Overcoming A Servile Mind And A Slave Mentality

by pale.emperor 6 Replies latest jw experiences

  • pale.emperor

    Overcoming servile mind and a slave mentality

    "Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner." —Lao Tzu

    NOTE: Although I'm writing this to get something off my chest and hoping some of you may get something from it, I'm also writing this for active JWs who may be lurking on here too. Us ex-members (or apostates or whatever you want to call us) do actually care for those being treated unkindly. And I think the Watchtower society does treat it's members unkindly.

    I don’t know if this is true or relevant for many of you, but for me personally I really have trouble breaking free from this servile mindset where I like to please others, sometimes to my own detriment. It’s not something I was aware of until recently, I always regarded myself as a good and kind person but a few weeks ago someone close to me pointed out to me that I allow others to walk all over me. At the time I flatly denied this and replied that “I don’t like to rock the boat” or “there’s no need to cause confrontation” – looking back, I can see that this person was right and I have indeed been spending my life pleasing other people. Not wanting to upset people or be responsible for them getting angry or sad.

    I’ve been analyzing this since the discussion came up with my friend, and came upon this interesting article in Physiology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-self-compassion/201710/overcoming-the-need-please

    Have a read if you wish, but the salient points I got out of it are these:

    “The need to feel ‘okay,’ liked, or approved-of is rooted in the messages a person received about their inherent worthiness and belonging while growing up,” says clinical psychologist Erika Martinez. “Somewhere along the way, people with contingent self-worth learned that their worth came from others' approval, not from within themselves.”

    Rachel S. Heslin, author of Navigating Life: 8 Different Strategies to Guide Your Way, traces this need to be liked back to when we were children and were completely dependent on others to take care of us: “Small children are not just learning how to walk and communicate, they are also trying to learn how the world works ... we learn about who we are and what is expected of us based on interactions with others.” Heslin goes on to say, “To a four-year-old, if Mommy or Daddy doesn't like you, there is the danger that they will abandon you, and you will die. We need to understand that when we desperately want someone to approve of us, it's being driven by that little kid part of us that is still terrified of abandonment and death.”

    “The need to feel ‘okay,’ liked, or approved-of is rooted in the messages a person received about their inherent worthiness and belonging while growing up,” says clinical psychologist Erika Martinez. “Somewhere along the way, people with contingent self-worth learned that their worth came from others' approval, not from within themselves.”

    I can totally relate to this. Since birth I was constantly bombarded with Watchtower indoctrination. Told that god only loves Jehovah’s Witnesses and if we’re not good Jehovah’s Witnesses we’ll be destroyed in Armageddon. Note that just being a JW is not enough, you have to be a good JW. Since childhood I’ve been seeking the approval of god via the Watchtower society. Obeying it’s rules, trying to show that im a good JW worthy of not being destroyed. This mentality is unhealthy in an adult, let alone in the mind of a child.

    The answer?

    “As you become more capable of providing yourself with the approval you seek,” says Heslin, “your need for external validation will start to dissipate, leaving you stronger, more confident, and yes, happier in your life.” Though far easier said than done, there are steps that can be taken to build self-worth from within and reduce the need to please.

    I never saw myself as someone lacking confidence. I’m the type of person that revels in a room full of people I don’t know, I’m a social butterfly and have no fear approaching people and getting a conversation out of them and I did public talks without a hint of fear (in fact, I never understood why people got nervous giving talks or sitting job interviews). Yet, I recognize now that I do have confidence issues when it comes to relying on myself to take ownership of important situations like managing a team in an office or standing up to authority figures.

    The article goes on to provide a remedy to overcome this compulsion to please others which, if you’re one of the people im describing, might want to have a read of.

    So am I passing the blame? Is the cult really the reason im like this? I think it’s a major contributor. My parents didn’t help the situation because they themselves were slaves of the Watchtower society and obeyed elders as if they were messengers of god or something.

    The Huffington Post has this to say about recognizing cults and the mentality they produce: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jayanti-tamm/the-c-word_2_b_848340.html

    Again, the salient points I got from it are:

    Through the need to please the leader, to ascend the ranks, to work to fulfill the leader’s vision, cults dictate followers’ actions and thoughts. Obedient members receive exalted status and conformity is enforced through notions of guilt, shame, and failure by both the leader and other members. A system of reporting on members for transgressions creates both an internal police force and opportunities for promotion and rewards for turning in brother and sister members. Those who violate the rules are punished and eventually, to maintain the coherent group unity, expelled. After time, the group assumes all roles — family, friends, church, home, work, community, and departing, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, after years or even decades, without having a concrete safety net is challenging, and sometimes utterly impossible. The world on the other side appears frightening and overwhelming.

    Sound familiar? So there I was, at age 31 thrust into a world that my upbringing didn’t prepare me for. While no longer believing a word that the Watchtower society spouts, the damage is already done. They got into my head. My thinking, my way of treating others was nursed since birth to have a servile slave mentality, wanting to please, seeking approval.

    Cults are fueled by and thrive on control. The willingness to surrender control comes from excessive devotion to the leader and the leader’s vision. The leader’s personal agenda is presented as a universal elixir, one that will eradicate both personal and global moral, ethical, and spiritual maladies. The follower’s faith becomes both the provider and the enabler.

    Most people strive for acceptance within social groups and long for affirmation from others. Be it in an office or country club, adjustments are made to conform, to gain approval and to advance.

    It reminds me of something Malcolm X said about the “slave mentality”. I think we can all relate to how the slave (JWs) that Malcolm X talks about and his master (Watchtower). http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/mmt/mxp/speeches/mxt29.html

    “To understand this, you have to go back to what the young brother here referred to as the house Negro and the field Negro back during slavery. There were two kinds of slaves, the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negroes--they lived in the house with master, they dressed pretty good, they ate good because they ate his food--what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near their master; and they loved their master more than their master loved himself. They would give their life to save their master's house--quicker than the master would. If the master said, "We got a good house here," the house Negro would say, "Yeah, we got a good house here." Whenever the master said "we," he said "we." That's how you can tell a house Negro.

