Thank you for writing, N! This is one of the most wonderful and gratifying responses to my recovering Jehovah’s Witnesses advice page that I have received. It helps me too – quite a lot – to know that you are out there.
I really wanted to say hi and to thank you for taking the time to create a humourous and humanitarian approach to deconstructing the internal witness! It is great for me to read your advice and discover an affiliation with my own methods of survival over the past 16 years. Just recently, I have been observing some parts of me that have been raising there head that i have been puzzled by and not particularly enjoying, its like “where is this coming from ???” and I had this ephiphany, “I was taught my whole life to think that I was right and everyone else is wrong …..in everything !!” So for the first time I decided to get on the net and check out what might be going on for the others of us, and i have found your site to be really right on for me. Then I realised you are a woman….. but of course !!
It took me also about a decade to come to a point of feeling like i was getting a grip on myself, starting to learn who I am, cultivating my own sense of spirituality, coming to understand the powerfulness of woman, bearing two children, travelling the world and always studying culture, myth, meditation, scriptures of all kinds in my own ways, thoroughly and with a passion that I feel like was the gift that I received from being a witness.
It was beautiful for me to discover your encouragement for others to seek the positive in their experience. It seems through my discoveries on the net over the past few days that there are several sites there to help those on the way out, or something, yet the focus seems to be on the pain.
I can really relate to this, yet I feel like the key to getting through it to being a healthy happy productive human being is in finding the way to turn the experience into the positive for yourself. I felt very akin to the record of your advice on this level (right down to the watching of monty python), and it seemed to me really necessary to be said after reading much of the other stuff that is out there. So thanks for saying it.
I too feel a diffinative certainty as to my never returning to the organisation, much to my families dismay (you’d think by now they would have got the picture ) And for me the concept of it being a religious issue has long since passed. I have a rich spiritual life which is my own in the making, its very liberating, exciting even. I am definately enjoying having political opinions and being able to activate myself in those directions feels like a privilage. Yet every now and then I notice things arising in me, qualities, or opinions that I still need to check out, like layers of an onion that I feel like are in some way or another related to my upbringing. I wonder whether I will ever get done processing this ?? Its a bit of a drag, but its cool too in its own way. So thus I write this letter to you, my more than sister if you dig, to ask if this happens to you too ??
I hope to keep some correspondance with you, if you feel so inclined, and once again thank you for taking the time to nourish a different perspective than victim consciousness. Blessed be.
I dig. Yes, let’s correspond. Thank you so much for your words, and for discovering resonance and value in what I’ve said. There are others who aim for a more positive and healing set of approaches, but it’s true that we are probably a smaller fraction. Take what you can use and disregard anything that doesn’t feel right for you and your experience.
It’s easy to give in to the substantial feelings of anger, frustration and sense of betrayal. I get bitter once in a while myself, but you are right that expanding one’s ability to pursue one’s own unique spiritual path is the more healing and productive way.
My own feeling about the things you mention – that bubble up from time to time for me as well – is that this is what happens with all reflective people. We are reinterpreting our experiences throughout our whole lives. Something will remind us, and we will view it from where we are at that moment. I think that it part of living and and thinking and as you say, processing – very natural, part of growing. We do this throughout our lives. I still get a sick feeling in my gut when I hear words like “worldly” and “district overseer.” Psychological traumas, basic brainwashing, and even nostalgia are very powerful.
In every repetition, there is always a difference. You have more choice about this than it seems, but it requires close attention and self-awareness. Some memory materials (and some of the frameworks within which we interpret them and feel about them) are configured in certain kinds of fairly predictable ways for anyone who has been a member of an authoritarian group such as the JWs. This is especially so for someone who was raised as a JW from birth. We are so trained to be self-righteous and sure about our (actually the Watchtower Society’s) judgments, that we tend to close down our own curiosity – and imagination – and empathy – and compassion.
So if we want to thrive and grow we are always processing our issues and trying to heal or remake the way we think and react – to gain more insight and wisdom, to pull out what is redeeming and what has contributed in a beneficial way to our growth and thriving, and to grant less power to what has been destructive to ourselves and others.
The fact that you are noticing these moments (these things that you see in yourself that seem somewhat uncharacteristic or preset in some way) is a terrific advance! They remain blind spots for many. Treat each recognition as a gift and decide for yourself how to accept, reject, or transform it – for now.
No, I don’t think the process ever stops – and actually I think that’s a good thing because it creates depth and understanding. If you feel overwhelmed, there are ways to create islands, temporary resting places. You can’t stay on them forever since everything changes, but you can learn how to change along with it. Like surfing, floating, riding – creating an internal center of gravity that can itself move.
For me, it’s learning to ask better questions. It’s a kind of constant concern that I can ride through different perspectives. Maybe later I won’t even need to be focused on forming better questions, but it’s been a good kind of path for me so far. I’ve noticed that the more the questions are in service to others, the better they ring inside. When I get too self-absorbed, I get a bit morbid.
Still, one can go too far. When I get too self-sacrificial, I lose a sense of self-worth. You have to have something to give. You have to care for yourself to care for others. You’re a mom, so you know that – but it bears repeating to any female former JW!
Blessed be, and be blessed.