Growing Up in a Religious Cult Made Me Tolerant to Narcissistic Abuse
I grew up in the religious cult of Jehovah's Witnesses. You may have had them come knocking on your door, dressed in suits and dresses, with a big friendly smiles, selling their literature and inviting you to their meetings. You may have found them annoying or just thought they were harmless misguided fools.
They are actually anything but harmless. They are dangerous.
It can be hard for the average person, unless you survived a cult, to understand the damage these high control groups will cause a person, particularity if they have been under its influence since youth.
What do the Jehovah's Witnesses have to do with narcissism, you may ask??
When you first join this cult, members are trained to do the same thing a narcissist dose at the beginning of the abuse cycle. They love bomb the shit out you! They make you feel all warm and fuzzy and welcomed, like no other church has. You think: “I finally found where I belong!”
As soon as you become a member and start attending all their meetings and really enmeshing yourself within the cult, it all changes. You are no longer treated as if you are the special new toy. Similar to a narcissistic relationship, your identity is now removed and you have become an extension of the cult itself. The love bombing you received in the beginning prepared you to fall in line and follow the groups rules. You have passed through the first phase of membership..the brainwashing.
The techniques of brainwashing typically involve isolation from former associates and sources of information; an exacting regimen requiring absolute obedience and humility; strong social pressures and rewards for cooperation; physical and psychological punishments for non-cooperation ranging from social ostracism and criticism, deprivation of food, sleep, and social contacts, to bondage and torture; and continual reinforcement.
Now just imagine you grew up in such a high control religious group. Your innocent little brain absorbed all the mind control from the big people. You were conditioned from birth that you are only safe in the cult and the world out side is dangerous. You are also taught that if you leave the group for any reason “Jehovah” their word for god, will destroy you at Armageddon with the rest of the world. Only faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses will survive, and even then there is no guarantee. You will remain forever on probation so you must always be obedient to the cults rules and regulations.
The photo below is a photo in a children's book, illustrating to the child what will happen to all the non JWs at Armageddon, and even you if you are not good. Imagine being indoctrinated with these images as a child.
Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that even innocent children, the elderly, the disabled and animals(notice the cat in the photo) will all be killed if they do not convert to the cult. It creates an exclusivity to the group and many of the leaders and followers are narcissist's that take great delight in using the cults dogma to control and frighten other members, especially their own children.
Critical thinking is strictly forbidden and any research on the true history of the cult is not allowed. College is strongly discouraged. All your time must be spent preaching and going door to door in your community to convert new members. That is to be your career. You are considered “weak in the faith” if you do not devote a certain amount of working hours converting people in your neighborhood. The JW’s call this “Going in Service”. All hours are documented at the end of the month and you are not compensated financially for your time and energy. If you fail to turn in any monthly hours of service you will be “counseled” by group leaders that organization call the “Elders”
As a youth in the Jehovah’s Witness cult you are kept busy with so many duties, you have no time for normal fun kid things. Everything pertaining to sexuality and puberty is repressed and controlled. Normal stages of growing up and dating were absolutely forbidden unless you were getting married. And you were only allowed to marry another member of the opposite sex.
The reason was because you could not associate with people outside the organization. Non members were called “worldly” people. The group sited this bible verse to justify this rule
1 Corinthians 15:33
Bad associations spoil useful habits. Do not love either the world or the things in the world.
Anyone not in the cult was considered bad association. This all meant I wasn’t allowed to have friends if they were not Jehovah's Witnesses. I grew up in rural Ohio and our particular Church (which witnesses called Kingdom Halls) had mostly older people and no kids my age.
Here is a link to a brochure the Jehovah's Witnesses created for the schools in their communities. All JW youth were required to give these out to their teachers each school year. I remember how humiliating it felt and as I got older I secretly stopped telling my teachers I was a JW.
You see JWs do not celebrate birthdays, holidays or participate in school sports or prom and homecoming. As if being a kid isn’t hard enough I had to be the weird girl that couldn't have my birthday or Christmas. It was this very reason why I knew I was leaving the cult when my baby was born. He was not growing up this way!!
At the age of 27 I left the Jehovah's Witness cult and have not once regretted it. This is not the case for some however; because Jehovah's Witnesses practice shunning.
The JW’s call this “disfellowshipping”. You are alienated from the group and similar to narcissistic stonewalling and the discard, the cult and all members, including your family, are ordered to ignore your existence and cut you out of their life until you “repent”
Can you imagine how traumatizing it would be to loose EVERYTHING you ever knew? All your friend's and family must act as if you are dead, because you didn’t follow the rules. Because you dated a “worldly” boy and had sex or you smoked cigarettes' with your friends at school. Or even worse, you were raped and you told the “Elders” then was blamed for allowing it to happen in the first place.
Spiritual abuse is very real, and many of us that have experienced extreme mind control as children, are more susceptible to narcissistic relationships and domestic violence. It’s not because we are weak and we attract abusers, it is because we are so conditioned to be submissive and obedient, we over look red flags and struggle with boundaries.
I left with my baby 20 years ago and never wanted to return despite the consequences. Many however get hoovered back into the cult because losing their family and community is too traumatic for them to bare. They are trauma bond to the cult.
Can you see how I was set up to tolerate abusive toxic relationships with addicts and narcissistic sociopaths? I was conditioned to believe coercion and control was normal. I was made to believe my needs didn’t matter and I was at my core an unworthy person.
Religious cults must use these control tactics to keep their slaves loyal to the group, just as a narcissist does in a relationship. You are not your own person but rather you are an extension of the narcissist.
Even if you did not grow up in a cult, maybe it was a narcissistic family. All the same tactics are used to keep you obedient to the main narcissist controlling the home. You are threatened with abandonment, punishment's, rage and physical abuse. All designed to keep you submissive. You are trained to believe you have nothing of value to offer and are inherently deficient. Only the narcissist is wise and wonderful. You are nothing..
That is a lie!!
You are amazing, brilliant, smart and absolutely unique and special.
If you enjoyed this blog please follow me and stay tuned in for part 2 in a series, How Religious Cults Open You Up for Future Abuse and Exploitation..
Come find me on my website www.unlivingthelie.com
You are not alone.
Reference: Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia. “Brainwashing”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 26 Jul. 2013, https://www.britannica.com/topic/brainwashing. Accessed 8 July 2021.