Healing & Rebuilding Your Life - Feedback Wanted

by jp1692 48 Replies latest jw experiences

  • Brokeback Watchtower
    Brokeback Watchtower

    Of course this rebuilding of one's life would depend on the age of the person leaving the cult and how much time he/she has left. The younger the better as the older you get the less energy and time you got to rebuild, and heal. But hey don't let age stop you from getting out of the cult and rebuilding your life it just gets a little the more harder and slower to recover the more you wait and put off the inevitable. I got out at age 48, it hit me like a ton of bricks, but gradually got better and better as my mental health improved over time and my rage subsided to a they can just kiss my ass contempt towards the Watchtower corporation.

  • Reopened Mind
    Reopened Mind


    I converted to the borg in my teens, baptized at 20, left completely at 58. It was fairly easy to revert to my former (real, authentic) personality. I had not “put on the new personality” completely as I always considered women more than recruiters and toilet cleaners. Yet I was a full-on Witness while a dub. My husband, on the other hand, had been born into the cult. It took him some time to figure out just what it was that he believed and so we explored different belief systems together. I find this to be an ongoing process for both of us. I think we retain at least some aspects of our personal identity no matter how hard the WT tries to fit us into their mold.

    For myself I did not have to deal with isolation and loneliness as my husband Still Totally ADD exited at the same time I did and we lived near my nonJW cousins which softened the blow considerably. But I do concede that this can be a major obstacle for others.

    So here is how I would rank the six subjects:

    1. Examining Our Core Beliefs and Discovering Your Authentic Self tie for first place.

    2. The Five Stages of Grief

    3. Psychoeducation

    4. Treatments & Interventions

    5. Dealing with Isolation and Loneliness

    These are all excellent topics and all deserve consideration.

    Reopened Mind

  • Xanthippe

    1. Examining our beliefs, the false and harmful (dysfunctional) core beliefs.

    2. Treatments & Interventions-seeking treatments from working with mental health professionals to self-help.

    3. Dealing with isolation and lonliness (shunning)


    5. Discovering your authentic self

    6. The five stages of grief/loss Kubler-Ross model

    I'm not sure if you're speaking about beliefs in the religious or psychological sense but they tend to overlap in ex-cult members anyway. We need to be sure we know the cult is doctrinally wrong to prevent running back to it at moments of crisis.

    We also need to deal with our self-limiting beliefs of low self-esteem and guilt along with false beliefs about the real world. These include feeling people are bad, there is no point to life without God, further education is about arrogance and materialism etc.

    I would emphasise that getting therapy or councelling is a good idea but only if the practitioner understands cults. If they don't you really need to find someone else, so it can be a stressful process finding the right person.

    I agree with SBF, I'm not sure about the notion of an authentic self. We change, quite drastically I find, every few years. Life events change our perceptions and therefore our personality. I understand the concept that there is a 'real' person under the cult persona but the trauma of the leaving process alters us again so this is difficult to pin down.

    Having lost fifteen family members and friends including my husband over the last twenty years I have read Kubler-Ross and I like her compassionate style but I struggle with the stages of grief/loss. It's just not like that. You don't move forward in an orderly fashion, you go backwards and forwards for years through anger, denial etc.

    Do you ever reach total acceptance as Kubler-Ross suggests? I prefer what my psychologist said, you will probably be left with a dark pool of sorrow ( about your life in the cult) within yourself that gets smaller and smaller but never totally goes away.

    I disassociated from the JWs thirty years ago next February.

  • former2free

    Hi JP

    i think the shunning and examining our beliefs are the two biggest ones simply because coming to grips that our belief system is false and then the fear of being shunned really mess with peoples minds I know that is my fear to lose the community aspect. Not that I don’t have any friends outside the religion but still the sense of belonging that goes with it. Also coming to grips with our beliefs is the only way to wake up and move forward with your life. Please post when you do this speech thank you

  • LongHairGal


    This is a good thread and I hope I can give my 2 cents worth:

    I am a “fader/walkaway” since 2001. Unlike many on the forum, I was not raised JW but came in a young working adult. I was viewed negatively as a single working woman. I resisted their criticism because I had to support myself.

    With regard to the points you raised:

    1) Grief - I was mostly shocked and angry and I lingered for some years planning my fade after the 1995 Generation teaching.

    4) Professional help - I never sought any but maybe I should have. I read Crisis of Conscience and other books; several websites including this one (very helpful). I mellowed out over the years. It is a process.

    5) Discovering my authentic self - In my case I just rediscovered the “authentic” self I repressed for many years. I reconnected with non-JW family and relatives before it was too late. This was priceless and probably the most valuable thing I accomplished besides holding onto my job until retirement.

    6) Dealing with Isolation and Loneliness - this was hardly an issue for me because I was on the fringes of the congregation and didn’t have many friends in the Witness religion..I had some friends on the outside and when I “faded” from the JWs it was a relief for me!

    So, in my case, No. 5 was the most important.

  • OnTheWayOut

    OTWO: so are you saying that you think “Treatments & Interventions” is the most important issue for people that have left a cult? What do you think is the least important from my list and why?

    Every person's situation is different. In such a captive audience, people may have experience with your steps 1&2 and maybe 3, so I would focus on 4-6 to highlight more of moving on with a positive life.

    But that's just my thoughts.

