Poetry of loss

There was a time that the feeling of not belonging was an ever present tangible thing in my life. A product of a destructive, violent and fearful home I retreated into myself, the only safe place I could find. My stereotypical protectors were too caught up in their own pain and dramas to be concerned with an overly shy little girl who had a menagerie of imaginary friends to make up for genuine human interaction.

My mother, raised a Jehovah’s Witness of course taught me that it was the only way to believe and to live. Seeing the results of not obeying Jehovah in her life, it very forcefully showed me that if I was going to get through this life, my only choice was to ‘make right’ with Jehovah. So I did.

I did everything I was supposed to, I climbed those slippery rungs of acceptance for years, until finally I had reached the pinnacle. Even though the rest of the world in general didn’t understand or accept me, my tribe was in that congregation – or so I believed. When I was quiet I knew I wasn’t happy, but I put that down to my depression and tried to just put it aside. I spent a great deal of time alone, even though I had friends and occasionally went out like a normal young adult, I still spent much of my time in my head. My safe place, constructing whole worlds, families, friendships and really if you come down to it – acceptance. I couldn’t forge it in the real world, so I fabricated one in my mind.

Who knows what those years of living in my head did to me – I do know it stunted my maturity to some degree, though I’m not entirely sure if it is the only cause. My abusive home probably played a part in that too. Being denied acceptance creates this unending need to find it. Yes, my mother accepted me, but I was an extension of her, I was more her confidant and support than a young daughter. My father didn’t accept me, he had rejected me at birth and even years later when I foolishly tried to gain his affection as a teenager he still rejected me. It’s not he left the family – on no, I think he did something worse. He stayed and made our lives a living hell.

When I gained acceptance with the Witnesses there was a brief time of ‘happiness’ some adulterated version of happiness that you get when you feel you have found belonging. At least there I wasn’t the only one in the class not celebrating Christmas, or the only one who didn’t celebrate her birthday. I did have to conquer my shyness and instead of learning to love how I am, shyness and all, I had to force myself to talk to strangers, give talks on a platform in front of an audience and be ready at a moment’s notice for demonstrations. Even with my fear I accomplished this and really believed that Jehovah was helping me.

Fast forward a bit and I’m sitting in Church listening to hymns being sung that are vastly different from what I was taught to sing in the Kingdom Hall. As I listen, tears sting my eyes because I can remember standing at the Kingdom Hall so acutely that I almost smell the wood polish. How many times did I cry silently during prayers because I couldn’t understand why I was so depressed? Of course I know now what was wrong. How could I possibly live a happy life indoctrinated in a cult? How many times did I beg Jehovah to please help me? Did he, or was it all in my head?

What I do know is that I still have an emptiness from what I lost, or perceive I lost. This certainty of belief, this certainty of my place in the world. Now I have very little, if any certainty when it comes to spiritual matters. Atheism doesn’t fill my void, it doesn’t answer my ‘why’s’ and ‘who’s’ so I look again to heaven.

I hold the Jehovah’s Witnesses responsible for much harm in this world, over many years. Many have suffered at their hands far worse than I. Giving people a false sense of belonging, filling the space in their hearts with all their counterfeit spirituality. Taking my trust, and abusing it – again, just like my parents.  Since leaving, that space has being emptied, and now I often still feel like there is something missing inside. Could I compare it to a missing limb? You know it used to be there, but it isn’t anymore, but you still feel the pain and feel it itch. You dream of it as if it’s still a part of you.

An illustration I remember from the platform will help me bring this to a conclusion. He explained that children’s are like blank white walls, if parents don’t write on them, everyone else will, implying ‘bad’ graffiti of every kind. My ‘blank wall’ is that empty space and I’m terrified of nonsense and lies being scrawled on it. I’m determined to not be gullible again, or not be an accepting little fool again, but at the same time my blank white wall sears my eyeballs for all I don’t know and all I don’t have.

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Are we rewarded for being ‘good’?

My off the cuff answer would be, no. No amount of ‘goodness’ on our part automatically requires rewards of whatever nature to come flowing our way. Life is not like a vending machine. You put in the good coins and good stuff pours out at the bottom. With that said, I do recognise that when you put good out into the world, good stuff does come back to you in a multitude of different ways, but that doesn’t mean that you should EXPECT it. It’s not like a transaction that we make with the universe. If we do ‘good’ to others it’s because it is what we expect of ourselves, not because we are working for some kind of prize.

As a Jehovah’s Witness we are taught in many different ways that there is this ‘vending machine’ that rewards you if you are good. Even if you don’t get a single prize at all while on ‘this side of Armageddon’ we will ALL get the great big prize of Paradise. Yes, that delusional belief just fixes everything, no matter how awful your life might be now, holding out for that is worth it.

