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Ex Jehovah's Witness Terminology - What is POMO?

POMO is an acronym you may hear often if you are part of an ex Jehovah's Witness community. It stands for Physically Out, Mentally Out. (You may have heard other similar terms such as PIMO, or POMI)

Simply put, this signifies that a person no longer lives as a Jehovah's Witness, maybe through disfellowshipping, fading or disassociating, but also, crucially, no longer believes the doctrine.

Being Physically Out means no longer turning up at the hall, counting time or studying in preparation for the next meeting.

Being Mentally Out suggests that the person no longer accepts the messages and regulations that the JW Organisation regularly imposes on its members. They don't feel bad about not attending meetings or going on ministry. In fact, they are probably relieved at not having to commit so much time to those activities.

Being POMO should mean not having to give any weight to what the Governing Body or Elders may be saying about how you should be living your life.

On the face of it, it seems that if a person is POMO, then they have their freedom back. Their life is their own and they can live it in a way that gives them the most pleasure. However, as is often the case for ex Jehovah's Witnesses, things are not always that simple.

Just for starters, there is a strong likelihood that they are having to deal with the cruel practice of shunning. (Read more about that here). Speak to someone who is Mentally Out, and they will likely admit to what a barbaric practice it is, especially if they are on the receiving end of it. They may be thankful they 'Woke Up' and are not inflicting it on others themselves. If asked, they will likely tell you they no longer believe all the things to do with blood transfusions or celebrating Christmas and Birthdays and will now happily view these things very differently to when they were a devoted Jehovah's Witness.

Aside from the fact that their family and friends may be ignoring them, they will still likely admit that they made the right decision, and they are thankful that they are no longer bound by those beliefs and having to live according to such a restrictive set of rules.

However, there is an element to being POMO that a person may not appreciate or even realise, until it shows itself fully and starts to affect their life.

Working with ex Jehovah's Witness clients has shown me that certain beliefs they thought no longer existed can actually be lying dormant, only to surface later. Sometimes many years later.

**Trigger Warning**

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine first started to appear on the news, there were ex Jehovah's Witnesses unexpectedly having doubts about whether they did the right thing in leaving, maybe more than 20 years earlier. Was this a sign of Armageddon coming and they have missed their shot at eternal life? I have heard of instances where people would spend hundreds of pounds on equipment for their 'go bags' on hearing the news, even though these people may have been 'Mentally Out' for many years and truly believed that all of those previous beliefs had been discarded.

Some people speak of still being 'triggered' unexpectedly by seemingly innocent things. A book, a particular venue or an old 'Kingdom Melody' perhaps. The 'triggering' can be brief. Sometimes just a few seconds of uneasiness while the person realises what's happening in their body and very quickly reminds themselves that it's just a memory and there is nothing to worry about.

However, for some, these triggering effects can be present years after they left and, when they surface, they can be extremely troubling, and sometimes confusing.

One of the most common examples of this is when a person feels guilty for just thinking about putting themselves first. It feels very selfish, and that sense of selfishness can stop the person doing whatever it was they were considering. This can lead to a person totally neglecting themselves and their basic needs, which then becomes an even bigger problem.

There is a good chance this guilt towards being 'selfish' is a result of how they perceived things when you were a Jehovah's Witness and even though they may be certain they are 'Mentally Out', the previous beliefs were so deeply ingrained, it takes a little more to truly shake them. They can't seem to accept that they are allowed to put their own needs first sometimes and it is certainly not selfish to do so.

The implications of being perceived as 'selfish' when they were a Jehovah's Witness could still be very powerful influence when it comes to decision making, even years later. So even though a person will admit to being 'Mentally Out' of the JW organisation, there is the likelihood of ideas or beliefs being retained that are still preventing them being as happy or fulfilled as they could be.

These retained beliefs, in the context of the recovery work I do with ex Jehovah's Witnesses, are called 'Introjects', and while working with the Recovery Workbook, we do spend time looking at how to identify these Introjects that may still be present and learn how to unravel them and ultimately remove them.

Being Mentally Out does mean that the fundamental beliefs of being a Jehovah's Witness will have changed. But just not believing it any more doesn't mean the effects of previously believing it will also magically disappear.

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