t have the emotional baggage of the nagging feeling that they might somehow be disappointing or letting down a legalistic type of “god” by disobeying or not living in harmony with that god’s will.

    Interestingly, a similar situation of learned helplessness develops with baby elephants in India. (I actually learned this from an article in either the Awake! or Watchtower magazine; I can’t remember which, or when it was.) Baby elephants are kept constrained with chains so that they can’t just run away or run wild. Eventually, as they grow older, the chains are removed – but the interesting thing is that they act as though they are still constrained by the chains, even though they are no longer there. That is how they are able to handle full-grown elephants with just one person. The “chains” exist solely in the elephant’s head. It has grown so accustomed to being constrained by chains when it was young that it just assumes that such is still the case, and thus it has learned to constrain itself within its own mental boundaries.

    This, I believe, is somewhat similar to exiting JWs. Even when physically out, they can still manifest a degree of mental learned helplessness in that somewhere deep in their minds they feel a certain accountability and fear which transcends simple natural law and which tends to revolve around the fabricated deity and theological constructs of their upbringing. And of course everyone has that grim realization that their lifespan is only finite, and the primal fear and uncertainty surrounding this concept are programmed into our brain in the limbic system, including the amygdala and the medial and lateral mammillary nuclei. The more atheistic or agnostic a person is, the more they can deal with life pragmatically, without dependence on a “good standing” with a classic, religious “god.”

    I, for one, endeavor to simply live in harmony with the universe and with whatever process can be though of as “that which caused” all that exists, and whatever metaphysical entity – “that which is” – which can be considered as close as it gets to “god.” The more scientifically you can look at it, the easier the transition.

  • slimboyfat

    Of course Erich Fromm wrote an excellent book with that title The Fear of Freedom, and a few have applied its insights to the situation of JWs.


    See also the work of anthropologist Andrew Holden.

  • Mum

    Good point! If I had a fortune, I hope I could start a "halfway house" or transitional living situation for people exiting cults. They need a hand up! I feel even more heavy at heart for women leaving (or wanting to leave) polygamist cults and other cults that use women brutally. Children are the saddest victims of all.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    I had to investigate complaints of correctional officers brutality on inmates for a while when I was much younger. One case troubled everyone. I did not kow why one case out of thousands received so much attention from older adults and Legal Aid. They told me nothing I just did my job. There no way to prove the abuse because it always happened in elevators in late night shifts. I spoke to so many people and concluded after several interactions with the guard captain that he was more outrageous than the most outrageous inmate. When I told the director, he told me to file my report. When I opened the filing cabinet, 8 inches of files tumbled down on me. I read every piece of papers for hours.

    I was utterly furious and confronted the director. The guard had graduated to social workers and mds as victims. He beat minority guards. They knew it all along. The director said I was right but the govt.was powerless (before videotape). I said everyone knows. What will you do when the body is found and you are blamed? I don't know. The murder will happen - it is inevitable, he replied. NYC might settle for millions. The 8 inches is what will send the guard upstate to prison for life. The inmate targeted finally emerged from prison. The correction officers' union member personally called me and announced that the inmate threw a temper tantrum and refused to be released from prison. They had to call out special officers to drag him out and keep him out. He was back in in two weeks.

    I think about fear of freedom all the time. Freedom scares me. Maybe it is why this situation played with my mind.

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