Why do ones that have faded and been out for years return? I have a
friend who got DF a few times and came back and then faded and I can see
that as a strategy to ensure you still get to speak to your family and
friends, but I do not understand what makes faded ones come back.
It's difficult for me to answer that question in the general sense, however, experts in the matter of cults and groups like the JWs believe that the reasons people return are very similar to the reasons why some JW stay.
Some continue to believe in the JW doctrine. Some people do like reading the bible, analyzing "the scriptures", some people feel that that's cool and miss it.
Some people feel loss after leaving. That is particular of the born in. They have invested a lot of their time and energy, and the "pressure" of starting over is too much for them to handle.
Something bad happens to them or to the world. I heard of some ex-JWs that went back after the Sept. 11 attacks in USA, thinking that "maybe the WT is right".
They miss family. They are shunned and feel lonely without their love ones.
Shame. They left or were kicked out without a lot of planning, and as such, they may have not prepared for leaving and then "face consequences".
Fear. Leaving doesn't mean that they are no longer influenced by the WT. Something that many faders believe is that leaving and fading is just stopping from attending meetings and participating in their activities. it is a process of "deprogramming", getting rid of the JW mindset, and that's something that many fail to see how embedded it is.
I have known many ex-JWs, out for years if not decades, who still not
celebrate birthdays and believe that the WT is "the truth". Some are just physically out but mentally in.