To break it down – if you attend all the meetings, you are rewarded with friendship and community with the Witnesses. If you prepare well and answer regularly at the Sunday meetings you get a reputation for being ‘spiritually minded’. If you put theocratic efforts at the forefront of your life you are ‘spiritually strong or even spiritually mature.’ That mature thing is a biggie because all Jehovah’s Witness children or those studying to become Jehovah’s Witnesses are urged to attain this standard of ‘spiritual maturity’.

 

Now, let me tell you a story of how awful that thinking really is. Once upon time when I was in my early twenties I really felt like I had achieved this spiritual maturity. Okay, maybe I was young to be saying such a thing but reflecting upon the life I led you could forgive me for thinking I was doing pretty darn amazing. I worked full-time at a responsible job, I was my mother primary caregiver, I kept to a gruelling schedule of theocratic activities, including three meeting a week (at the time) field service on weekends, devoting my time off to pioneering or helping pioneers get their time in and volunteering for ‘talks’ during the now defunct Theocratic Ministry School. Whenever a sister’s ‘householder’ hadn’t arrived for the meeting, I would become the substitute and quickly go over lines in the toilets before the meeting started, occasionally even going over them while in my seat, or on at least one occasion completely winging it because the sister hadn’t finished writing down my lines! (If you have no idea what this ‘talk’ and ‘householder’ business is, drop me a message and I’ll explain)

So, I had garnered a reputation, extremely hard won I might add, as dependable, mature and responsible. This led to being noticed by some brothers (not a whole bunch…I wasn’t THAT pretty) but one in particular was an elder at Bethel. He was a young elder only a few years older than me ( I was about 25, so already an old maid) and he made some ‘enquiries’ about me. He asked another Elder in my congregation about me and this Elder took me aside one night after the meeting and told me.

Let me tell you, I was shaking when Brother Elder told me all about this, it was like ‘It’s finally happening! A brother has finally noticed me!’ My joy was extremely short lived because this Elder had to tell me that because I had to work full-time to take care of my mother (seriously I had to) there was no way I could possibly pursue a relationship with this brother because he was adamant about not leaving Bethel. He could not ‘break’ his fulltime service. Being that I could not join him at Bethel since I had to work, that meant our getting together would simply not be happening.

I wonder to this day why Brother Elder had to even tell me…honestly, what was the purpose of it? To crush my spirit? To remind me of the absolutely shitty circumstances I was living with and the heavy responsibilities that I was carrying that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy? All I desired at that time was to be in full-time service, I would cry pitifully of my lost opportunities because I had to take care of my mother. Now, just to add the icing on the cake…a guy likes you, but oops, sorry…it’s not going to happen.

Since finding marriage mate is a pretty big deal to the JW sisters, and believe me I saw more than enough desperate attempts of snagging a mate in my home congregation, this was like a hammer blow to the guts.

I got home that evening after the meeting, it was around 10pm and as soon as the door was closed behind me I sank to my knees and just cried. My book bag, smacked against the floor and stuff fell out and I didn’t care. I just sat there and cried, in fact it was more like wailing. I had been suffering from depression for years (caregiving can definitely do that to you) and that night it was like something inside just broke.

I had done everything to be that ‘good girl’. I had avoided all the bad stuff. I avoided certain worldly friendships, I was careful about my movies and music, my clothes, I did all my Bible readings, I prepared my Watchtower every week, I read my Examining the Scriptures every morning, I hardly missed meetings… just everything, and instead of receiving said ‘reward’ I was getting nothing at all. I genuinely felt that Jehovah himself had looked at me and said ‘No’. My heart broke that night and when I stood up I was different girl, a wiser girl.

You simply cannot go through life and expect that ‘being good’ will mean God will reward you. I have said many times since my little awakening and then my very big awakening in leaving the cult, that God is not a genie. You don’t just pray over and over and magic and sparkles, there is what you asked for. With everything in life, it all takes hard work and effort, and sometimes even that doesn’t mean you get results. Now, I am a Christian, I may not strictly follow Bible but I do follow Jesus and I am also way more practically minded about prayer than I have ever been. Does that mean I lack faith, or does it mean that I trust Jesus so much that I reckon He trusts me enough to get on with it. (A discussion for another time perhaps.)

When we think that our being ‘good’ is just not working and why the hell even bother, we go in the opposite direction – we are then being ‘bad’. We go out drinking and partying and sleeping around and doing exactly all the things that we would previously have avoided – but why? Are we rebelling? Are we showing God ‘the finger’? Since you are not holding up your end of the bargain I’m going to do exactly what I want.  Just to clarify, if you enjoy doing those things, I am not judging you – seriously, I say enjoy yourself, and the mother in me says ‘for God’s sake just be careful, I don’t want to hear about you passed out in a ditch!’ We all have our own choices to make, and the consequences to bear, so have fun (and be safe), life is too short anyway.

Should we even expect God to hold to our view of ‘the bargain?’ To a Jehovah’s Witness, the big reward is paradise, so any and all discomfort and hardships now are small potatoes compared to permanent utopia. In reality paradise on earth is a myth so the bargain is void anyway.

