Personally, one of the hardest things to do after I was disfellowshipped & shunned by my JW friends/family, was to acclimating to my new life. If I were able to go back and give my younger self advice on how to heal after being raised a JW, these are the 4 things I would suggest:
- Tell the absolute Truth/Own What You Feel
- Acknowledge and announce (speak it) what you feel and what happened to you.
- Others can’t help you if they don’t know what your experience is.
- Ask: How did I compensate or hide the truth of what happened to me?
- Give Up The Story
- You don’t have to live out that story and you don’t have to believe what the organization and it’s follower told you about yourself.
- Compare the stories in your mind (i.e. the world is evil) vs your present reality. (i.e. there are caring, wonderful people in the world) and decide to focus on the positive realities instead of the cult thinking (“armageddon is coming”, “the world is evil”, “I’m worthless cause I sinned against the org”)
- Write out all the stories and then edit them down until it’s 10 words or less.
- Ask: How does the old story make me feel about myself (hint, if it’s not a warm, fuzzy feeling – ditch it!)?
- Forgive Yourself
- Forgive the things you told yourself about yourself. It was never the truth.
- Know that you were only doing what you thought was the right thing at that moment.
- Know that you really didn’t have a choice (I was raised as a JW so I didn’t get to choose a belief system)
- Set New Boundaries
- Set realistic expectations for your new life. You have a lot of re-learning to do.
- Re-evaluate your values, principles and boundaries
- Ask: Do these belong to me?
One of the most helpful things for me when I was working on moving beyond the controlled thinking of the organization was to remind myself that I was creating a new life and new experiences for myself (and my children). I get to be the person I want to be and no one has permission to tell me who I am or am not. It’s a bittersweet freedom that I relish every day.
Angela Olah is an exJW who was born into the religion and was disfellowshipped in the late 1980’s. After a lifetime of working through the struggles of shunning, childhood abuse & trauma, she now offers her expertise and knowledge to support others on their own journey of healing. Her site can be found at SOAR.AngelaOlah.com