I was going through my copy of Steve Hassan's combating Cult Mind Control and it occurred to me that it would be great to have something like this specifically for us Ex Jehovah's Witnesses. While this is a great book, the examples he uses are mostly from people that were Moonies, as Steve is a former Moonie and many people that have contacted him for help were relatives of Moonies. While cults all work basically the same, it would be nice to be have some ideas on things that are specific to Jehovah's Witnesses.
I have come up with some points on how to talk with your family or friends, it's loosely based on Steve's keys to talking to a cult member. Unfortunately what I am lacking is actual experience in this, but I am hoping to get suggestions and real world examples from those of you that have been successful in helping others leave the Watchtower. Eventually I want incorporate your ideas and experiences into a guide that can be used for those who are looking for help in talking to their friends or family members.
For any suggestions or experiences, please identify how it fits in with one of these keys:
#1 Build Rapport and Trust
When learning TTATT ( The truth about the Truth) your first impulse may be to share your newfound knowledge with your family or friends, certain that they will be as open to it as you. This is a mistake, because most JWs have been trained to fear apostates. This fear is deep seated and defies rationality, but it is real. Especially if you haven't seen them in a while you may want to hold off on sharing any information at first, just spend time talking about non religious topics. It's important that your friend or family member feels comfortable with you, that you are not a threat. If you tried to talk to them about things in the past and it didn't go well you will have to let some time pass and build up the relationship before attempting it again.
#2 Goal oriented Communication.
It's a good idea to think through your goals in communicating with your family. What do you think would work with them? What are their concerns? If they are older they might be concerned about the many recent changes in the organization. They might remember the false predictions about 1975, whereas to someone in their twenties that is ancient history and meaningless. A younger person might be concerned with getting an education, or might be having problems finding a suitable mate A young mother might be concerned with the many requirements and demands on her time and the difficulties of taking children to the meetings and field service. Do not attempt to tell them all the evils of the Watchtower, focus on one or two things.
#4 Help them Ideniltify with their true self.
Every person in a religion like the Jehovah's Witnesses has two personalities, their cult persona, who they have to be to fit in with the organization, and their true self, who they would be if they had never been a Jehovah's Witnesses. That true self is not gone, just suppressed.
You could try asking them what they wanted to be when they were in school, or what they would have done with their lives if they hadn't been a Jehovah's Witness. This can help them recall long buried desires or ambitions, it will help them remember all the things they have given up to be in the religion.
# 5 Get them to look at reality from different perspectives.
JW's live in a very isolated world, they never think about how other people view things. Use your knowledge of the person to get them to consider alternate points of view. You might ask them how they imagine a non JW family member feels about the fact that Relative A is shunning Relative B. Or ask them how their parent feels about their grandchild turning down a scholarship to Pioneer.
Alternatively could ask them what they would do differently if they were on the Governing body. Every JW has seen something in the way things are done that they would do differently, getting to verbalize it is a way to get them thinking independently.
#6 Indiect Information.
We know that direct confrontation never works. Nobody likes to be told their are wrong, doing so will just stir up resistance to anything you have to say. Also, the religion teaches a lot of "thought stopping" behavior. Anything critical of the Watchtower is considered "apostate", something that should not even be read or thought about, that is even to be feared. One way to sidestep thought stopping is to give them information in an indirect way. You might share something about Mormons, and some crazy belief or practice that they engage in, without mentioning that it's not that different from what JWs do, they will make the connection themselves.
Maybe you could watch a movie that involves cults, like the one about JIm Jones. Some people have said the movie The Truman Show helped them to wake up. Suggestions for other movies that may have helped you are welcome.
#7 Help them visualize a happy future outside the religion.
You could ask them what things would they do if you weren't a JW and you could choose to do anything. You could ask them what different choices they would make if they knew for sure Armageddon wasn't going to come for another fifty years.
#8 Give them information on how cults work and give them examples of other cults.
Tread very carefully here. Nobody in a cult thinks that they actually are in a cult, some people are very sensitive to the idea. It's best to not even mention the word cult, you can use the term "high control religion" instead if you want.
Steve talks about the BITE method. Cults use behavior control, information control, thought control and emotional control.
Some techniques often used by cults are:
Deception - They are never open or honest about what they truly believe.
Exclusivism - They always claim to have special knowledge or to be the only path to salvation.
Fear and Intimidation - To disagree with the leadership is to disagree with God.
Relationship Control - If they control your relationships they can control you.
Information Control - To Control info is to control the person.
Reporting Structure - people are encouraged to report suspicious behavior or talk.
Time Control - Mind control cults keep their members so busy with meetings and activities that they become too busy and too tired to think about their involvement.