To drive my final point home – we should be ‘good’ because it was what we expect of ourselves, whatever that may be. We each have our own view of what is good, our standard of how we treat ourselves and our fellow human beings. Being kind to one another is a massive positive in an otherwise very negative world. We do the good things because, firstly we want to, and secondly because that is ‘simply who we are.’ I do not save an insect from being crushed to death because I think Jesus is looking on and putting it on my list ‘of good deeds’. I do it because it is who I am.

The reward we receive is from ourselves. No outside source needs to hand it to us. If it does happen, its gravy, its extra – because all the reward we ever needed was right there in our own hearts, telling us ‘Well done, you! That’s who I am!’

“I’m not coming back”

That statement has been a long time coming in my subconscious and finally this morning’s dream delivered up what I had been waiting over three years to hear.

It was the usual attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall and somehow not being noticed by the rank and file or elders as being the apostate in the room. Brothers and sisters talk to me and behave as if I never left at all.

At a point in the dream I think to myself that I’m going to have to tell them because I honestly don’t want to stay with them any longer and since they are clearly out of date with my current activities I’d better inform them and move on. This time there was a change, as I was standing outside the Hall an elder I knew for years in my home congregation makes an appearance. This was an elder I really respected and he did look out for me back in the day when I was a Witness. I don’t respect him as much as I did back then, my opinion of him has changed but I suppose in my subconscious he was still that ‘gold standard’ of an elder.

He stops me and says that if I just came to the meetings more regularly I could then ask to be reinstated. Why don’t I just make that effort? I try to answer him politely but he immediately turns away, so I mildly scold by telling him that it was very rude to just turn away from me when I was still talking. He accepts that and agrees and stops to properly listen to me. It is right then that I say those important words. “I’m not coming back.” The looks on his face changes from concern to poison and turns on his heel and marches back into the Kingdom Hall.

I stand there, slightly stung by the abruptness but overall really relieved that ‘they’ finally know that it’s over and done with. There is NO hope I will ever return. My subconscious has made the connection and the lightness I feel is tangible.

It has taken over three years but my dream mind has finally got the message. 🙂

 

 

Needing to Belong

I’ve been thinking about this need for a while now, analysing it, and trying to understand it. Basically, all humans need it, just like we need food and shelter. Whereas obtaining food and shelter would seem straightforward, finding belonging can be an entirely different matter altogether.

Take for example someone who is a Jehovah’s Witness. If you were born into this high control group it would mean your entire social network would be other Jehovah’s Witnesses. These would comprise of family, friends, acquaintances, your congregation, the elders, the international brotherhood. In short all eight million plus that is reported in the year book as active members of Jehovah’s Witnesses could potentially be known by you, and that exclusive group is your ‘herd’ so to speak. Your sense of belonging to this group is incredibly strong, and in fact that desire of belonging to a special group is strengthened repeatedly and constantly through your years going to meetings, doing field service, and attending larger gatherings like assemblies and conventions. The outside world becomes undesirable and more often than not, entirely frightening.

I do think that assemblies and conventions are the high impact ‘belonging pill’ that JW’s get to emphasize in the biggest boldest letters possible ‘You belong HERE with US’ and for a little while that need feels sated, just like when we have a meal, even if it was really awful.

When you start waking up from the lies and delusions of Jehovah’s Witness teachings, the last question many have asked is ‘where will we go then?’ This is a loaded question – one aspect of the question is purely about belonging. Do you sacrifice your very intelligence, conscience and self-respect in order to maintain that sense of belonging, or do you let it all go and face whatever happens ‘alone’. I say alone in inverted commas because you may not be physically alone at all, but in your mind and your heart your sense of belonging is ripped right out of you. Your entire perspective on life and the world is shattered. Your herd is no longer on your side, but instead is ready to rip your heart out and cause as much emotional pain to you they possibly can, all because you decided that integrity has a higher value than a false sense of belonging.

It is similar to the phrase ‘falling in with a bad crowd’. How many of us in our younger days joined a ‘bad crowd’ simply because we wanted that feeling of belonging? The need is seriously strong, so the pain we feel when losing that sense of belonging is deep and all too real. It is not something we are just going to ‘get over’. There is a period of mourning we go through for the intense loss we have suffered. Our grief can take many forms and we all heal at our own pace. Giving ourselves permission to feel the pain and mourn what we have lost is important, even though what we lost isn’t truly what we thought it was, it doesn’t mean our hearts and minds didn’t think it was the real deal when we were in the group.

A sense of belonging is intricately linked to our self-worth, and we immediately crave and seek that sense of belonging again from somewhere. It is very easy to go straight into any other group just in order to placate the need driving us. Think of being ravenously hungry and making do with stale crackers or grabbing a high sugar snack just to keep going until you get a proper meal. We all know we can’t live on high sugar snacks alone, it’s unhealthy and over time our bodies will show us in a myriad of ways that our food choices were poor. In a similar vein we need to be careful with finding our new ‘herd’. How do we even go about finding a new ‘herd’ anyway?

