How to Rescue
Your Loved One
from the

an online guide
to helping
Jehovah's Witnesses
escape from bondage

also available as a
paperback book

How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower 2010 edition
Buy printed book from publisher
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"Rescue" from a Religion?
Don't Delay--Act Today!
Overall Strategy
Techniques that Work
Tools to Use
Step by Step
God's "Prophet"
A Changing "Channel"
Doctoring Medical Doctrines
Strange Ideas Taught in God's Name
"God's Visible Organization"
Providing an Alternative
Can This Marriage Be Saved?
When Children Are Involved
Warning: The Life You Save May Be Your Own
Afterwork: Gradual Rehabilitation
Appendix: Resources & Support Groups

How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower
Home | Preface | Introduction | "Rescue" from a Religion? | Don't Delay--Act Today! | Overall Strategy | Techniques that Work | Tools to Use | Step by Step | God's "Prophet" | A Changing "Channel" | Doctoring Medical Doctrines | Strange Ideas Taught in God's Name | "God's Visible Organization" | Providing an Alternative | Can This Marriage Be Saved? | When Children Are Involved | Warning: The Life You Save May Be Your Own | Afterwork: Gradual Rehabilitation | Appendix: Resources & Support Groups
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Chapter 16
Afterwork: Gradual Rehabilitation

With so much effort directed toward freeing your loved one from bondage, once that goal is reached, there may be a tendency to breathe a sigh of relief and to say, “Whew! I’m glad that’s over and done with.” But your work is not finished yet. The one you helped escape will also need help to return to a normal life.

Some people exit a cult like a tightly coiled spring sprung loose from a restraint. The spring bounces all over the place and finally falls to the floor, vibrating all over; likewise, the ex-cultist bounces from group to group, until finally collapsing a nervous wreck. Some set out on a search for another organization to replace the one proved false. Others become bitter toward God, religion, and anything else that reminds them of the past. A few even turn to alcohol or drugs to escape the complexities of the real world.

Many ex-Witnesses appear to be living a normal life but actually suffer from haunting memories, nagging doubts, unsettled questions, and suppressed fears. They instinctively feel that no one but another former JW would understand, so they keep these troubling thoughts to themselves, continuing to be troubled by them.

Seldom does anyone exit a cult without emotional wounds, spiritual scars, and a sense of disorientation. And the longer the person has spent in the group, the longer the healing and renormalization process can be expected to take. This is especially true of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were slowly taught to think like JWs before they were baptized into the organization, and once they are brought out of the organization they must slowly learn to think normally again.

“Time heals all wounds,” someone may quote the popular saying. “Just give her time, and she’ll be back to her old self again.” There is some truth to that, of course. Watchtower leaders themselves know that constant indoctrination is needed to maintain a strong hold on their followers. Missing meetings is a sin, and staying away from Kingdom Hall for an extended vacation is tantamount to apostasy—because the message constantly repeated at the meetings begins to fade from the brain as soon as the foot hits the street. That is why Witnesses are expected to attend meetings Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings; go from house to house with the group on Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons, and at other opportunities during the week; spend Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday evenings preparing lessons for upcoming meetings, and use other available time to conduct studies with family members and prospective converts. Any departure from this schedule allows room for independent thinking to develop. And abandoning the program altogether, even for a short period of time, almost always results in leaving the organization.

So after a person has formally quit the sect, each passing day does provide fresh food for thought, pushing the old memories further back in the mind. But time alone is not a cure-all. Like knots in a rope, each tangled reasoning or troubled thought must be dealt with individually.

Someone may have rejected the organization but may still think it wrong to accept a blood transfusion, or may feel guilty eating a rare steak with juices on the plate. Another ex-JW may feel uncomfortable around an American flag. I have seen terror on the face of a former Witness entering a church building for the first time. Many hesitate to vote in an election. Some worry constantly about questions relating to God, the afterlife, and the nature of true Christianity.

