Do you have a negative outlook because you were a JW?
No. How you look at the world isn't determined by your experiences. It has a lot more to do with your personality. I'm a generally positive person and I'm an optimist. I'm also a realist. When I have a negative outlook it is usually because of current situations compiled on top of past experiences. The opposite is just as true. When my outlook is positive it is because my current situation is good and I remember how crappy life can be from my past.
It could be argued that exjws have issues in life simply because they were Jehovah’s Witnesses at a point in their lives. Do you think you or we are fairly normal considering we were Jehovah’s Witnesses or do you think we have a lot of baggage because we are a bit messed up ( even if we don’t even know it)?
You have several different points of conversation here. They aren't all one-in-the-same argument.
Yes. We all have issues simply because we were JWs. Just like other people all have issues simply because of whatever religion they were raised in, or whatever abuse they experienced, or whatever other situation they experienced. Living means having issues of some kind. Whether or not those issues are a harmful presence in people's lives has a lot of variables and isn't just an automatic symptom of having whatever experiences one has. It depends on what kind of person you are and how you deal with those issues. It depends on how much time you spent being a JW and what your experiences were with the JWs. Some people had it easier and some people had it a lot harder. People who are born-in wil have different issues from people who joined up.
Are we fairly normal? I think we are more normal than we think we are but not as normal as we'd like to believe. We were led to believe that we were the chosen ones and that everyone on the outside is watching us. Neither of those things is true. People outside the JWs are oblivious to them. If people think of JWs, they think they are weird enough to joke about but not dangerous or special enough to pay any real attention to. If we don't stand out, then there must be some normalcy to us. But I also think that we camouflage ourselves well. We learn early how to blend in and conform. That means that the things that aren't normal about us are things we can hide. It is how we think and perceive the world around us that isn't normal. It is how we relate to other people and what definitions we have for emotions that aren't normal. At one point in time every one of us thought that shunning people was a normal thing to do. Many people thought it was loving. That definitely is not normal, but it is easy to hide. Those are the kinds of things that we think we are normal about when we aren't.
I think we are a lot more messed up than we think. Someone who was only in for a short period of time might be exempt from this idea. I fully left physically and emotionally sometime between the ages of 18-22. I was a born-in. I was raised in the religion and I had severe PTSD when I left. I was actually diagnosed with 'extreme PTSD'. I spent the next 20 years recovering. I figured out a lot of crap. I thought that overcoming the teachings and recovering from the PTSD was all I needed. But there was a conversation here on this site in the last 2 years that made me realize that I was wrong and I have a lot more work to do.
Someone in that conversation made me realize that I'm an abusive person. I don't want to be. I have never had the intention to be abusive. Heck, I'm a victim here! But a lot of victims of emotional abuse also become abusers. It is how we learn to navigate and survive the abuse. We were taught that love-bombing and shunning are equally loving when neither are actually good. Healthy love is good. Bombarding someone with love to manipulate and control them is not good. Putting conditions on love is not good. We were taught that our misery was happiness. And we believed this stuff. I did. I might not have had a good foundation and wasn't a true believer of the doctrine but I believed everything else. I never shunned anyone who disagreed with my religious beliefs. I didn't think that was right. But I cut myself off from people that I felt were harmful to me. They didn't get a choice. And I can't honestly say that they ever saw that coming. That is abusive behavior. I can see it now, years later and looking at it objectively. I still have those impulses. I've learned to communicate better. But I'm still very reactionary and my reactions tend to be hard liners and abusive. I still have a lot to work on.
It wasn't easy leaving the cult. It was so damn hard. It was crazy hard coming to terms with all the things that were wrong. I don't like being wrong. It was hard to recognize and acknowledge that my way of thinking was wrong. The hardest part for me wasn't what the cult did to me but accepting that I had to change as a person. And all of that was before I realized that I am what I was taught to be, an abusive person. Facing myself as an abuser and an abusive person is the hardest part for me. I don't like to think of myself in that kind of negativity. It means that working on it will go faster because I'm super motivated not to be an abusive person. But acknowledging that I'm not the kind of person that would be a chosen special person deserving of attention is hard. I don't know many people who have left the cult and have been willing to confront that part of themselves. My hope is that people do it quietly. I don't mean that they shouldn't share their experience. I mean that, as hard as it is to acknowledge it to myself, it is that much harder to acknowledge it to other people. So, my hope is that people who can't share that experience at least explore it in themselves.
So, yes, I think we are messed up even if we don't know it.