Integrating back into society as a whole is a very daunting task, but it is doable. One of the first things to explore is finding out who you truly are. Really sit down and get to know yourself. What do you really like, not what you were indoctrinated to like as a Jehovah’s Witness, but what do you, in your heart of hearts really like? Start with the simple stuff, your music, movies, books – how would you describe your style, your taste, your dress sense? What hobbies do you have, if you discarded all your hobbies in your attempt to be more ‘spiritual’ in the eyes of the elders and brothers and sisters, what has always interested you? Make a list if that will help. Jot down ideas as they come to you. The world is open to you now, and though that can be incredibly scary, especially when you were trained from young to view the world as a dangerous place, being able to enjoy the things you were denied can be exciting in its own way.

So, you have been learning about yourself and slowly expanding your horizons, and maybe even joined a club, maybe signed up for dancing lessons – but still your feeling of not belonging eats away you inside. Recognise it for what it is, a simple, basic need that we all have and you have no reason to despair about not finding your herd yet.

The fact is all human beings are linked to each other, we all influence one another is millions of ways, from massive corporations to the little girl down the street who always greets you. We do all belong to each other, obviously we are far closer to some than others, but our feelings of being inescapably alone can be overcome by perceiving what is right in front of us. This entire planet full of people is our ‘herd’. We may like and love certain people in our lives, and perhaps openly detest others, but we all do belong on this blue and green and brown ball. Opening yourself up to the possibilities of being part of everything can be truly liberating. No group or charismatic leader could ever delude us into joining his exclusive group because our self-worth says loud and clear I know I belong, right where I am, with these people I love and choose to be with. I belong here where I help out at the food bank, or the soup kitchen, I belong here where I take care of and love my spouse and my children, I belong here, laughing with my friends at the pub. I belong here with my family, regardless if they are your blood family or not. I belong here, speaking out for those who are silent, working hard at my job, giving my best, enjoying my holiday, running through the forest, hiking up a trail. Whatever you may be doing, accomplishing and striving for. You belong.

Vows CAN BE revoked

In  THE WATCHTOWER (STUDY EDITION) APRIL 2017 there is an article entitled “What you vow pay”. Below is an extract from that article paragraph 13:

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When I first read this paragraph my response was pure annoyance at the Governing Body’s arrogance. Nothing new there though, their ego’s need their own zip codes.

Where to begin? According to the Governing Body there is no way to undo a dedication vow. Really? What about when someone converts to become a Jehovah’s Witness? Let’s say they were baptised into another religion and in order to clear their way they are advised to write a resignation letter to their old faith to show they are genuinely separating themselves from ‘false religion’, so – when its suits the Governing Body someone CAN undo a dedication vow as long as the vow wasn’t to ‘Jehovah’s spirit-directed organization’. Very convenient.

If someone was married as a minor would it be valid? Even if they stood there in a child size wedding dress or tuxedo and clearly said ‘yes’ or ‘I do’ at the appropriate time, would it be valid? OF COURSE NOT. No-one in their right mind would expect that child to stick to such a vow. Everyone knows they are far too young to understand such a long term contract, and in fact the wedding in it’s entirety would be invalid. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been strongly encouraged to get baptised at young ages, early teens is the norm, but baptisms from as early as 6 years old is not out of the ordinary. How can these baptisms be valid? Many of these Witnesses will tell you they were pressured into getting baptised, or simply did it to get approval from their parents. One I know personally was threatened with being kicked out of her home if she didn’t get baptised. How are these baptisms genuinely presenting themselves to God?

Let’s get to the reason why the Governing Body are giving out this information to the congregations. Clearly enough have asked about their baptisms being invalid, perhaps for the very reasons I’ve outlined above. This article is to make clear that no matter when or what coercion they have been under, their baptism stands. You owe the Organization your pound of flesh no matter what you may say years later. It’s just another way to enforce that complete control they have over their members, a control they fiercely maintain.

Why is it assumed that someone who wants to annul their vows have TIRED have serving Jehovah? What if they discovered they had been lied to? That their trust was completely betrayed, that their consciences were burning with anger or ashamed at being used by a corporation to further the greedy aims of a few men in their ivory tower? I did not tire of serving God – I refused to continue serving the Governing Body and their Organisation, but as we know the Organisation and Jehovah are the same thing to the Governing Body and their faithful subjects.

I decided to disassociate so they would know without a doubt that I was no longer one of those subjects. That resignation letter was me revoking that vow, because I refused to be dedicated to a man-made organisation for one more day of my life. Though the Witnesses will readily tell you the baptism vow is made to God, there is a second part to that vow that is to a ‘spirit-directed organisation’. The contract is with a multi-million dollar corporation NOT to God. Since employment contracts can be cancelled with a resignation letter, or simply quitting the company and not returning, a contract with the Governing Body’s organisation CAN BE REVOKED.

