Eric Hoffer says we'll probably never recover completely

by DanTheMan 32 Replies latest jw friends

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    It is doubtful whether the fanatic who deserts his holy cause or is suddenly left without one can ever adjust himself to an autonomous individual existence. [...] An individual existence, even when purposeful, seems to him trivial, futile and sinful. To live without an ardent dedication is to be adrift and abandoned.

    Firstly I don't think everybody who was a JW was a fanatic. However, I do know some who are. My ex was one of the fanatic ones. I wasn't. While a JW I probably gained much more of my sense of "me" from being a mother than from being a JW.

    It does take time after leaving to adjust. As a person begins to realize the fallacy of their belief they begin to recreate. They often search out new beliefs/ideologies. Some become involved in education, career or hobbies (like computers, internet and JWD).

    Many have taken up causes that are connected with the JWs and commit themselves to exposing the fallacies. Some work on JW policies that hurt people. Some are working on the blood issue. Others are working on doctrinal issues. Some focus on the relationship issues.

    Passionate people will find new passions. Those who were just there without really believing it all (kids raised in it) are probably glad to be free to have a life.

    I think the above quote would really apply to those who have left the JWs but retained the beliefs so are still JWs in mind only. They would be the ones who might be most likely to be "adrift andabandoned".

    The rest of us are busy recreating a life.

  • Francois

    I did some cult deprogramming for awhile, along with counseling battered women. What I became aware of pretty quickly was that people who left the JWs soon showed up in some other cult-like organization. Saw it frequently. And I saw battered women return again and again to the batterer to get battered again and again.

    There is definitely something to be said for Hoffer's contention.


  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    Francois I agree that some do get involved in some other closed group and a lot of battered women do go back to their abusers but I have worked in a program where the just in the last year alone out of 50 women only 1 went back to her abuser. Them's pretty good odds if they get the right counseling and the operative word there is IF. And most don't. Just like most people who leave a cult, - don't get the counseling they really need

  • freedom96

    It is up to us to find whatever works for us as individuals to deprogram ourselves.

    I do believe it is possible. I have, and others have too. To suggest that we will never recover.... that is extreme, except for the occasional person, who will have problems. But I think that is the exception instead of the rule.

  • be wise
    be wise

    I successfully deprogrammed myself I'm happy to say. Once you've done it, it is as if you have a new pair of eyes that you can look through from a totally objectional view point. You suddenly understand JW behavior and why they are the way they are - some worse than others but everyone is affected, usually those who unconciously don't believe it, in a very negative way, cos it turns them (for the worst) into people they wouldn't have been if it wasn't for the watchtower shoveling their minds with such crap!

    The problems I suffer with now are not religion based but WTS induced like our family being divided and phycological problems that a lot of ex JW's face like confidence and applying yourself more. I believe in honesty with yourself. If you are afraid of anything about yourself or your beliefs then you can't afford to be honest with yourself cos this would just make your mind very uncomfortable. It's easier not to think but you will never know who you really are and what you can become.

    Hoffer really helped me see things more clearly. Most of what I've read by Hoffer is spot on, if you take it with the right attitude - that he isn't preaching, he's just thinking.

  • Satanus


    The book 'secular spirituality', do you know the name of the author?



  • larc

    I agree with Francois on the power and importance of Hoffer's book. As a "true believer", he was not talkiing about the average member of a group or organization. He was talking about the zeolots, and how their mind works. If a true believer leaves one organization, they move to another and they they have the same zeal for a different cause. Was Hoffer's book scientific? It is sociology, and sociology at its finest in my opinion. Was he a scholar? No, he was a long shoreman with no advanced education, but his work was fine indeed.

  • Brummie

    Interesting thread Dan, I disagree that people dont have a meaningful life, perhaps they cant figure out if they have a meaningful future but on a daily basis life is very meaningful for many who left cults.

    Dang i have to get this book.


  • larc

    Dan, I did not address your question, and I will now attempt to do so as best as I can. How did I become independant? I am not sure how I did it. I would say gradually over time. I set out to be independent, much as you are doing. I just set out with baby steps, and then bigger steps, much as you are doing. Dan, it ain't easy, and is not always fun, but the goal is a good one. You know I love you as a brother, and I hope your journey is a good one. Take care dear friend, Larc

  • DanTheMan

    be wise, I think that I have successfully deprogrammed also. There is nothing about JWism that holds any attraction or pull for me now. The very thought of ever even setting foot into a KH again makes me shudder. You spoke of being honest with yourself. I think that is why I find Hoffer's book to be so enlightening, but in a somewhat uncomfortable way - no other book that I know of so brutally and honestly captures the essence of an individual (such as myself) who is attracted to a fanatical movement. Here's some more gems:

    An effective mass movement cultivates the idea of sin. It depicts the autonomous self not only as barren and helpless but also as vile. To confess and repent is to slough off one’s individual distinctness and separateness, and salvation is found by losing oneself in the holy oneness of the congregation. (p. 54)
    To ripen a person for self-sacrifice he must be stripped of his individual identity and distinctness. He must cease to be George, Hans, Ivan, or Tadao - a human atom with an existence bounded by birth and death. The most drastic way to achieve this end is by the complete assimilation of the individual into a collective body. [...] The effacement of individual separateness must be thorough. In every act, however trivial, the individual must by some ritual associate himself with the congregation, the tribe, the party, etcetera. [...] Above all, he must never feel alone. Though stranded on a desert island, he must still feel that he is under the eyes of the group. To be cast out from the group should be equivalent to being cut off from life. (p. 62-63)
    The inordinately selfish are particularly susceptible to frustration. The more selfish a person, the more poignant his disappointments. It is the inordinately selfish, therefore, who are likely to be the most persuasive champions of selflessness.
    The fiercest fanatics are often selfish people who were forced, by innate shortcomings or external circumstances, to lose faith in their own selves. They separate the excellent instrument of their selfishness from their ineffectual selves and attach it to the service of some holy cause. And though it be a faith of love and humility they adopt, they can neither be loving nor humble. (p. 48)

    SS - I got the title of the book wrong, it is actually called Spirituality for the Skeptic: The Thoughtful Love of Life. Here's a link:

    Larc, I appreciate your comments. I think that "gradually" I am becoming independent also. But change is always difficult. I feel like I'm 3 steps into a journey of 1000 miles. My natural tendency (as you well know) is to be very despairing. The comfort of the familiar I guess. As I've often told people, it was the antisocial theology that attracted me to JWism more than anything.

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