Thank you for starting this very thoughtfully written thread on such an important topic, one which is really relevant for us that have left the cult. Really, anyone that has left any cult will likely go through a similar process.
The trauma of realizing that our entire belief system was a fraud is profound and can lead to a total psychological break. Then -- just when we are at our weakest and need support the most -- we are also usually abandoned by everyone we love.
The betrayal is profound. It is deep.
The mental, emotional and psychological damage can be long-lasting. Many, maybe even most, of us fail to seek appropriate help from mental health professionals, usually due to the indoctrinated fear of talking to them. (The cult's effects are strong and pernicious.)
I completely agree with you that, as part of our healing process, we need to develop our critical thinking abilities.
This is something which I have given much thought to and devoted a great deal of time to researching. Coincidentally, I wrote about this very subject just a couple of days ago in another thread here and again here.
People often talk about "critical thinking skills" as if they were a single set of tools that one can acquire, learn how to use and then apply universally to any and all situations. Unfortunately that is not the case and it is important that we understand and accept that if we are to be able to learn how to think critically.
Thinking critically is really a way of thinking -- a mindset or an approach to how we attempt to understand things and solve problems. It is NOT simply a set of skills such as learning to identify logical fallacies.
The particular skills or techniques we learn and employ are almost always content or subject specific. What that means is that the kind of thinking we learn to use in one area (such as chemistry or geometry) is not readily transferable to other areas (such as historical analysis or argumentation). Learning to balance an equation for the combustion of methane will NOT help you identify logical fallacies in rhetorical discourse.
There are certain specific skills that will help us learn to untangle the knots the bound us in the cult indoctrination. Some have already touched on a few of these such as learning to recognize logical fallacies and other rhetorical methods of propaganda and manipulation. We can and should learn these and learn them well.
We should also learn to develop our confidence. For us that have left a cult, simply learning to ask questions -- good, well-thought out and clearly formulated questions -- is a big and important step.
In your OP you wrote that we "have been groomed to possess inherently lazy thinking abilities." I would respectfully disagree and say it's actually much worse than that: we were actively discouraged from thinking. How many time were we told to "avoid independent thinking"? I know I lost count decades ago.
Here's a typical quote from the first WT that came up in a Google search:
In modern times, a very small number among God’s people have become disgruntled with some aspect of Christian teaching and have murmured against the earthly part of Jehovah’s organization. Why does this happen? Such murmuring is often caused by a lack of understanding of God’s way of doing things. The Creator progressively reveals the truth to his people. Hence, our understanding of the Scriptures is bound to be refined from time to time. The vast majority of Jehovah’s people rejoice over such refinements. A few become “righteous overmuch” and resent the changes. (Ecclesiastes 7:16) Pride may play a role, and some fall into the trap of independent thinking. Whatever the reason, such murmuring is hazardous, since it can draw us back into the world and its ways. - [Emphasis added] -(Watchtower, July 15, 2006, pp. 19-23)
You were much closer to the mark when you commented that our "Intellectual responsibility is frequently delegated" and our "thinking skills are outsourced." This is so true.
We need to reclaim our intellectual responsibilities and no longer let anyone else do our thinking for us. For many of us that can be a scary process. But it is something that we all can learn to do and learn to do well.
It takes time, it takes effort, but it can be done. In fact, it must be done if we are to fully recover from the trauma of being in a cult.
Thank you again for taking the time to write this thread and start this discussion. It has been a pleasure to see how much you have grown in the time you've participated in this forum. When you first joined you were a weak and very scared little girl that was completely unsure of herself and didn't know what to do. You are now a strong, determined, and obviously very intelligent and confident young woman.