No matter what the Governing Body may bleat about, you have the free will and intelligence to decide whether your vow was given willing and not under ANY false pretences or under pressures of ANY kind and if you decide your baptism was coerced then your baptism is VOID. It is VOID. The Governing Body has NO HOLD OVER YOU. REJECT THEM for the charlatans they are. You owe them nothing. NOTHING.

Hmm…Dreams…

I second guessed myself a great deal whether I should even commit this post to the web. While walking up to fetch my son from Preschool it engrossed my thoughts to such an extent that it turned out to be only course of action. Perhaps in getting it all out this way it could finally be released from my mind and cease it’s nagging at me.

It must first be known that while I usually and regularly have very vivid dreams that doesn’t mean that I put that much stock in them. To me they are simply the unconscious mind cleaning our or filing away memories, feelings and other random stuff that gets filed away in the incredible vastness of the brain’s memory.

Last night was one such night, there was a whole scene of interacting with two sisters that had been my closest friends for over 6 years. That was when I was still a Witness and without going into the collapse of the friendship I got to see these sisters again and be reminded of the things I did not like. This time though I told them without hesitation what I thought and walked away, so I would assume the dream was just a way for me to find a resolution and a confirmation of my feelings and with that said and done it could be filed away in the memories oblivion to never be retrieved again.

The next part of my dream is the part that was bothering me. To explain it briefly I was walking home and I got a bit lost and instead of coming out a street I recognised, instead I was faced with a completely different vista. Street corners taken over by massive statues of demons. Every building adorned with a huge statue, portrait or pennant of a demon. I stood around gazing at this is perplexity until the tiny shards of fear congealed into a mass of cold metal in my stomach because marching all over those streets were groups of demons arresting people. They were all apparently women adorned with beautiful golden helmets that reached down the sides of their faces. As I tried to disappear into a side street one spotted me and grabbed me up, I of course struggled but her superior strength was no match for me. I started shouting what I had also shouted in my head when I had had bad dreams ‘Jehovah’ like some kind of magic charm. I said it over and over and she balked, her eyes glazing over to white, then she was back angrier than ever. “Your rite is dirty, it will not work” I shook, but said confidently. “It may be dirty, but it still stands”. She then threw me on the ground where a car was a seconds away from driving over the exact same spot. I was then getting up off the tar road and walked to the pavement with some vague realisation that I must have died.

With this I woke up and spent several seconds sifting through my mind to remember what was real and what was gain my vivid imagination. How can I explain the strangeness? The ingrained belief that chanting ‘Jehovah’ will save me is at least something I can grasp, I had done that since a young child. Even though the Witnesses will probably say chanting the name doesn’t work like that they still preach that Jehovah’s name is a strong tower and into it the righteous one runs. The golden helmets because of shine caught my attention and with some Google searching found something that could illustrate how it looked. Heimdall’s helmet was unfortunately the closest I could find.

The rest though…is anyone’s guess.

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Another step in healing

It is painfully clear how I have been neglecting this blog. For many reasons I have been busy with life and all the little things that crop up and in truth thoroughly enjoying myself. There are times in this activism bit when your priorities start to shift and change to your new landscape.

Not that I am now abandoning my work as I think of it, but as it naturally happens I will probably spend less time on activism and more time just living life. Recently I volunteered at my local library, it is only two hours a week that I am there, but during the week I am also enjoying myself helping out with doing PR for the library. Obviously I love libraries and being there is just heaven for me :).

At first I felt bad about it, as if I was being lazy – neglectful, but after some reflection I have realised something truly wonderful. My own healing means I can finally take that proverbial readjustment, where I am perfectly happy and content to shift priorities without it being an issue of quitting something that is still very important to me.

I see it not as ‘moving on’ because that phrase is loaded and rather negative to me, I see it rather as a ‘turning the page’. The previous chapters are still important and can be referred to with complete ease and familiarity but still there is now room to turn that page and open up to new opportunities, to expend time and invest energies in brand new things that bring joy and fulfilment.

A natural process of the mind healing – it is quite beautiful I must say.

Never fear to all those who need help to leave the Jehovah’s Witness cult, a hearing ear or an understanding heart – I’m not going anywhere!

Here is to ‘turning the page’

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A visit with the ‘old me’.

I woke up this morning from a very disturbing dream. It wasn’t anything new just another dream about being back with the Witnesses, usually I remember I’m not one anymore quite quickly and the dream surrounds how I try to figure out how to tell them. This one was different in that I only thought that perhaps I wasn’t one of them anymore, near the end of the dream. It left me drained and oddly sad at the memories of running that desperate treadmill. A hamster wheel and grinder to absolutely nowhere but despair and loneliness.

