Updated 12/22/95

Summary - In an authoritarian group the sense of being uniquely right holds the group together. Undoing this false bond is what recovery is about.

The question "What are we recovering from?" pops up all the time from Mormons who are unable to contemplate the possibility - the church is a fraud. They try to reason that someone left Mormonism because feelings were hurt or there was "sin". The best explanation I have been able to come up with to a Mormon, which takes more time that can be done in single short sentences in an on-line discussion, is to use the analogy of an individual being a Jehovah's Witness and then having the JW discover the deceit of her true church. Most Mormons are aware of Watchtower literature having seen "Awake" and other publications, though they have probably never read any of them, and almost everyone in America and Europe have been tracted out by JW missionaries numerous times. JWs believe they are in the only true church and they are reminded of that fact by their local leaders (Elders) and by the church headquarters in New York all the time in meetings, conferences and in their publications. They bear testimony of the truthfulness of their organization and devote their lives to promoting it. They also have a special book, The New World Translation. The typical Mormon will always agree that JWs have been deceived, but they have great difficulty in thinking that they too are victims of deception. It hopefully helps them understand what we are going through, though we know all too well, they will look condescendingly down on us and that too is part of our recovery process, dealing with those, just like ex-JWs must do, who are still believers.

I would like to quote from a book I recommend "Captive Hearts Captive Minds" page 200. "When will I be done working on this stuff? When will my past {authoritarian group} involvement stop being such a big thing in my life? These are questions you may ask yourself from time to time as your recovery proceeds. The answers are not simple. Gradually, preoccupation with feelings, thoughts, and behaviors associated with the authoritarian group will lessen. As you resume responsibility for your life, your sense of personal empowerment will increase. You will start to look forward to your personal relationships, career, and even simple pleasures, and memories of life in the {authoritarian group} will recede into the past and cease to be the overbearing shadow it once was.

...For most, recovery means coming to terms with the past through self-acceptance and self-forgiveness and healing through finding a new view of the world and life. The world may never again seem quite as safe, fair or rosy. Human nature is no longer viewed with the same naiveté. But even though they may now be less gullible and less vulnerable, in many way former authoritarian group members have an increased understanding of and a new compassion for themselves and all humanity.

If they avoid the challenge of recovery, former authoritarian group members run the risk of allowing cynicism, pessimism, and bitterness to become defenses against further vulnerability, and of using isolation and denial as weapons against future pain. Recovery means full acceptance of one's humanity - the good as well as the bad. It means accepting the struggle to grow while recognizing one's own and other's imperfections."

I happened to grab a book, while thinking about stages of recovery, that I have read a few times entitled "Combatting Cult Mind Control" by Steven Hassan. I will quote some paragraphs from his book on the chapter Strategies for Recovery pages 182-184. I highly recommend the book.

"Former members need to learn how to trust themselves again. They have to become their own best friend, as well as their own best therapist. They have to realize that they didn't choose to be lied to... They are not at fault. Eventually, as they learn to trust themselves and their own inherent wisdom and instincts, they learn that it's okay to begin trusting others. They have to realize that all groups are not evil. In fact, the good part of being involved with a healthy group, be it religious, social, or political group, is that you can exercise control over your participation. You do not have to stay one minute longer than you want to. Nor do you have to sit silently and blame yourself when you don't understand what is being said or done. You can question and you can question some more...

"Learning to get in touch with emotions and channel them effectively is another significant process for any ex-member. Often when a person first comes out, many of his emotions remain suppressed. But as the person adjusts, he begins to feel shame and embarrassment, then often anger and indignation. The person moves from "What is wrong with me?" to "How dare they do that to me!"

At some point the person may begin a voracious research project to find out everything he can about his group and answer every one of his questions to his satisfaction. This is a very positive therapeutic step. Often, the number one priority of someone who has just left a authoritarian group is to help rescue the friends who were left behind. It becomes particularly difficult when a former member realizes that the friendships he thought were so good were conditional on continued membership. A former member can quickly see the strength of mind control bonds when his closest friend in the group refuses to meet him...

Eventually, when all the questions are answered, and all the authoritarian group issues are addressed, the ex-member reaches a saturation point. He gets to the point of saying "They are not going to take the rest of my life!" and starts making plans for the future...

Like anyone who has been molested or abused, former members need to learn to rebuild their trust in themselves and others step by step. In their own good time, they can learn to take little risks and test the waters. They don't have to jump in any faster than is comfortable for them.

There are immediate positive things in leaving Mormonism.

The purpose of this web site is for those were in either group, Mormonism or the Watchtower, and I look forward to getting your letters and stories to post here