Borderline Personality Disorder
Among Jehovah's Witnesses

The following was an email submitted to Randy (September 2005) and was answered by his friends who often answer emails for him. The stories are touching but not at all uncommon with high control groups such as the Watchtower.

Dear Randy,

 
First, let me offer my heart felt thanks to you for your web site and your painstaking efforts to aid  JWs to begin to heal from their experiences in the Organization.  I remarried a loving, caring, emotionally strong non JW lady and today we celebrated our first anniversary. (Thank you E-Harmony!) 
 
I am writing to ask if in your experiences with recovering  JWs, have you seen a correlation between excessively strict JW parenting and 'Borderline Personality Disorder'?
 
After struggling with my second marriage as a JW, I consulted a well know psychologist at the University of Las Vegas (UNLV), who is a specialist in initial diagnosing of emotional conditions and psychosis.  I hoped he could help me figure out how to put my struggling marriage back on track.
 
I thought I had a problem with nearly two failed marriages under my belt. I was totally shocked when within my first hour with him, he was able to diagnose my wife with Border Line Personality Disorder.  She had eleven out of fifteen precursors that are used to diagnose this condition.  A person with just five precursors would be typically diagnosed to have this disorder.
 
We then discussed my first wife, also a life long JW who also grew up under strict JW parents, and we discovered she too would have been diagnosed with the disorder having eight of the precursor symptoms.
 
My doctor also explained that in his extensive research that many, many  JWs he has worked with have had this disorder, especially JW women.
 
He suggested I read the book: "I Hate You...Please Don't Leave Me."  This book, the first of it's kind written for the lay public, detailed precisely how that the excessively strict and emotionally tumultuous upbringing (that many JW children have experienced) with emotional and religious phobias and constant fear of disappointing those in authority over you such as parents (or elders, or Jehovah) leads to a mental detachment to reality, in that when the child has become an adult, and enters into a long relationship, their childhood fears surface subconsciously to sabotage the marriage.
 
In fact, the closer the couple becomes, or the more love and affection the husband shows towards his wife, the more she will work to disrupt that relationship-without her realizing her need to sabotage the closeness; even though she will NOT typically want to leave the marriage.  She just wants desperately to recreate the type of environment that she grew up with, the one she is comfortable with in her minds eye.
 
This evidently is a lifelong condition that is not treatable.  All of my research summed up the same conclusion: that persons affected seriously with this disorder are rarely ever able to carry on a warm, loving, affectionate relationship.  Those who do remain married will typically have a platonic, or an emotionally detached marriage. 
 
I have closely known of several couples with constant marital issues, that looking back, could have been due to this disorder.  Most of the wives childhoods were emotionally stressful with very strict parents, similar to my wife's upbringing.
 
Have you come across this yourself?

Donald


 

My friends J.M. and D.M. answer this one as follows:

Re: "Borderline Personality Disorders"

 
Greetings Donald:
 
Thank you for writing to Randy at Free Minds!  We appreciate the opportunity of being able to correspond with you and discuss questions, comments, and the views from our friends.
 
First of all, let us send our "Congratulations" to you and to your wife as you celebrate your 1st anniversary!  We hope and pray that you will have many, many more celebrations such as this one in your happy future!
 
I could send you several links concerning this kind of information and the research of others that relate to this subject.  However, in this case, I feel an eye-witness to these phobias of which you mention would be of better and more factual documentation.
 
I was one of Jehovah's Witnesses for 45 years of my life, and can tell you first hand that strict parents and the strict-discipline they inflict upon their children, does in-fact cause (extreme) phobias within the Jehovah's Witness faith.  It would be fair to say that these phobias exist in other religions as well, however, Jehovah's Witness children are certainly under a more strict religious control than others.
 
Here are a few words and phrases that Jehovah's Witness children hear from an infant to the time they pass away in death:
 
1. Do not straddle the fence in your faith to Jehovah.
2. Your either in the organization or your out.
3. Your either serving Jehovah or your serving Satan's organizations.
4. Jehovah hates lukewarm worshipers.
5. You are either worshipping Jehovah or Satan.
6 Your either with us or against us.
 
As anyone can see by those terms and phrases, there is no happy medium.  The scales are either up or down.  And unfortunately, this is exactly the same way the life of a Jehovah's Witness proceeds.  The Jehovah's Witness life is constantly on a roller-coaster.  From one extreme to the other.  Any other pattern in life, would impress upon the JW mind as not normal, or that somewhere in his or her life, Satan is taking a foothold and gaining on them.  The Jehovah's Witness must have persecution in their life and if the worldly elements are not providing any persecution for them, then they must produce it for themselves, to feel normal.
 
Perfection, Perfection, Perfection, is what a Jehovah's Witness child hears on a regular basis, and it is drummed into their brain from their first diaper.  Such as: Try to be (perfect) like Jesus.  We are going to live in a perfect world.  We need to cover this territory in the ministry work as perfectly as we can.  I gave a perfect talk.  My publishers record card is in perfect shape.
 