While unpacking after the move I found my old diaries. I kept a diary for every year of my life from 1998 until 2010. With all seriousness most of it is just catalogue of how much work I did, whether at home or at my job and of course the thousands of hours spent doing ‘theocratic activities’ as well as my gut wrenching loneliness and seething resentment at my circumstances. A great deal of it makes we want to cry for the ‘girl’ I was, even though in ’06 and ’07 I was between the ages of 23 and 24. Those are the two years I decided to read through and revisit the old me.

Even though I recognise how much progress I have made since May 2014 it doesn’t mean all is better, or if it will ever be. We will always have our memories but with time and healing eventually those memories will not elicit the pain they used to. I can tell you right now so much of those two years still make me cry, so – no I have not sufficiently healed from those wounds. Perhaps I never will, those injuries are just covered over with scar tissue and instead of them incapacitating me they will give me strength, as evidence of my survival.

I could hear the ‘two me’s’ speaking on those pages. The cult identity and the real me who tried desperately to still be heard. Usually she sounded like a whiny cow, depressed, beaten down and drowning and I hated her because of her weakness, but the reality was so different, every day I had being trying to destroy the last vestiges of the real me. No matter how hard I tried to suffocate her, to smother her into oblivion she stayed. She was beaten, bruised but each time she stood up after my whipping. I would beat her into a corner, blood spattering the walls with my violence. Screaming at her to shut up, to submit, to accept and each time she got on her knees and then she would stand up to face me and I would lock her up again and leave her in the dark to punish her.

I did that for years, for all the varied abuse I suffered at other people’s hands they were never as bad as I was. It took me a long time to embrace who I really was, bad and good and see the cult identity for what it was – a poor shadow, a vindictive, terrified shadow.

Clearly I let her out of her prison and she never tried to get revenge, she simply was and there was no need to continue the battle. Finally the healing could begin. Though my vile words had caused pain they had not changed me fundamentally, I had only delayed myself. My struggles during those years and even now in different degrees have many names, and they are all true. Depression, anxiety, resentment, pain, loneliness, despair, hopelessness. They do not how ever describe WHO I am, and they never will.

Reading those entries was probably just an exercise in remembering past pain, but it did give me something useful. I wrote as if I could not survive another year, that my end had to be close, whether by a long drop or Armageddon, whichever came first, and no drum roll needed…I’m still here. One line that often kept me in the land of the living was ‘how will I know happiness if I’m not alive to know?’ So I stayed and I’m really glad I did. da044a12308c0a8c82b5eae66a424bed

The Hero and Heroines Journey Part 3 From Cult to Contentment – Brien Pittman

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Learning How to Live More Fully Human

One of the saddest aspects of the repressed cult mindset, and quite frankly for much of society in general, is the way our fears have been used against us, to rob us, of experiencing our richer and more profound form of human nature ‘now’ in the present. Years after leaving repressive religion many people may still be battling with this joyless mindset.

Being at peace with the world means being at peace with ourselves. Allowing ourselves to relax and become more fully human – without the stain of anger, fear and suspicion. This form of contentment is a never ending challenge with rich rewards yet, learning how to live with ordinary daily happiness, free of fear, is a genuine skill, and requires a hell of a lot of practice. It takes a mature wisdom to appreciate the world and to accept others and ourselves as imperfect, ordinary people. It takes great strength and courage to open ourselves up to being more fully human.

But, if you just came out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses this is probably the last thing you want to hear. You may have lived under a repressive religious thumb for so long that, now you feel much like a Jack-out-of-the-Box – “Don’t tell me what to do” – “Let’s get this party started” kind of person. Which is perfectly healthy in the beginning of our journey to Self. Just, try to be balanced because you’ll have more traveling to do once you are ready.

Whether we have been out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for years or for weeks our goal is to:

Create a life that is more fully human, with greater access to the higher parts of our humanity on the inside; not just a life that looks good on the outside.

So, are we agreed for the most part regarding our goal?

Good, I hope you nodded or whispered yes. I’ll have to assume that you did.

Unfortunately, and fortunately, there is never a straight line to our goal, and there will always be obstacles. You know, I know, we all know on some rudimentary level; certain people and institutions, in all walks of life, want to keep us separated from ‘our’ goal. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were just our training ground. We still have to make an effort to not let our humanity be lulled back to sleep.

Think about this for a moment. How often are we encouraged or, supported in our efforts to reach the goal of living more fully human? Why are certain people and organizations, from all walks of life, wanting to keep us separated from our goal?

The answer is really quite simple. If we reach our goal – we reach Authenticity – and when we are authentically ourselves – no one person, organization, or ideology can ever own us again.

Other than the people who want to control us in their sick pursuit of power and money, I think it is pretty safe to say most humans want to be free and authentically who we are. But there’s fear, so much fear…   between who we are now and who we have always been. Remember how this series started; “What a long time it can take for a person to become the one they have always been.”

