Ex Jehovah’s Witness: Will I Ever Feel Truly Happy Again?

Oct 1, 2014 by

Jehovah's Witness DoubtIf you’ve been out for any length of time then you know what I mean when I ask that question.

The answer?

Yes. You will be truly happy again, and truly sad, and truly angry, and truly depressed, and truly elated.

Welcome to the real world folks.

You and I now get to experience the real emotions of real people in the real world.

You and I both have to understand that the “happiness” we felt while in the Jehovah’s Witnesses was an illusion made up of false security and false intimacy. It gave us comfort and a feeling akin to “bliss”. We felt we had a real family in our “brothers” and “sisters”. It is amazing to me that the forced use of these terms “brother” and “sister” created the very illusion of a familial environment!

The feelings we had were like a drug in that if you honestly believed you were doing everything Jehovah and His earthly organization wanted you to do that you were:

  • Loved.
  • Accepted.
  • Part of something bigger than yourself.
  • Had a strong chance at everlasting life.
  • Good enough.
  • Elite.
  • In control.

The problem is that you and I only felt that way for brief periods of time and then we would falter or fail or hear a criticizing talk like “Are You Doing Enough For Jehovah?” (yes this was an actual talk at a circuit assembly!) and then a host of other not so pleasant emotions would rush in and crowd out the good feelings that we had. Then the work phase begins. You have to work extra hard to get yourself feeling better about your “relationship” with Jehovah so that you can get that “feeling” again. Is it any wonder that when someone criticizes the Watchtower that Jehovah’s Witnesses have such a physical reaction to such criticism?

This is a bipolar phenomenon.

Have you ever noticed Jehovah’s Witnesses bouncing from one opposite pole to the other? One month they’re out drinking hard, drugging, smoking or using profanity and the next thing you know they have a “theocratic haircut” and they’re back at the meetings and out in service and yes that snot nosed twenty-something even looks down his nose at you!

As a young man, it was amazing to see this tendency, both in myself and others. I always thought it was just my own weakness. However, in retrospect, I realize that it was by design. The design was straight from the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society.

The Watchtower leadership loves to find people with a “fatal flaw” that keeps them bouncing from one pole to the other. These are the hardest working people in the organization by the way. They work harder than anyone else because they truly believe that it will somehow counter the “evil” that they do in private.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses create workers by giving them the positive feelings listed above during the indoctrination phase and then snatching them away and replacing them with the following feelings:

  • Fear.
  • Guilt.
  • Uncertainty.
  • Condemned to die.
  • Dread.
  • Co-Dependent.
  • Paranoia.
  • Not good enough.
  • Out of control.

This theocratic “YoYo” plays itself out in millions of repetitions in their worldwide membership and is much like a “binging and purging” eating disorder. The emotions and thought processes are the same. The only difference is that it is “spiritual food” (read propaganda) instead of physical that is causing all of the problems. It is no wonder that many Jehovah’s Witnesses have eating disorders.

So the Watchtower preys on this human weakness. This is why even those who have been publicly reproved or are undergoing disciplinary action are still allowed to go door to door.  Why? Because that is what pays the corporate office! Why would you want to stop someone from selling your products if you own a sales organization especially if they think their paycheck is everlasting life?

When we, as ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, leave this type of environment the negative emotions are running on overdrive. We’ve been programmed to feel all of these horrible feelings about ourselves and our world. We isolate ourselves because nobody else can understand what we’re going through. These negative feelings are further amplified by the mistreatment we receive at the hands of “friends” and family as well as those we hold in high esteem like the body of elders.

Is it any wonder that many, upon leaving, find themselves depressed, suicidal, and emotional train wrecks?

Many, after a period of time, feel that they simply can’t go on and either turn back to the organization for their theocratic “fix” or they commit suicide. I’ve known many JW’s who took the latter route.

However, if you can hang on, have some good non-JW friends, find a therapist, read self help books, and join a support group like this blog, for example, your chances are very good that you will make it past this ultra low point in your life and on to true happiness.

Here’s to being truly happy!

thewatchtowerfiles

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40 Comments

  1. Jerry

    Amen Doug! Thank you for sharing this with us. Your encouraging articles are a tremendous help for us ex-JW’s. It is a great moral boost to see and hear that there is a truely happy life after the Watchtower.

