The first time I heard about Cognitive Dissonance* it was a difficult concept to understand, I didn’t realize that the emotional conflicts that were occurring within me fitted into it.
It was a gradual process… it didn’t happen overnight. Something inside me was always telling me that the Watchtower Organization was not as sincere as it claimed to be.
Since I was a little girl I felt some reticence about what Jehovah was supposed to ask of me, I had to be a Jehovah’s Witness at all times and could not go to school like any normal child. At meetings I was taught that school was my «territory» so I suffered every day because I had to witness to my peers.
When we were on break in those years when I was in elementary school, while my friends were playing I didn’t know how to approach them because my mom would give me magazines to put on, so I would leave them on my desk in the hope that some little friend would «get interested» in the publications and I could start a conversation; but nobody did. In fact, as I write these lines, I see myself in the classroom alone waiting for some «interest» while everyone else was having fun on the school’s basketball court.
My mom constantly asked me if anyone had shown interest and I said no, so she suggested that I be the one to take the initiative and start the conversation.
I was sorry to talk to my best friend but she politely told me that she was not interested in my message, that she was Catholic and that I should respect her; that made me feel very bad so I gave up preaching. When my mom asked me if I was still preaching, I said yes, but I really stopped because I knew my friend was right: she had her religion and I should respect it.
In high school the same thing happened, I wanted to preach to a girl and her answer was: «there are no friends when you talk about politics and religion, I am Catholic and I want you to respect me, you would like me to talk to you about my religion» and I knew that she was right, so I gave up my efforts to preach, even if given the opportunity I stopped doing it, I hid the fact of being a Jehovah’s Witness, only when I came out in the conversation was that I said my religious affiliation, my classmates said: and why didn’t you tell us? And so my answer was, «Because I didn’t see any reason to,» because it was the truth, who really cares what religion you are to make a friendship? That idea is found only in the minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
As an adult the same thing, in my job I didn’t say I was a Jehovah’s Witness, but when there was the first birthday I had to say it, I refused to accept the first slice of cake, but the birthday girl told me: I’ll give you this slice with all my heart, if you reject it there, so it became very ugly to reject that slice and I ate it… with a tremendous guilt!
On the following birthdays I didn’t congratulate people, but I did eat the cake. How absurd! That made me feel immensely bad since my co-workers always understood me, always so kind, warm and empathetic to my strange behavior: I did not congratulate them, nor did I give them gifts but I did eat the cake or whatever they would have brought to celebrate. And so it was with posadas, New Year’s hug, etc. All the festivities I spent that way and I always thought: Where does it say in the Bible specifically that birthdays should not be celebrated? Why does the Organization say that the one who has a birthday is a subject of veneration that only belongs to Jehovah?
Another thing that had me extremely upset was my musical and literary hobbies: I love fiction, horror, fantasy…. And as for music, I love metal, especially the symphonic one. Music that for the Watchtower Organization was the work of Satan.
I suffered from bullying in the Congregation because I had studied a university career, and from the platform I was always given hints: «There are some little sisters who have been taken away by Satan, they must think they are a bad example for other young people. So I was very unhappy, I went to the Meetings because it was supposed to be «The Truth» but I didn’t understand why I was so sad, I never gave enough. Since I worked and studied I only went out to preach on Sundays, so I had little activity, I reported 4 or 5 hours (in the time I was a Jehovah’s Witness, you had to preach at least 12 hours a month and have at least one Bible student) and I was constantly called by the elders to tell me that I should increase my hours of service, since the numbers on my publisher’s card indicated a spiritual illness, so that made me very unhappy.
(Already in other writings of mine I have spoken of the experience I had with a certain lawyer to whom I am eternally grateful, but I think I should mention it again to give continuity to the thread of my narrative)
One day in the house-to-house preaching I had to preach to a lawyer and he told me that he had studied with the Jehovah’s Witnesses in CDMX several years ago, but he stopped studying with them because he read Raymond Franz, he said Do you know who he is? I told him no, then he laughed and shook his head: How is it possible that you don’t know who Brother Franz is… so that you can see how they have brainwashed you, look for their story, you will see that they don’t tell you the truth. My partner’s sister was pulling at my sleeve and wanted us to leave, the lawyer said, «Hey, let her go, she wants to listen. But I listened to the sister and left.