Overcoming the Fear Obstacle

How many of you remember this (or similar) mind drills? “The world is in the hands of Satan, and joy in the present is worthless compared to…blah, blah, blah.” We all fell into that mind shaft and we all know of or, remember people who still view the world as miserable, dreadful, a dangerously demonic place, and that fear makes them cling ever tighter to their abusers.

For us though, now that we have climbed out of that mind shaft; and some of us have actually filled it in. Now, we have to be careful not to fall into another mind shaft that, much of society, in general, has fallen into. Example: Turn on your TV and what do you see and hear?

A bombardment of fear-based stories. Stories which, just like the jw’s stories; prey on the anxieties we all have, and then hold us hostage once again. Everyday, the world and the people in the world are portrayed as dangerous, something to be feared. Every day true Individuality and Authenticity are portrayed as something to be feared; due to rejection. Other than the absence of Satan, the messages are not much different than the messages we received from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The world and life are large and powerful and we are small and weak.”

It’s easy for us to identify others under the spell of this particular mind washing message. Sometimes, their wounded vulnerable interior of fear and distrust is manifested in their hardened exterior. “It’s too dangerous to let my guard down” “I must limit and control the depth of my humanity” “Trusting people hurts” “If I am authentically me – people will reject me”

We’ve all been there at one time or another.

We sometimes chuckle or, are frustrated by those who are lost deep in their obvious denials – but how often do we look within ourselves for our own hidden areas of denial. The ways in which we shield ourselves from our fears and anxieties?

It’s actually hilarious sometimes – how we can lull our minds back to sleep – delay our progress with tempting lullabies. As humans, our reaching our goal (remember our goal?) inevitably depends upon repeated separations and repeated developmental departures. The first departure for every human being was of course from the womb – then from childhood to teenager, and from teenager to adult where we once again physically separated from our parents by moving out on our own. However, you and I, as X-witnesses – we have to add an additional separation into the equation. A much more traumatic separation from our once cherished and pacifying beliefs system and sense of family and community.

Every human being though, regardless of their religious experiences, has to deal with each separation being farther and farther away from the ancient safe place we all long to return to from time to time. Fear of further departure, fear of the unknown; fear of the challenge and responsibility of increased being – intimidates us back into our convenient rituals, self-limiting beliefs and thinking. Our familiar surroundings. Drifting away as we do through the dance of life, farther and farther from our origins, we are often flooded with nostalgia, a word whose Greek meaning is “pain for home.”

At times, we all love to pretend that we are somehow exempt from such huge parts of life and the responsibilities necessary for our progressive growth. But the reality is – we all (at times) have areas where our consciousness is ruled by our unconscious fears. Fear is what lies behind our persistent anger, our helplessness, our legalistic pursuing of the illusion of control, and our desperate clinging to others for answers.

The agendas of progression versus regression war within all of us each day. Sometimes we are aware of their presence, most times we are not. When the desire to go home prevails, we will choose not to choose. We will remain amid the familiar and comfortable, even when it is numbing and soul-denying.

Our self-sung lullabies will become magical forms of thinking that cultivates lethargy – seducing us with whispers: Just forget, numb out, ignore the summons of your soul to be free, take it easy for a while… sometimes for a long while… sometimes for a lifetime.

Looking deeply within ourselves is not a very popular practice is it? Who knows what we might find. (or who we might find) There was a time though when the unexamined life was looked upon as not worth living. Sadly, the world has changed since those days.

As we move from this part of the article and into the next. It is important to realize that Everyone’s journey begins much deeper down the rabbit hole than we suspected. For example; Were you ever shown or, encouraged to get the most out of ‘conscious’ living and the ever present moment? Were you ever shown or encouraged to lovingly and patiently ‘critically examine’ your own inner life? No. Few if any of us were; and sadly many cult survivors never feel at home with themselves and the world long enough to leave their trauma behind.

Home is not a place. It’s a feeling

The crazy-insane-making messages you received while living as a witness probably make it hard and somewhat scary to figure out exactly where you fit into this world. Many X-witnesses struggle with adjusting to the secular world. They share feelings of alienation and feel like misfits. They are unconnected, isolated. Until they find support, and then they realize there are millions just like them, and so begins, and sometimes ends, their journey to Self.

A major step to feeling comfortable and safe will involve stepping outside of your trauma in order to have ‘new’ experiences, in order to, gain some understanding and acceptance of your new world and the new you. (more on this in future articles)

You have been manipulated into believing negative judgments against the world, yourself, and humans in general. There will be times when you have feelings of fear or awkwardness that support the erroneous belief that you just do not fit in anywhere. Some of these are natural feelings for someone greatly influenced by an abusive religion or ideology. Other feeling such as; prolonged anger, apathy, isolation, suicidal ideation and indifference, need to be professionally addressed before they become serious issues for you. Take my word for it.