  2. Kat

    Dear Doug, your web sight has I am sure helped many exJW, I for one come on here regularly though I don’t post much, but would like to thank you very much for all your hard work and the care that you show for JW and exJW, it is obvious that Christ is using you to reach out and show his hand to those that need to be guided by his word, as I believe this is the only way to find true happiness, for everyone the journey is different, for some they never reach the gate.

    The past couple of years I have seen so many more JW and exJW coming onto blogs like this and others, searching for answers and understanding, help and many confused and still indoctrinated with the poison that has been slowly killing them, I believe they are been directed to these places for help. Thank you very much.

  3. Thank you Kat!

    Doug

  4. que bom saber que eu não fui a unica a ter esses sentimentos ruins…muito obrigada

  5. Muchas gracias y denada señora!

    Doug

  6. Percy Rudolph

    Is this really true about JWs Mr sheilds? Are u still in contact presently with JWs organization?

  7. I talk to people all the time who are currently “in” or on their way “out”. Yes everything I’m saying is true and I lived it for twenty-three years of my life.

    Doug

  8. I am so happy this is out here.I’m blessed my six suicide attempts failed. It’s great to talk to others that CAN UNDERSTAND.I’m 56 years old and still lost. I always knew the Jehovah’s witnesses were not the happiest people. My mother who was a very devout. She followed totally by their rules.( unlike most I knew ,if no one saw the actions against the organization, well it didn’t happen ) If I started writing what the organization , my mother, and pretend JW -husband , sister’s and all and only friends I had as long as I can remember.that I lost when I publicly voiced I had different ideas about scriptures, I would be writring for a long time.I’m so pleased this has stared. I have little to no formal education.married before fall of 1975 , at 16 year’s old. Just a baby.If you Remember this time, you will totally understand why such an young bride. And of course, pure as possible.I’ve wanted start one of these blogs, yet I knew I didn’t have intellect.THANKS SO VERY MUCH. CDG

  9. Thank you for your painfully honest words about your experience.

    You are loved CDG!

    Doug

  10. Patrice

    You have mentioned everything I feel. I was disfellowshipped for 15 years then reinstated I’m not disfellowshipped right now but brothers keep trying to contact me. They know I’m a clincally depressed person. I Know I will be disfellowshipped if I talk to them. My Mom and all 4 sister are witnesses. I feel I will NEVER be happy. I think of suiside often. I was raised a witness and was 35 when I first got disfellowshipped . I go to therapy but never talk about the religion which is a big problem for me. If I talk about it. I find myself taking up for them. So I have no one I can really talk to. I don’t talk about it to worldly friends because I think ” what if it is the truth and I push th away from it”. I know I’m a mess. But if anyone can leade to help I would appreciate it. I’m the kindest compassionate person in my family but I’m the black sheep because of my choices. My dad was my rock and he passed 14 years ago. I have a long story. I’m sorry I was so long winded. If you got this far… Thank you so much

  11. Alena

    Hi

    I left Jehovah’s Witnesses over 20 years ago, after about 7 years of studying, I didn’t get baptised as I saw that many things were not right – for me, it was their stance on domestic violence, proclaiming it was sinful to divorce from a violent and abusive husband, unless of course, he had committed adultry and then only if she had the proof of independent witnesses. . However, I would hear my wordly friends comment on the state of the world, poverty, unfairness, greed, etc. I would still think silent thoughts though, “jehovah will wipe all this away, armageddon is coming, when things get really bad, then I will get baptised” How I had been indoctrinated !! I have to say, honestly, it was not until 2014 came and the confusing “new light”, that I really realised, it was all lies. For many years I had hope that my son would grow up in a world of peace and kindness, and then I realised, I was the one with the power, I have the ability and control, to make MY LIFE as peaceable and express my love and kindness in how I chose. I was the one who practised kindness, compassion and love, I started with myself and my son, then others. I then noticed something weird, when you give kindness without judgement, it comes back to you. There is life after jehovahs witnesses, get the help you need from your general practioner or therapist, then take control, it’s your life, be kind to yourself and others, maybe through volunteering where you will think of others and the difference you are making to their lives, how your kindness is so meaningful to others, you will be rewarded.

    Apologies for the long comment
    Alena

  12. The world is a mirror, a merciless mirror, of what you project. If you frown, you’ll see frowns. If you smile, people will smile back at you. Jehovah’s Witnesses have given away their personal power to choose and to act and react naturally. Instead they conform to a rules based stilted existence and mindset that is comprised primarily of fear, guilt, and judgement.