    If the master's house caught on fire, the house Negro would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. If the master go sick, the house Negro would say, "What's the matter, boss, we sick?" We sick! He identified himself with his master, more than his master identified with himself. And if you came to the house Negro and said, "Let's run away, let's escape, let's separate." The house Negro would look at you and say, "Man, you crazy. What you mean, separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?" That was that house Negro. In those days he was called a "house nigger." And that's what we call them today, because we've still got some house niggers running around here.

    This modern house Negro loves his master. He wants to live near him. He'll pay three times as much as the house is worth just to live near his master, and then brag about "I'm the only Negro out here." "I'm the only one on my job." "I'm the only one in this school." You're nothing but a house Negro. And if someone comes to you right now and says, "Let's separate," you say the same thing that the house Negro said on the plantation. "What you mean, separate? From America, this good white man? Where you going to get a better job than you get here?" I mean, this is what you say. "I ain't left nothing in Africa," that's what you say. Why, you left your mind in Africa.”

    Looking back, I saw this “we” throughout all their literature. “We have nothing to do with apostates”, “shouldn’t we trust the governing body?” or “we are thoroughly convinced we are living in the time of the end”.

    The Watchtower bred into me a slave mentality. I’m not saying they’re 100% to blame, other factors surely come into play here. But combining the upbringing I’ve had as a born-in of hardcore believing parents and the reading of Watchtower propaganda since childhood is, in my opinion, a major contributor. Notice how over the past 10 years, Watchtower have been banging on about loyalty. Stressing loyalty to them above loyalty to family, friends and even ourselves.

    Watchtower 1 Oct 2001, pages 20-23.

    Loyalty to God also includes loyalty to his organization. Necessarily, over the years there have been corrections and adjustments to our understanding of certain scriptures. The fact is that no one is as spiritually well fed as we are. (Matthew 24:45-47) Unquestionably, Jehovah has stuck with his modern-day organization. Can we not do likewise?

    When it touches upon family the article admonishes us to:

    Remain loyal to believing friends and family.

    I'm actually glad my friend brought this trait of mine to my attention. It was done in a jovial fashion but also serious in it’s intention. That is a true friend as far as im concerned. Bringing to my attention something I didn’t want to acknowledge that is holding me back.

  • scratchme1010

    Thank you for sharing this. I relate to some of what you posted. I have the feeling that many others too.

  • dubstepped

    Wow, nicely written, and something I'm coming to terms with myself. I was listening to a podcast (shocking, I know) and they were interviewing Gretchen Rubin. Among other things, she recently wrote a book called The Four Tendencies. It is about how humans gravitate to one of four ways of dealing with expectations. That's not to say that we don't experience them all, but one tends to be your go to. Obliger, rebel, questioner, and I can't remember the fourth (probably because it's the healthier one, lol).

    Anyway, while listening I was so sure I was a questioner and it didn't take me long to realize oh crap, I'm definitely an obliger, through and through. I do things out of obligation to others and often find myself and what I want to do as the odd man out.. The good is that I enjoy the external validation that comes from serving others and that I'm really good at it and it helps me in many ways. The bad is that I don't always know what's best for me and sell myself out. There's a better balance to be had. Heck, even doing things I want to do for myself often requires external accountability, or obligation. That's my motivation to meet expectations, whether internal or external.

    I think I'm probably wired that way as a default to some extent. The stereotype is that firstborn often are people pleasers to some extent. But then I see how it made me ripe for the cult to pick. I wanted to be good enough so badly, and my parents gave me no validation. The congregation gave me that though if I did what they deemed right and good. Fuck, this has been too much of my life. Again, it's not all bad and makes me great at many things that I do, but it leaves a part of me unfulfilled.

  • nonjwspouse

    My husband is desperate for outside approval/external validation. He, through therapy, is able to communicate that he needs daily, multiple affirmations form me just to feel good about himself.

    It.is.exausting., to say the least.

    He has had external validation from different sources in his past, through work he does, won an award in a Spanish class, etc., but is unable to keep them in his memory enough to recall them when he needs to feel the validation. He "puts away" the memories of those type things.

    Also, his "slave mentality" is in all likelihood the reason he stayed in a severely dysfunctional relationship for almost 15 years with a woman who treated him,literally, like her slave.

  • HoodwinkedToo

    "At their worst, they (cults) lapse into vehicles demanding control. Cults limit lives into narrow, claustrophobic existences whose singular purpose is the cult itself."

    - Amen

  • Phoebe

    Thank you for sharing P.E I totally relate to this too.

    It's only recently through a year of counseling that my psychologist made me see that I was locked into this mindset of going out of my way to please people and hence people saw me as weak and just walked all over me.

    I have spent my entire life thinking I wasn't good enough so I had to make up for it by going out of my way to make people like me. I had no confidence in myself yet somehow I could chat to strangers, go on the platform without nerves and put myself out of my comfort zone in many ways. But I felt so bad about myself and I'm sure people sensed that and could push me around and they did.

    I'm sure it's a result of years or indoctrination where we are told we are never good enough and also for me, a family telling me how rubbish I was all the time.

    The good news is I'm breaking free of it and beginning to like and accept myself for the first time in over 60 years. So, we can change if we need to.

  • Syme

    Talk about coincidences... I also left at 31. Although I had had doubts some years before that. It may have something to do with the 'magical' age of thirty: it's when you realize you're actually getting older, that you've reached an age when you must at least have the courage of your opinion, and stand up for it.

Share this