The point is: You are now free to begin resolving ‘all’ of those erroneous feelings, doubts and beliefs.

Let’s Start With Beauty

One of the most important—and most neglected—elements in the beginnings of developing the interior life with Self is the ability to respond to reality. To clearly see the value and beauty in ordinary things. To come alive to the splendor that is all around us

We miss so much of the beauty that emanates from the people, places and things around us. We just don’t see it. Looking for and enjoying beauty is a way to nourish the soul. The universe, fortunately, has the habit of creating beauty. Take a moment and notice the flowers growing along a mountain trail. All over the world, we have songs, snowflakes and smiles, acts of great courage, laughter between friends, the satisfaction of a job well done, the smell of fresh baked bread. Beauty is everywhere. To perceive the world in this fashion and to walk this path is to acknowledge the goodness of the world.

As the English novelist D.H. Lawrence said, “The human soul needs beauty even more than it needs bread.” In many cultures, this need for beauty is honored in rituals and arts. The Japanese reverence this virtue in the tea ceremony, flower arrangements, calligraphy and other activities. The Balinese have found a way to integrate beauty into everyday life where it belongs. Through their yoga exercises, writings, rich spiritual lives and hospitality. Every aspect of their inner and outer world has a deep reverence for beauty.

Beauty in all it forms should be encouraged in our homes and celebrated. Drink deep of the shining and ephemeral moments in life that surround you. Drink deeply of the beauty, which nourishes your soul. Then you will never have to utter the lamenting words of the third-century religious philosopher St. Augustine at the close of your life: “Too late have I loved you O Beauty, so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you!”

 

The Hero and Heroines Journey; Part 2 From Cult to Courageously Fearful – Brien Pittman

tunnel pic

A friend one day told me he admired my courage. Because I was surprised by the fact that he thought ‘I’ of all people was courageous, he went on to explain to me that even though I’m scared shitless many times; I go ahead and face whatever the challenge may be. After I laughed and thanked him for the compliment, I came up with a saying that, whether I’m the first to coin the phrase or not, it has helped me many times in life; the state of being “Courageously Fearful.”

Perhaps right now, your life is calling you to rise to the challenge of your ‘Dante like’ underworld journey, and you need to be courageously fearful.

Keep this in mind while you consider the following questions:

  • What has brought you to this place in your journey, this moment in your life?
  • What forces, what family and what social environment has framed your reality; supported, and perhaps restricted, it?
  • Whose life have you been living?
  • Why do you believe you have to hide so much from others, from yourself?
  • Why does life seem to be a script written elsewhere, and you were barely consulted, if at all?
  • Why is the life you have been living too small for your soul’s desire?
  • Why is now the time, if ever it is to happen, for you to answer the summons of your soul, the invitation to a larger and more meaningful life?

If any of the above questions speak to you, scare you a little or challenge you, then you are already answering your soul’s call to an enlarged being, and possibly have been for sometime.

Our movement away from our old blueprints of life understandably upsets our intrinsic longing for the familiar, comfortable, secure and predictable. These longings are a prime directive of everyone’s psyche (the Greek word for soul) and have strong motivation to bring meaning, healing, and wholeness into our lives.

Our role, most often, is to relax, have faith in ourselves and surrender to whatever process is transpiring within our psyche… Yeah, I know… it’s much much easier said than done.

But the alternative is to believe ourselves helpless, victimized; unable to imagine some enlarging purpose from our suffering, only to later recognize that something was moving us purposefully and initiating a new phase in our journey. Even though it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time.

Later, we may even grudgingly admit that our suffering did enlarge us and made us more fully and richly human. Our acknowledgment, of the deep currents that initially course beneath our conscious awareness, is the beginning of what we may legitimately call wisdom.

The Greek dramatist Aeschylus (525-456 BC), the world’s first great tragedian playwright, observed that the gods ordained a solemn decree that from suffering alone comes wisdom. Such earned wisdom brings forth greater dignity and depth to our lives, and we are gifted with a more embracing spiritual enlargement. Which, is as vital to our well being and wholeness as our emotional, and mental enlargement. A mature spirituality simply means a connection that takes us outside of ourselves. Connects us with something larger. The entire human species or, the grandeur of the mountains and oceans. The only requirement for spirituality to be truly meaningful is it must be ours. Our unique connection specific to our life, our experiences.

Of course when we are in the midst of suffering and tragedy, talk of enlargement, spirituality and wisdom seems pointless and insensitive. Yet much later we will often come to realize that we have acquired a more discerning consciousness, a more complex but clearer understanding of our self and a much more interesting life.

Despite our moments of great fear, uncertainty and apparent lack of control over our lives; we always have the option to pass through our figurative underworld with courageous fearfulness. The option to force ourselves ever onward armed with faith in our ability to emerge on the other side Whole. Even when we are in the thrall of PTSD the choice…is always ours.

Brien Pittman