    As a result, they see the world through a filter of fear, intolerance and hatred. They are isolated because their belief system disenfranchises them from the main stream by default.

    Is there evil in the world? Absolutely! Is there good as well? Always has been and always will be.

    It’s up to each of us to find what we seek. If you want to see fear, horror, and all the reasons for Armageddon to come today then you’ll do so. If you want to see the love and kindness of the human spirit, which is a direct reflection of God Himself, then you’ll see it.

    “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

    I attended the Kingdom Hall with a sister who put up with an abusive relationship for years. She had to wear heavy makeup to cover the bruises inflicted by the sorry excuse for a husband she was married to. She stayed in the relationship because she felt obligated by what she had been taught at the Kingdom Hall but even more so because she was fearful of being judged by those who supposedly cared most about her i.e. her brothers and sisters in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Her’s was a horrible existence and she stayed with her husband until his death.

    I like to believe that we are collaborators with God. He put us here to make the world a better place and to leave it better than when we found it.

    Christ did that. If we follow Him we will do the same as He did.

    Luke 4:18

    “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

    I’m so glad you shared this post Alena! Please keep posting and no apologies necessary for long posts. They are wonderful!

    Doug

  13. Alena

    Hi,
    Thank you, Doug.
    I really hope that people who have left, or who are considering leaving, give themselves quality time to heal, be kind and patient with yourself. I also have found that listening to Dr Wayne Dyer’s cd’s very healing in letting of the residual anger that I felt after leaving.
    Alena

  14. Dyer is a very good teacher. I have read many of his books and listened to his CD’s.

    Doug

  15. patricia mcginly

    Really appreciate this article. You told my story.

  16. Mine too Patricia. I think we all have had to deal with this vicious circle of sadness that pervades the minds of members and former members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Much love to you and yours.

    Doug

  17. Brandie

    I can’t believe how often I run into one of my old “brother” or “sisters” and they will actually say to me Brandie, you must be so unhappy. You know you have got to kid yourself and those kids back to the meetings because you are going to die!!!!!! Who in the world says this crap? One of the “sisters” let me name her Chantel who is still a member after I quit going actually said this to me “brandie, Jehovah knew a long time ago you weren’t worthy of his love and that is why you don’t go to the meetings”, all the while her husband was at the time addicted to porn yet they judged me VERY harshly. If you have ever been a Witness you know these statements to be so true or now I am very worldly and they all “assume” I do everything horrible imaginable. Give me a break!!!!!!!!! And yes, I’m the happiest I have ever been but I still struggle. They even covered up my ex molesting my family member and told me I had NO right to leave him because 8 years had passed. Of course me saying these things will make me apostate but I can’t remember how many times in service all they did was talk so negatively about other religions. If I hear the word wordly one more time I will scream!!

  18. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this article. I’ve been free for 5 years now, and though I’m never going back, I still find myself dreaming about being at meetings and assemblies on a fairly often occasion.

  19. Vincent

    Is it just me? Am I crazy? I left the organization only 8 months ago. For years I worked as an elder trying to encourage some to do more. Now that im out, I hear from my wife that so and so are simplifying and working in Warwick. Other’s have started pioneering. These are ones I helped through the years with little result. I hear how everyone’s enjoying the convention. I don’t want to go back. I do find my self remembering how i felt so good when I was ignorant. But for some unexplained reason, when I hear of how people I knew are so “happy” and busy, i get angry. Almost like Im jealous. Weird i know. I don’t know why I feel this way.

  20. Once you choose to see the reality of the situation you can’t go back to being who you were, as much as you may want to. You’ve learned to think for yourself, critically. That is the key determinant in getting free of the hold that the Watchtower has on you.

    We all miss the “warmth”, “love”, and closeness that we experienced while in the JW’s, even though it was nothing but a delusional fantasy. Although we know, on a conscious level, that it was merely an illusion, our confused emotions make us willing to do just about anything to find those feelings again. That’s why many go back for a short time after leaving. I know from painful experience that it’s never the same after you’ve seen the real truth about “the truth”.

    When we see others who seem to be happy and contented in the life that we once had, we do sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy. I liken that to the jealousy a divorced man or woman feels when they see their former spouse going on with their life and achieving happiness.

    The bottom line is that truth is its own reward. We made a choice to follow our conscience and to leave the “group think” of the Watchtower to find our own path. The rest of your life, and what you choose to do with it, will fill in the blank spaces you’re experiencing now. As you progress in your own life the jealousy you feel for these misguided souls will turn to pity.

