It’s better out here. That’s about all I can say regarding the change from being in the organization to living a normal life. As people I’ve known all my life, including my closest family, disconnect from me, I know they are more miserable about their decision than I am. I have a whole new group of friends and adopted family that show me unconditional love. They don’t expect the worst from me. They don’t judge me. They actually listen to opinions that differ from theirs without condemning me. It’s an amazing experience.
I remember being fully involved in the organization and the feelings that would come up when someone decided to leave. It was worse than a death because there was very little expectation of ever seeing that person again. They were condemned, an anathema. There was real mourning for that person and profound sadness that they had turned from “the truth.”
Now, being on the other side of that experience, I know that those that left were actually heading for a better, more meaningful life. It’s sad how much current members torment themselves because of what they think we’re going through. It’s even sadder that they continue to condemn and hurt us because we can’t stand with them anymore.
The bright side of all of this is that there’s a whole world out there to explore. Yes, we’ve lost some very important people in our life, for now. We’ve suffered blows because of their actions and words. But, we actually get to live life for real now. We can be who we want, believe what we want and see things as they really are.
So, if you’ve lost people because of leaving the Jehovah’s Witness organization, know that you’re not alone. But, also know that you have more in front of you than behind you. The situation may be hard at times. But just remember: It’s better out here.
THE DRAMA TRIANGLE
In a “high control” group, there are certain patterns that can be expected and easily predicted. The goal of total dominance involving and controlling the thoughts and actions of everyone in a group creates a cycle known to mental health professionals as “the Drama Triangle.” The use of the word “drama” in this context is not surprising to anyone who has ever been involved with an organization like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Families, local congregations, and the entire structure of that kind of a religion are rife with drama.
This psychological model is called a “triangle” because there are three main types of people involved:
A Victim, the Rescuer, and the Persecutor. Each person in this scenario plays a role that feeds the needs and actions of the others involved. The whole relationship between these “actors” can evolve into a vicious, never-ending cycle with tragic results.
The Victim – This is a person who imagines that “the world is out to get them.” They act and consider themselves powerless in the face of any and all obstacles and trials. Instead of solving problems for themselves, they look for someone to take pity on them and to either figure out and fix their problem(s) or rescue them somehow. This individual’s signature characteristics are feelings and complaints of being oppressed, helpless, hopeless, ashamed and indecisive. They seem unable resolve their own problems, enjoy any pleasures in life, or achieve insight as to the reality of their situation.
The Rescuer – This person’s purpose in life is to “save others.” They thrive in situations that call for them to be the “hero” or “savior.” But this isn’t necessarily an entirely altruistic endeavor on their part. By focusing on other people’s problems, they are able to avoid fixing their own personal issues and shortcomings. They are skillful at getting involved in situations that are not really any of their concern.
The Persecutor – This person is a master at making others feel guilty, inadequate and inferior. Through their words and actions, they convey the message that others don’t and won’t measure up to expectations. They need someone to control by convincing a person that they are somehow at fault or guilty for some deed, real or imagined and will never be quite right. They will either protect or persecute others and often come across as authoritative, rigid and superior.
All of these roles are “fluid,” meaning that a single individual can adapt to whatever the circumstances might call for. They may start as a protector of a victim and later switch to being a prosecutor or persecutor. They may become “a rescuer,” trying to save others from themselves. At any rate, this is an unhealthy dynamic that perpetuates itself through the interactions of each of these characters.
Imagine the following scenario:
PUBLISHER (Victim): “I feel so bad for not doing enough in the ministry.”
ELDER (Rescuer): “I understand. We all want to do as much as possible for Jehovah. But, you are doing the best you can in your circumstances.”
PIONEER (Coach): You know, if you would adjust your schedule and make a few more sacrifices, you could become my pioneer partner. We could go out in the ministry all the time together. All it would take is you making a few changes to your way of life.
ELDER (Persecutor): Well, Sister Pioneer, you might be able to do a bit more too. Have you thought about selling your home and moving to where the need is greater? You would then have the circumstances to expand your ministry.
PIONEER (Victim): I don’t know if I can do that right now. But, I see what you’re saying. Maybe I have been getting too comfortable in my routine.
PUBLISHER (Rescuer): But, Sister Pioneer, you really are doing so much for the congregation now. You’re a great example to the younger ones.
ELDER (Victim): That’s true. I think I probably need to do more for the kids in our congregation.
PUBLISHER (Persecutor): I agree. Actually, I think all of the elders need to be reaching out and working with the young ones more than they do.
PIONEER (Rescuer): But, they’re all so busy. It seems like you are all doing everything you can for them.
In one brief conversation, the roles can switch around and become totally reversed. All parties are unconsciously contributing to the drama triangle. None of them will leave this conversation feeling better about themselves or their life choices.
The “drama triangle” is the most common social dynamic in the Jehovah’s Witness organization. Almost everyone will fit into one of these roles at every level of the Organization.
The problem is that we become so used to this environment that we might continue to play these roles, even after leaving the organization. We may feel exploited and oppressed by the organization (victim). We may feel responsible for getting others to leave the organization (rescuer) or constantly complain and criticize the organization and those still in it (persecutor).
Obviously, we all have different stages in our personal recovery and those feelings aren’t necessarily unhealthy. We may even feel the need to act in one of these roles for a while. But, when we get stuck in that role, even years after leaving the Organization, its effects can hinder us from emotional development and healing.
So, what’s the answer? How can we avoid being trapped into these categories that we’ve become so used to?
The “key” is self-empowerment and developing our own life goals. We be able to break out of the “drama triangle” by learning to be self-sufficient, independent, and not “victimized.” We need to allow others to grow at their own pace – not by continually “rescuing” them. We can help by being satisfied with the efforts of others and recognizing their right to decide on a life course for themselves – and not “persecuting them” for their decisions.
When we focus on our own lives and personal choices, we will finally break free from this “drama triangle” of trying to fill the roles of a “victim,” a “rescuer,” or a “persecutor.”