This is normal conversation that a Jehovah's Witness child hears constantly.  In order to live a (perfect) Christian's life in the New World Society, a Jehovah's Witness must have some kind of persecution going on in their life, or they conclude within their mind that they are not living as Jesus did, because Jesus was always facing persecution.
 
Phobias in Jehovah's Witness children usually start when being beaten.  When a child is inside the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, they are to be paying close attention to the religious instructions from the platform no matter what age they are, and any disturbance from them in any way, shape, or form, can result in being taken outside the Kingdom Hall, or to the restroom and given what is called "theocratic discipline."  A Jehovah's Witness parent will give theocratic discipline, concluding in their mind, that if they spare the rod they will spoil the child, which could lead the child into destruction, because they should be learning at the meetings, and not being the child that they really are.
 
I am in my mid 50s, and I can look at my own legs and knees, and still see the scars I received as a child from belts, belt buckles, sticks, tree limbs, fists, and my own mother's finger-nails from hitting me so hard, that scars still remain.  My wife has many scars on her legs and butt area from the beatings she received also.
 
As children we were expected to act like mature adults, and we learned very quickly that we must be like those in the congregation. That made our parents smile.  So as children growing up in the congregations, we began to notice who it was that impressed our parents and made them smile.  We then concluded in our minds, that if we could become like those people who were making our parents smile, then we also would be able to make our parents happy if we were to act just like those on the platform, or taking the lead in the Kingdom Hall.
 
It wasn't long before we spoke, just like them, acted just like them, sang songs just like them, walked, talked and prayed just like these other people who our parents really wanted us to copy.  This started several personality complexes within ourselves as children.  We noticed that we would act one way while we were at school, and then we would act totally different when we got around our parents or those brothers and sisters at the Kingdom Hall.
 
What we did not notice, was who we were as children.  We had forgotten that we were suppose to have our own personality!  As the years went by, we had gained within ourselves so many different personalities, that we did not know who we ourselves were anymore.  We needed help, but doctors of psychiatry among others were forbidden in those days, because of their practice of hypnotism they were viewed as servants of Satan's organization.  So we had to do the best we could for ourselves under the circumstances. In effect, we had to pray harder, put more hours in the JW ministry work, and strive to be more perfect, and maybe then we could expect to feel better.
 
I have known many Jehovah's Witnesses who have gone stark-raving mad, and put into mental institutions because of the phobias and personality conflicts that existed within themselves.  One Pioneer (full-time minister) friend of mine told me that he counted the different personalities he had acquired within himself, over the many years of service to the Watchtower Society, and he concluded that he had 8 different personalities about himself that were necessary for his existence as a faithful brother in the organization.  Yet, when I asked him about his own opinion about a certain simple matter, his first answer was, quote: "I don't really know right now."  I knew he said this because, he would really need to consult his other personalities before he could give me a reasonable answer.
 
Don't get me wrong, I don't totally point the finger at others.  No one could have been a Jehovah's Witness as long as I was, and not have some condition they must live with and endure.
 
Even Randy Watters recommends a Prozac for me now and then!  Just kidding of course, but on a more serious note, Randy has noticed at times, that I will allow things to bother me that really should be of no real concern!  Or at other times, I think that everybody is against me, when no real situation such as that even exists!  For 45 years, I lived believing that the whole world was against me because I was serving Jehovah and was supposed to be fought against, because I was trying to live a perfect life like Jesus.  So if Jesus was persecuted, then so should I be persecuted if I am really living and practicing in His footsteps.  At least, that is the way I thought for 45 years.  It is not an easy thing to discard after all this time.
 
There are old sayings among those my age in the Watchtower Society.  One of those old sayings goes like this:  It is either the Watchtower's way or no way at all!
 
I think anyone with a clear mind, can see right off the bat the phobia (or, unbalanced scale) in that statement above.  But unfortunately, those old sayings became realities and we had to live the realities, that if we did not live up to what the Watchtower organization set before us to live, then there was no real reason for living anyway because we would only face destruction at Armageddon close at hand.  This is one of the main reasons that so many Jehovah's Witnesses have committed suicide.  They knew the phobias they were living with, and these phobias made no sense to them unless they were living the life of a JW, and if they left the JW organization they then had to face the fact that something was seriously wrong with them, and could not face the reality of these conditions.  Many concluded that they would rather face Jehovah's mercy in a resurrection and take their own life, than to face the Watchtower's life, phobias, complex personalities, and the extremes they had to endure, wanting desperately to find themselves, and were unable to do so because for them it was already too late.  They were lost to themselves, unless they were to exist in the Watchtower Society.  That was the only place, the other personalities made any sense.
 
Many felt that in the new system they would finally be rid of these other personalities, and finally find themselves in a happy perfect body and live forever.  This is one reason that so many Jehovah's still continue to stay faithful to the Watchtower, even though they know there are lies and deceptions within the Watchtower leadership.  They really don't care about the leadership, they just want to see that Paradise, and maybe finally find out who they really are!
 
 
We hope that some of this information has been helpful.  Thank you again for writing to Randy! 

Your friends, J.M. and D.M.


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