Not quite a week ago, @Lost in the fog created a thread entitled: Do you have this illness?
He provided a link to an article which discussed a condition known as Post Traumatic Church Syndrome.
In my year of being on this forum, I have browsed many a disillusioned thread of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses expressing similar symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when detailing their awakening - my own story included.
It’s interesting to note that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs when a person encounters an experience that blows out the axioms of their knowledge system. It’s just so unexpected that they cannot account for it within the confines of the system that they’re using to interpret the world. It’s no surprise then that for all those who had their belief system painfully shattered, the common denominator was a distinct lack of critical thinking over the years.
In a religious sense, such as Post Traumatic Church Syndrome, we can identify Watchtower’s overly simplistic system of interpreting things (“Satan’s world versus God’s organization”) as the breaking point for many encumbered minds upon awakening. (As a side point, perhaps this would explain why so many current Jehovah’s Witnesses subconsciously refuse to entertain their cognitive dissonance.)
As Witnesses, we were completely naïve and unaware of the full catastrophe of propagandistic indoctrination from a genuinely trusted source. So when we encountered the betrayal and the onslaught of lies that have shaped our very existence, our brains (figuratively speaking) exploded amidst the collapse of our belief system - and oftentimes by extension, our belief in belief systems.
I don’t believe it is an accident that so many who leave the organization experience a breakdown of sorts. This is a malevolent setup for failure that Watchtower has been administering in our lives since the word “go”. Allow me to explain.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have been groomed to possess inherently lazy thinking abilities. Intellectual responsibility is frequently delegated (“I don’t understand this teaching, but hey - I’m sure whoever wrote this study article knows what they’re talking about”), and thinking skills are outsourced (“allow me to answer that question by directing you to a link here on this great website).
The high-control nature of the Watchtower organization micromanages its members to the extent of their dress and grooming, the qualities they must favor when considering a prospective mate, the family members they must withdraw love from, the circle of friends they must tolerate, the kind of apps they should either download or remove from their smartphones, the kind of career (or lack thereof) they should pursue, which parts of their anatomy that are strictly off limits, and the weekly timetable members are expected to adhere to.
In a 2017 Broadcast, viewers were endowed with the “blessing” of Watchtower removing the strenuous activity of mulling over how to spend their Saturday mornings by implementing rigid timetables of reserving that day for field service each and every week. This is the degree Watchtower is stripping its infantalized members from decision-making abilities.
“But it’s a protection to have these decisions made for us already,” we once may have reasoned. “I don’t see it as a restriction at all. Imagine trying to play tennis without a surrounding cage encasing the court. We need these barriers!”
Herein lies the very problem for those exiting the organization. All their life, their problems were stolen from them. The remedy? A Watchtower article. A publication to study. A public talk. A Daily Text. An elder who will gently steer you in the direction of one of the aforementioned “solutions”. Every. Damn. Time. Teachers, mentors, instructors or authors of any belief system who are sincerely interested in the personal development and growth of their followers operate under a very simple guideline: Don’t steal the problem.
I see the invitation to overstep arise time after time as a mother. But if I’m going to help my son progress as a human being and grow into a well-rounded adult, my attitude is clear: “you have some problems. If you come talk to me I’ll help you figure out how to solve them. However, I will not spell out for you how to solve them. I won’t steal your problems.”
Watchtower’s suppressive approach to the flock freezes their development to that of a helpless child, unaware that critical thinking even exists. It strips members of opportunities to solve their own problems under the guise of protecting them and dressing it up as “convenience”. That is theft. It is the Oedipal situation of the overprotective mother detrimental to one’s psychological development. (Though the father can play that role too, I’ll stick with the archetypal representation already mentioned.)
The fact is, Watchtower “protected” many a sincere Witness at the cost of their ability to protect themselves. It destroys people’s adaptive confidence, and it disarms them in the mental chaos of leaving the organization. This is a cruel setup which has lead to the PTSD symptoms many of us experienced upon awakening, leaving us in a bewildered, heartbroken, confused and shattered state.
My heart goes out to all those who leave the organization under indoctrinated terms. They’ve walked unarmed into the world; a complete ingénue to the harsh realities that can only be learned through the possession of critical thinking and experience. A downhill spiral can subsequently be predicted, if not expected.
Looking back on things with seen-it-all eyes, I can confidently assert that life is an error-riddled process. Having all the answers supposedly available from an insulated society prevents growth and propagates disaster for those who dare set foot outside of the provided parameters. Am I suggesting it’s healthy to scull the proverbial cup of poison Witnesses so frequently refer to when asked why they have nothing to do with the “world”?
Not exactly. While there’s real utility in staying within a bounded domain of existence, the problem is that there may be information outside of that domain that you absolutely need to know. And this is precisely the case for Jehovah’s Witnesses. And so, part of the problem of being awake on the outside is that you have to continually determine how much you’re going to maintain your stability and how much you’re willing to explore. That stable “Watchtower” part of us was outdated before we even hit our teen years.
For all who have newly escaped and have perhaps stumbled upon this forum, my advice is to equip yourself with shrewd, critical thinking skills. Know your opponents. Anticipate less-than-desirable outcomes. Believe people when they show you their true colors rather than idealistically rationalizing your emotions around them. Arm yourself with the strength to never again encounter something like your awakening that could suck the air out of your lungs and fill your head with white noise. From pain comes growth.
On behalf of everyone on this forum, welcome to the autonomous reality of your life.