    I guarantee it.

    Doug

  21. Vincent

    Thanks Doug.
    Your illustration of the divorced spouse really helped me to see that my feelings are normal. That was perfect!
    Appreciate your kind response. It means alot !

  22. My pleasure Vincent!

    All my best!

    Doug

  23. Hi

    I completely agree, when I realised I was being sold a lie my first emotion was anger, they gave me hope but it was all an illusion. I had dear friends and I felt cared for by the brothers and sisters – but the truth was a lie. I felt so alone. In retrospect it was at this point that I was at my most vulnerable, I felt so abandoned that I was in danger of being sucked into another cult organisation, I wanted to replicate the “love and belonging” that I felt in the WTBTS. Think about it, one of the most powerful and effective means of punishment is confinement, Jehovah’s Witnesses call this shunning.

    People put pressure on themselves to manage their reactions when leaving the WTBTS, but it’s not always something you can manage, rather it’s an experience. Give yourself time and be kind to yourself.

    Alena

  24. Great advice and observations Alena!

    Doug

  25. Alena

    Thanks, Doug

    I’m mellowing as I mature!!!. I recently had a great evening enjoying the music of a reggae band, even something like going to a pub to dance and sing along to music would be seen as a sin by the WTBTS. Anyway one song that they played was called “To Blessed To Be Stressed”, everyone in the pub was dancing, smiling and joined in singing with the chorus, by the end of the night I had made new acquaintances, two of whom I think could become friends.

    The WTBTS turned me into a person who only saw the negatives and sin in others, I turned into someone who thought I had every right to be seen as better than others, I even felt superior to non-witnesses the WTBTS turns people into ugly beings, it took time and a great deal of self-reflection de-programming myself from JW’s.

    Maybe ex-witnesses are in danger of turning hatred in on themselves, where once they projected hatred of “worldly” lifestyles onto others, ex-JW’s are at risk of hating the person they became remembering the friends and family members they themselves may have once shunned, or the “friends” they left behind. As always though, I think people need to be kind to themselves, reflect on behaviours they would like to change for their own self development and not because the WTBTS told them to, it requires independent thought, the greatest threat to the watchtower.
    Alena

  26. Want to help

    Doug,

    I wonder what you would recommend in terms of connecting a good friend, who is an active JW with this site? Maybe it would be of some help …but I am afraid of causing more damage and distance by doing so.
    This friend has been in and out of the organization several times, but the need of being accepted and loved, the fear of being shunned and the need to feel happy, I think, are the main reasons for returning.

    Those of you who left the organization… looking back at your experience, do you wish someone had forwarded this link to you while being an active member of a Kingdom Hall?
    Thank you

  27. That’s a hard one.

    It all depends on the person. If they are ready for real truth then yes.

    Doug

  28. Want to help

    I will pray about it.
    Thank you for responding.

  29. Hi Doug.
    Good article & I can relate especially the the guilt imposed on you for not “doing” enough for Jehovah. I disassociated myself about 7 months ago as I just started seeing things in the doctrines, WT articles etc that I’d read & heard many times before but now they were just not adding up, not consistent with scripture. I won’t go into it all but I realized there was too much I could no longer agree with so I left & DA’d. I’ve been to a number of different churches & actually haven’t missed a single Sunday of church since leaving. I got to the point when I was still “in” that any excuse was good enough not to go to the meetings. I would be relieved if I woke up on Sunday morning feeling sick or with a headache so I could tell my wife I wasn’t well enough so I was staying home. My wife is still 110% committed to the org. While I like the churches I’ve been to I’m just really finding it difficult to settle in to one particular church & stay put there so I can get to know people properly & feel a part of it. Even though I’m truly happier now than I was as a JW for the past 20 years I just feel kind of lost. I don’t feel like I really belong/fit in anywhere. Even though all the churches I’ve been to have been great & very supportive I seem to eventually start to feel dissatisfied & church hop on to the next one & so the cycle continues. Is this a common way to feel for those who leave?
    Kind regards, Tony

  30. You’re 100% normal for a former Jehovah’s Witness Tony. Join the club. None of us belong anywhere. We’ve been disenfranchised from every religious and social circle in the world by our involvement in a mind control cult.

    Have you ever tried to talk to a pastor about your feelings? I have. Most try to be sympathetic. Some will even research the organization in an attempt to “help” you. However, they can’t because they haven’t ever been where you are, mentally or spiritually. Ever notice the look of fear and even distrust when talking about your experiences with someone else? Our experience is so foreign to someone raised in a free society that they find it hard to even hear. Normal people just don’t get what we’ve been through and most don’t want to get it.