  • Wake Me Up Before You Jo-Ho
    Wake Me Up Before You Jo-Ho
    1. Discovering Your Authentic Self - (personal identity)
    2. Dealing With Isolation and Loneliness (shunning)
    3. The Five Stages of Grief/loss (Kübler-Ross model)
    4. Examining Our Beliefs: Identifying the false and harmful (dysfunctional) core beliefs which are the root cause of our on-going difficulties after leaving
    5. Treatments & Interventions - seeking treatments from working with mental health professionals to self-help
    6. Psychoeducation - this is closely related to #4 above, but is frankly more technical

    I'm with @Flipper and @Reopened Mind with what I'd rank as number one. There is just something so crucial about uncovering the authentic self in order for the rest of the recovery to fall into place.

    In my opinion, your recovery is futile if you've only worked hard on healing the cult persona. It's quite tragic when you have ex-Witnesses who carry their WT narrow-mindedness, prejudices and paranoias with them in all the other areas of their lives. Relationships suffer, friendships are slippery and escapism is a more viable solution than rationally going head-to-head with the issues at hand (how simple it is to substitute a Watchtower with a drink, or a three day convention with a bender). Self-loathing is a key ingredient in WT's toxic cocktail, and it can remain in one's system for life if unaddressed.

    Providing people with the right tools (or even questions they need to ask themselves) for uncovering their authentic selves can empower them to deal with the knock-on effects of leaving a cult, such as the strength to deal with the loneliness. One is never truly lonely if they've discovered and befriended the stranger that's been inside them their whole life.

  • breakfast of champions
    breakfast of champions

    Based on my own experience, I would put #5 Discovering Your Authentic Self - (personal identity) at the top of the list. After waking up, I remember thinking: Now that I don’t picture myself in “the New System" in the next 5-10 years, where will I be? What do I believe? What do I know? How do I know what I know? What am going to do with the rest of my life? What are my goals?

    I'm not a clinical or personality psychologist, but I also think #6 Dealing With Isolation and Loneliness (shunning) is closely related to #5. You might be able combine these and frame it as an interior/exterior thing: who we are is often as much the people around us as who we are “inside." Losing everyone around you can certainly make you feel as though you’ve been stripped of your real/authentic self/identity

    Besides #5 and #6, I think it’s really important to mention #4 too. I went to a psychologist who specializes in abuse/PTSD/dissociative disorders for about 18 months and it helped immeasurably. Probably good at least to mention the importance of a good counselor no matter what other points you decide to discuss.

    Hope this helps!

  • humbled

    There is a lot of overlap necessary in recovery. I found that examining my beliefs were important. But even these changed more once l left and l was safer not to get involved with another church - something one might do for a number of reasons including the isolation factor.

    I agree that the # ONE goal is to find the Authentic Self. But we can impede our progress if we go too fast and don’t let grief and a certain amount of solitude and reflection on our JW indoctrination settle out. But l know that a sort of quiet social life fill a void but one must be careful about that in the tender beginnings.

    While counseling was a powerful tool in my recover I remember that l was unaware how much religious shame and training had knit into my thinking . so initially my sessions didn’t address this. Most counselors don’t know what the WT does to people. Counselors tend to look at the family relationships not knowing how the WT governs and often supersedes family culture. Counseling benefits more as we become aware of the true impact of the cult in our lives.

    Extricating our real self from this must be done with care. I have been out for 10 years.

    1. allow for grief
    2. examine the parts of you religious thoughts that you know had been intolerable and be open to further discovery.
    3. educate yourself as to the specific psychological impacts of cult thinking
    4. To counteract the shunning and isolation impacts, get some regular exposure to other people in volunteer programs, small clubs or other activities ( l had work that allowed for good human interaction)that do not require deep commitment (until you have “found”yourself )
    5. Find a good counselor.
    6. Be your authentic self. This is not the least important by any means. It is primary but doesn’t blossom fully unless and until other steps are taken. Your authentic self is a discovery that will be emerging as you go along. That said it Indeed was what caused you to take that first step out of JW land to start with. “Do not quench the spirit!” Lol
  • pale.emperor

    If it were me i'd order them like this:

    1. Discovering Your Authentic Self - (personal identity)
    2. Dealing With Isolation and Loneliness (shunning)
    3. The Five Stages of Grief/loss (Kübler-Ross model)
    4. Treatments & Interventions - seeking treatments from working with mental health professionals to self-help
    5. Examining Our Beliefs: Identifying the false and harmful (dysfunctional) core beliefs which are the root cause of our on-going difficulties after leaving
    6. Psychoeducation - this is closely related to #2 above, but is frankly more technical

    Although all of them are important, it'd be difficult to cover all of them sufficiently in 20mins so i'd go for the top two there.

    Discovering your authentic self: Reason being, so many ex-JWs i speak to tell me that they're still "finding themselves", and about 90% of them slip up and still say things like "when i was in the truth...". The loaded language is still there, and until it's removed they'll still have some sort of psychological/emotional connection to the cult. The advice I give to ex-members is to "go nuts". Take a week or even a month of doing all the things you wanted to do but were never allowed to. You'll learn which things you like and which things you dont like. And now, at least you'll have your own reasons for not doing X, Y and Z rather than "the Watchtower said". Also studying anything/everything that interests you too. You'll discover the real you and hobbies/skills you didn't know you even had.

    Dealing with isolation/loss is a very important one. In fact, it's one of the reasons many people dont even bother leaving. The fear of the unknown, uncertainty if they'll ever find friends or have their own family. It also helps them to convince themselves it's "the truth" when they're facing cognitive dissonance.

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