Jehovah witnesses have asked me why expose and talk about the trials and troubles within the Jehovah witness organization? Why be concerned? Why help others? This is why we help. There is a stressor out there that has caused suicide, early death, and Torn families apart! Religious persecution by Jehovah witnesses on other Christians and ex-members have produced:
Religious Trauma Syndrome
Religious Trauma Syndrome is the condition experienced by people who are struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage of indoctrination. They may be going through the shattering of a personally meaningful faith and/or breaking away from a controlling community and lifestyle. Religious Trauma Syndrome is a function of both the chronic abuses of harmful religion and the impact of severing one’s connection with one’s faith. It can be compared to PTSD.
Religious Trauma Syndrome has a very recognizable set of symptoms, a definitive set of causes, and a debilitating cycle of abuse. There are ways to stop abuse and recover.
Symptoms of Religious Trauma Syndrome:
- Cognitive: Confusion, poor critical thinking ability, negative beliefs about self-ability & self-worth, black & white thinking, perfectionism, difficulty with decision-making
- Emotional: Depression, anxiety, anger, grief, loneliness, difficulty with pleasure, loss of meaning
- Social: Loss of social network, family rupture, social awkwardness, sexual difficulty, behind schedule on developmental tasks
- Cultural: Unfamiliarity with the secular world; “fish out of water” feelings, difficulty belonging, information gaps (e.g. modern art, music)
Causes of Religious Trauma Syndrome:
Authoritarianism coupled with toxic theology which is received and reinforced at the kingdom hall, conventions, and home results in:
- Suppression of normal child development – cognitive, social, emotional, moral stages are arrested
- Damage to normal thinking and feeling abilities -information is limited and controlled; dysfunctional beliefs taught; independent thinking condemned; feelings condemned
- Knowledge is revealed: only to the governing body; a hierarchy of authority enforced; self, not a reliable or good source;
- Mental and sexual abuse: pedophiles thrive in this authoritative environment; unhealthy sexual views; punishment used for discipline; i.e., disfellowshipping; not allowing grandparents to interact with their grandchildren. Women and children kept on the lowest run of the ladder.
The cycle of Abuse-
The cycle now is to send elders by the home or hospital, issue an edict that if you die in this window of time before impending Armageddon hits you will go to Gehenna. One non-baptized witness was in a nursing home with incurable cancer and was told this. She died 2 weeks later. Another 82-year-old sister hadn’t attended in 10 years but was visited and intimidated with death in Gehenna and many more insults since their Annual meeting of 2017. Adult children are intimidating older parents and siblings that have left the organization. Not answering text or phone calls, emotional abuse.
This results in an unending cycle of threats and verbal abuse often with shouting and threatening. You get relief when they leave. Then the elders show up again, they say to encourage you. Then they are threatening sisters with the death of their little children at Armageddon. Salvation is not a free gift according to them; you must be in the organization. Some are getting multiple visits within a week even on their job.
This is getting out of hand and some are going to lawyers to get a cease and desist letter. The governing body says they have fulfilled Matt. 24:14 and are preaching a message of judgment and studying only with those righteously "disposed." They are not raising their heads up because deliverance is near. They are in a panic and fearful!
The Cycle of Abuse can be stopped
You can stop the cycle of abuse, but leaving the witnesses is a “mixed blessing.” Letting go of the need to conform is a huge relief. There is a sense of freedom, excitement about information and new experiences, new-found self-respect, integrity, and the sense of emerging identity.
There are huge challenges as well. The psychological damage does not go away overnight. In fact, because the phobia indoctrination in young childhood is so powerful, the fear of Gehenna and Armageddon can last a lifetime despite articles like these: http://www.friendsofjehovahswitnesses.com/category/armageddon-2/
This is why there are so many thousands of walking wounded – people who have left a high control manmade organizational religion and are living with Religious Trauma Syndrome.
The governing body says they are mentally diseased not realizing:
Religious Trauma Syndrome mimics the symptoms of many other disorders –
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- clinical depression
- anxiety disorders
- bipolar disorder
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- borderline personality disorder
- eating disorders
- social disorders
- marital and sexual dysfunctions
- drug and alcohol abuse
- extreme antisocial behavior, including homicide
There are many extreme cases, including child abuse of all kinds, suicide, rape, and murder. (http://www.silentlambs.org/murderjwfathers.htm) (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/family-found-dead-apparent-murder-suicide-article-1.1582545) Not as extreme but also tragic are all the people who are struggling to make sense of life after being severely SHUNNED and losing their family and friends. Many who try to get help from the mental health profession cannot find a therapist who understands Religious Trauma Syndrome. They say just leave and forget about going to worship services with others.
What’s the problem?
We have in our society an assumption that highly organized religion is for the most part harmless or good for you. Therapists, like others, expect that if you stop believing, you just quit going to services, putting it in the same category as not believing in The Tooth Fairy. Therapists often don’t understand fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalism refers to the belief of an individual or a group of individuals as the absolute authority of a sacred religious text or teachings. In this case, the governing body must be obeyed without question. They say even if you can prove them wrong by scripture you must teach and believe until they change it. They even have a new song to them that states right or wrong follow them. Gehenna is the penalty.
Therapists do not realize what a complete mind-violation this really is and persons can’t just get over it. They have been indoctrinated (the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically, without questioning.) The governing body is a god to most witnesses.
In the United States, we have a bill of rights, our freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. This makes it extremely difficult to address a debilitating disorder like Religious Trauma Syndrome without it threatening these rights. Raising questions about toxic beliefs and abusive practices in religion seems to be violating a taboo. No one wants to be pointing fingers for fear of tampering with our precious freedoms. In the meantime, people are fighting to mentally break this mind control that the governing body has used for so long, threats of death at Armageddon with their minor children dying because a parent left the witnesses...
Sanitizing hierarchy, high control religion makes it all the more insidious when it is toxic. (A system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority. A peeking order, ladder climbing, inclusiveness.)
For example, small children are biologically dependent on their adult caretakers; built into their survival mechanisms is a need to trust authority just to stay alive. Religious teachings take hold easily in their underdeveloped brains while the adults who are controlled keep tight control on the children. This continues generation after generation. Masses of believers learn to value self-loathing and fear Armageddon. It’s difficult to break this cycle!
There is hope
Awareness is growing about the dangers of religious indoctrination. There are more and more websites to support the growing number of people leaving harmful religion. Slowly, services are growing to help people with Religious Trauma Syndrome heal and grow, including this site that attempts to offer spiritual healing for witnesses with international testimony sessions by internet, articles and call in study groups. By discussing here people can understand what they have been through and take steps to become healthy, happy human beings.
So feel free to open up and talk. Let others know what you are going through and how you are coping. Together the shock, pain, and trauma will move further in the back of your brain and mind.