    We also don’t fit in socially. How many real friends do you have outside of the organization Tony? Oh we can develop that little veneer that makes us seem normal. However, how many really deep relationships do you have outside the organization?

    I’ve decided that those of us who were raised in the organization and left have been sentenced to a lifetime of isolation. This is the final cruel trick that the Watchtower plays on us Tony.

    Doug

  31. Anonymous

    Tony,

    Don’t be too anxious with trying to fit in too soon or too fast. You will find that it takes time to anchor your faith in a framework of your own cognitive and logical understanding. If you read Paul’s letters, or the words of Jesus, any Old Testament story, etc, you will see the cause and effect of a very logical and purposeful application of some godly pronciples. You can do that by yourself, without the need to belong and be approved by others.

    The transition from an emotions-based faith, to a convictions/facts-based one is not easy. But it is doable.

    Encourage you to read Steven Hassan’s book on mind control.

  32. Great advice!

    Doug

  33. theworldisnotforme

    Well I’m still waiting to feels as happy as I did when I was with the JWs, I hope that happiness hurries up because I’m seriously thinking of going back with them.

  34. Stop waiting and start living!

    Anyone who would trade freedom for happiness will have neither.

    Doug

  35. Anonymous

    I was raised from birth in the JW religion and had a very involved family; I even pioneered while being home-schooled. I got the courage to leave at 18. My first few years were terrifying, trying to make new friends and losing a lot of my “family”. I regret nothing! It took a long time but I one day felt a little happiness and slowly it grew from there. I’m now 31, married with our first beautiful child and I’m so thankful she will never have to grow up in a life with that group of people. No matter how much you may feel stuck, you’re not. Life can and will be amazing when you’re really able to break free from them.

  36. I’m so glad that you shared your experience Anonymous!

    I feel the very same way. It hurts, sometimes a lot. I used to feel like I’d never get there and then one day I just felt a little better. Then it kept going from there.

    I think the worst part is that you finally come to the realization that you can’t help those you left behind. They are stuck in the same trap that you were and no matter how hard you try to pull them out they will just dig that much deeper into the hole that is the Watchtower. Even if you make them question their beliefs, they’ll usually end up hating you for it.

    I’m so happy for you and your little girl!

    Doug

  37. Elizabeth Collins

    These testimonies are authentically written. I left the witnesses 19 years ago after 40 years in the center of that system, so I know it extremely well. What this man describes is exactly the way things usually work. The good news is that enslavement to this system does not have to end in tragedy. I was entirely shunned by my family and all the “friends” of a lifetime up to that point, but God did not leave me. He helped me heal over time and create a new happy, much healthier life. I earned two college degrees, traveled widely, became a teacher and business owner, and would love to help and encourage anyone else I can.

  38. There is life after the Watchtower folks. This lady’s testimony rings true.

    When you’re first leaving, all you can see or feel is the painful reality of what has happened. You can’t (usually) see what lies in store for you. This is truly scary for someone fresh out of the cult.

    Most go off into addictions and self destructive behaviors. This has been programmed into you during your time in the group. I call it the “Ex-JW Self Destruct Sequence.”

    You don’t have to allow the programming the Watchtower has inflicted upon you to do its work. There is another way. God has always been with you and He will never forsake you. You can only forsake Him. You have to do the work to heal yourself though. There is no “free ride”. There is pain, introspection, and a gradual “peeling away of the onion” as I like to refer to it.

    You’re learning to see with your own intellect and God given ability to reason critically. When one is a JW it is very difficult, if not impossible, to reason critically. Once you’re free of the programming, i.e. the meetings and the door to door work, your mind has time to start thinking for itself. This process takes time. Allow yourself that time.

    Most people, after leaving, go from a state of complete denial to sheer panic and back again.

    This is why I strongly suggest that you seek a good therapist to help you work through your own issues. These are phobias (baseless fears) that have been deeply embedded into your mind through years of Watchtower programming. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your freedom of mind won’t be built overnight.

    Read Steven Hassan’s book, Combatting Cult Mind Control. That’s job one. Once you read it, you’ll know, on a deep level that you’ve been sold a lie.

    Thanks Elizabeth for writing in. I welcome your continued contributions to this site as you have time.

    God bless!

    Doug

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