That conversation left me very disturbed, 10 years ago of that, so one day I went on the Internet and put in Google: Raymond Franz and many pages came out that spoke of apostolic things, Franz was called «The Prince of the Apostates» and as a good indoctrinated Jehovah’s Witness, I immediately closed all those pages because I felt that I was sinning against God.
It was the year 2017 when my insides exploded and I woke up all of a sudden, which is why I will narrate the following:
One day the announcement was made that the Congregation I was attending was going to disappear and merge with others to «optimize the Kingdom Hall». This was extremely strange for me since we had a good attendance… what would I optimize if the hall was overflowing with more than 100 people? And that was when I couldn’t take it anymore and decided that it was time to face all those doubts that were rooted in my heart. I went on the Internet and searched in Google for «Fusion of Congregations» and then the ExtJ.co forum appeared. Although my hand was shaking because I was afraid of entering an «apostate» site, I began to eagerly read all the experiences that were narrated there. I began to understand that I was not crazy, that I was not the only one who felt that the JW organization was not «the truth». There I found the book «Crisis of Conscience» by Raymond Franz and began to read it that very night.
Raymond Franz, a member of the JW Governing Body, made that book telling what was going on at the cult headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. He gave me a vision of what was behind every Watchtower, every book that we followers read and take as the truth. Using the Bible, Franz took apart various doctrinal issues, which I collated to see if he was really telling the truth.
I don’t know how many days I had been reading, I was falling asleep at dawn… when suddenly, I reached a point in the reading where I got the «insight «**.
I hope to be able to describe clearly what happened to me in a matter of seconds: a white light clouded my sight, my head hurt terribly right in the middle of my forehead, my ears began to buzz, my head was spinning, I felt nauseous. As I could, I went to the bathroom to vomit, and I could only say «I’ve been tricked, I’ve been tricked» and I started to cry, I felt fear, anger, anguish, impotence and all that night I couldn’t sleep.
I spent every other day in anguish, lost and without a defined purpose since my whole life was based on a lie. What is truth? Is there any truth? Who defines what is truth?
I mention all this because more than one person has asked me «How do I leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses behind? From my point of view there is no absolute truth, each of us must seek our own spiritual identity.
Believe me it is not easy since there is no honorable way out of the cult; it is a daily work and constant struggle with all the scars that the cult left in my system but I always say to myself «One day at a time».
Writing for me is therapy and expressing my ideas through these lines strengthens my inner self and helps me to overcome my passage through this destructive cult.
I can tell you that there is life after Jehovah’s Witnesses, every day I try to give my best, every day I enjoy being alive and being able to embrace my loved ones who are still by my side. Now I am very happy as I am taking charge of my life by taking responsibility for my actions as any healthy adult would. I do not separate between people, the term «worldly» with which one should not relate is a thing of the past. I sleep peacefully at night without being in constant fear of not giving enough to the Organization and having my name erased from the book of Jehovah’s remembrance.
In each one of us is found the desire and the will to be free, only each one at his own pace and according to his own life circumstances. Without a doubt, «Leaving Jehovah» is the best decision I could have made.
* In psychology, the term cognitive dissonance refers to the internal tension or disharmony of the system of ideas, beliefs and emotions (cognitions) perceived by a person who has two thoughts that are in conflict at the same time, or by a behavior that conflicts with his or her beliefs. In other words, the term refers to the perception of incompatibility of two simultaneous cognitions, all of which can impact on one’s attitudes.
** insight is a term used in psychology from English that can be translated into Spanish as «visión interna» or more generically «percepción» or «entendimiento». Through an insight the subject «captures», «internalizes» or understands, a revealed «truth». This can happen unexpectedly, after a deep work, symbolically, or through the use of various related techniques.