An observer who has never been immersed in a cult may be able to brush such matters aside, telling the ex-JW, “Oh! That’s just a lot of silly nonsense. Come on! You don’t have to believe that anymore; you’re out of the Watchtower now. Just forget all that stuff!”

The former Witness may manage to smile and respond, “Okay! You’re right!” He or she may even go ahead and do the act in question, such as standing for the national anthem, but the problem actually remains and in fact gets worse, because now it is suppressed and is compounded by a guilty conscience. Unless the twisted reasoning is patiently untwisted, point by point, real healing does not occur. It is like a splinter that is not removed but instead is treated with painkiller, disinfectant, and a Band-Aid. It may seem to be cured, but the pain will recur until the splinter is actually extracted.

Time and again I have encountered men and women who had left the Watchtower years earlier, but who were still being troubled by problems common to those who are just now coming out. Why? Because the root of their problems had never yet been fully addressed; or because the persons who tried to help them were not really qualified and did not get the job done.

Except for rare individuals who have received special training or who have unique insight, it usually takes another ex-JW to help a former Witness. Most of those who were troubled for years after leaving the Watchtower did not find relief until they finally encountered an ex-JW support group, made friends with another ex-Witness, or read literature written by someone who had gone through the same ordeal.

The reason for this is that the indoctrination formerly received on a continual basis, although now rejected, has still left behind a residue of peculiar ideas and thought patterns. As a result, ex-Witnesses start off with different assumptions than ordinary folk. For example, a roomful of people may listen to a minister preach the gospel. Quite a few of those who hear the message may accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and “come forward” when invited. But the ex-JW in the audience remains unmoved, or even confused, because what he heard did not make sense to him. In his mind, Jesus is an angel—Michael the Archangel, to be exact—because this particular aspect of Watchtower teaching had never been cleared up for him. So the words the minister spoke were sufficient to convince others in the audience, because they shared certain common assumptions. But the ex-Witness had something altogether different in his mind, and the minister’s message failed to deal with it.

A few people manage to deprogram themselves upon leaving the organization; such individuals are usually readers who spend a lot of time alone with the Bible and with other books that help them gain a new world view. Some married couples deprogram each other by discussing what they used to believe and what to believe now, while each one receives fresh insight through reading and through contact with workmates or neighbors. They share these new thoughts together, gradually stripping themselves of their former belief structure. But all ex-Witnesses need some form of outside help to successfully shed the mental baggage they have been saddled with by their former mentors.

If you are engaged in helping someone in this position, then you should be prepared to assist this thought transformation. Transporting a person physically out of a Kingdom Hall and into a church is a major accomplishment. But the changes taking place inside the person are what really count. And those changes take place gradually over a long period of time. A lot of patient assistance is needed, both before and after the break with the sect.

You will be able to initiate some of the discussion required to help a former Witness rethink his or her beliefs. But many other points will have to be addressed when they happen to come up in the individual’s mind; you will need to make yourself available to be called upon at such times.

You can also provide supplementary assistance by putting the ex-JW in touch with others who have gone through a similar experience. In some localities there are support groups for former cultists, some specifically for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. In recent years ex-JWs have been regularly holding annual conventions in California, Florida, and Pennsylvania, besides occasional gatherings in large cities elsewhere.

But caution must be exercised in selecting such association, since in some cases, persons who are only half out of the Watchtower get together to perpetuate their shared beliefs. A few individuals who are all just leaving the sect at the same time may find each other and get together for mutual support; they all need help, but there is no one among them competent to give help. The blind end up leading the blind. They share the same problem, but none of them has yet found the solution. The result is that the group stagnates, functioning as an entity separate from the Watchtower, but retaining many of the strange notions that its members still share in common. Such a group will not be able to help your friend.

So before putting your friend in touch with a support group, or before passing on a book or tape, you would do well first to assure yourself that the group, author, or speaker is truly free.

For those in areas distant from wholesome ex-JW association, there are newsletters and fellowships formed through the mail and over the internet. And there are books of testimonies and admonition written by former Witnesses.

For assistance in finding valid support groups and resources, see the Appendix.

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