mental, spiritual, and physical turmoil of being disfellowshipped or exiting
JWs is very traumatic on an individual and their extended JW family. I once
met a woman who went into an emotional/mental psychosis (a nervous breakdown)
right in the disfellowshipping meeting. She begged the elders not to disfellowship
her, all to no avail. She told me how she just fell to the floor in the fetal
position in an age regressed state of a little girl. That night she attempted
suicide by slashing her wrists but fortunately a friend found her bleeding and
rushed her to a nearby hospital. I worked years ago with a middle-aged couple
that was second and third generation JWs who at my urging, read Ray's book Crisis
of Conscience. He had been a former elder and the effect it had on him literally
made him sick. For one week this man lived in an emotional roller coaster of
fear, dread, paranoia, clarity, anger, hurt, and vindictiveness. In my own personal
experience I felt like my heart had been ripped out of me. I wanted to understand
why and how God's people could be so cruel. What follows is an article that
addresses some of the issues created from exiting.
- You develop
poor health from a poor diet and/or lack of appetite due to depression from
your emotional pain or from emotional numbness, which affects your neuro-chemistry.
You must realize that you are what you eat. If you eat greasy starches you
will not have the proper nutrients for your body to produce the necessary
neurotransmitters for you to have clarity of mind. You can educate yourself
by going to the poor person's university the local library and read books
on proper nutrition.
imbalance, due to altered chemistry, which results in thinking and emotional
problems. This can produce such a panic that you may think Satan is attacking
you, when in reality you may just need to supplement your neuro-transmitters
such as dopamine and the like. You need to see a physician to prescribe medication
for you to help your body as it repairs itself from the emotional shock.
disorders such as problems falling or staying asleep, sleeping too much or
at inappropriate times, or stressful dreams/nightmares often related to the
issues your unconscious mind is struggling with to reconcile. If this is the
case you must seek professional help, because if you go without sleep for
an extended period of time this can cause a nervous breakdown.
coordination problems that make you feel clumsy, poorly balanced, dizziness
and slow reflexes. You must be kind to your body and treat it as though it
just had surgery. The body has an inner wisdom to heal and sometimes just
letting rest is all it takes.
sensitivity such as overreaction to stressful, hypersensitivity, and poor
self-regulation or discipline. Again, just realize that this is quite normal
after taking such a heavy emotional punch. For this a body massage is excellent
to stimulate your lymphatic system to remove body toxins.
This is one of the most pervasive and powerful mental defenses we have. Its
utility is avoidance and distortion of our painful reality, while this may
protect us from painful feelings and appropriate behavior, if we don't face
reality sooner or later we end up trading one spiritual lie for another one
of our own making. An example of this is in my personal experience, is when
I lied to myself thinking that this was not as bad as it was. The reality
was, my experience was very very very cruel and ugly. These were not God's
representatives but human monsters that were blindly following orders. I masked
my pain by using humor, I remember telling my ex-wife all kinds of silly things
to change the meaning of being disfellowshipped.
thinking. This in my case this produced inflexibility in my thinking and I
got locked into running in my mind memories that lead up to my dfing. This
is very counter productive and it produced unnecessary stress and confusion
and difficulty leading to self-pity. If you suffer from this I highly recommend
you journal your experience. This worked for me because it got my thoughts
out of my head and into a neutral detached piece of paper.
with concentration. In this stage you will have problems with concentration
on tasks, instructions, conversations, and responsibilities. I remember being
absent minded many a time in this stage. I was there in body but in spirit
I was years away into the future. This in time became a problem because it
was more comfortable to live in the future than in real time.
Judgment In this stage I had problems with decision-making, problem solving,
and impulsive behavior. I made poor business decisions and this spiraled into
a lack of integrity. I did not realize until recently the great damage I did
problems. Problems with short term and/or long-term memory.
swings that cause you stress and difficulty functioning. It's not uncommon
for you to feel good leaving the JWs in the morning and by the afternoon feel
like you have made the greatest mistake in your life leading to your impending
death. You need to understand that this is just a phase you need to go through.
numbness that makes you feel strange. You may experience problems expressing
feelings and at times shutting down, this is just your unconscious mind running
a defense mechanism.
identifying/tolerating feelings, this often makes you feel lost, confused,
fearful, hopeless, helpless, and many others. There are more than seven hundred
fifty feelings that you are capable of experiencing and leaving the JWs will
force you to at first, cycle through heavy and at times painful feelings.
The good news is that in time you begin to recover all the positive light
feelings and tremendous clarity.
expressing feelings in contexts that in the past you had no problems with.
You may find yourself unable to find the appropriate or accurate expression
of your feelings. You may have difficulty in your relationships, you find
that people don't understand you and you don't understand why people treat
you the way they do.
response to ordinary feelings, this is due to a deep fear of experiencing
painful feelings, which leads to avoidance anxiety. You need to understand
that it will take time for you to open up emotionally. This is where a skilled
therapist is invaluable in helping you sort out your feelings once you are
ready to deal with them so you can open your heart.
that makes you feel separated from God, others and from life in general. In
the JW environment you were conditioned to have "group think", now that you
are alone you must learn to think for yourself and put your interests first
ahead of others. You were told that you must put God and others ahead of yourself;
this belief was useful to control your decisions and keep you enslaved.
that makes you feel no sense of self. This often leads people to trade one
group for another before they spend time alone discovering who they are and
recovering the pieces they gave of themselves to the JW culture. Once you
discover that a benevolent spiritual being resides in your body you are on
your way to finding your place in the great divine plan.
from the process of living that makes you feel "what's the use" of living.
In the past your purpose for living was to promote the business interests
of the Watchtower. Now, you must find your own purpose for living, this will
take time and you can enjoy the exploration process. I have experienced first
hand and in other ex JWs the need to help others as a purposive release of
their painful emotions. This too needs to be transcended in your efforts to
find your own mission in life. Once you do this, all your past experience
will be understood and appreciated in the larger context of God's plan for
and angry at defining self in relation to life and others. As I write these
words I am listening to the soundtrack from the movie Evita. I remember soon
after being dfed seeing the movie and identifying with the benevolent self-serving
tyrant that she was. In my mind I wanted to be like her with all the vast
power to squash and incarcerate my former enemies while handing out help to
my ex JW compatriots. In a way, I identified my own anger that I wanted and
needed to vent out, the movie was useful for me to think about doing it in
constructive and helpful ways. Give yourself permission to let your own mind
use fantasy as a means of trying out different roles in an effort to discover
who you are.
meaning or purpose to pick up the pieces and move forward. Ask yourself this
question; "What is important to me about my life now that I am no longer a
JW?" Or "What do I value about my life now?" It's a simple question but many
will have difficulty answering it. Once you have identified your values next
ask yourself, "What will having or attaining these values do for me?" Your
mission in life will be strongly linked to these higher values. In my experience
I valued freedom to think and do what I wanted, when I wanted, where I wanted,
how I wanted and with whom I wanted. This gave me propulsion to move forward
as a means to an end. Anytime I had thoughts of going back I remembered my
mission, this quickly snapped back to reality.