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Identity Loss - Another reason why Ex Jehovah's Witness Counselling is so important.

It is not uncommon for people to suffer with some form of 'identity crisis'. A person that does the same job for a long time can often be identified with that job. They're 'the estate agent' or 'the teacher'. It's part of their identity and is something that others acknowledge or recognise about them. Maybe it even offers an insight into the sort of person that others perceive them to be. Either way, it's part of their identity and therefor to lose that part of them has the potential to cause a 'crisis'. Who are they if they are no longer able to say they are that person?

This potential for a crisis to occur is usually mitigated by the fact that the person has other aspects to their life. They are also the husband or wife, they are the friend, they are the member of the club. Their identity was not entirely focused on one single part of their life. Their persona was the result of numerous facets that went into creating the person they were, so the loss of a single side of their identity won't necessarily prove to be catastrophic.

However, when you talk about ex Jehovah's Witnesses, the situation is much more fragile.

To live a Jehovah's Witness life you need to comply with everything you are told. What to think, what to believe, who you can or cannot socialise with or even speak to. If you stray from the JW path you will be made aware and brought back into line, or risk punishment in the form of disfellowshipping. You believe you will be the only survivors upon the imminent arrival of Armageddon, so your very existence and place in the Paradise is at stake.

Above all else you must be a Jehovah's Witness.

This is your identity. You may be a parent, child, sibling, worker, friend or colleague but above all of those you are a Jehovah's Witness. It defines you and dictates where you fit into the world, both now and in the future.

So now imagine if THAT identity is lost, either through fading, disassociating or disfellowshipping.

There is nothing left. You cannot fall back on any other part of your identity because you only had one, and it is gone. If you were disfellowshipped it was taken away from you, and if you left of your own choice you walked away from it. Neither of these paths is easy.

In many respects, having the identity stripped from you involuntarily, could seem worse, but there is still the possibility that you feel your identity as a JW remains. It's just you need to deal with the turmoil of whether you want to return to it by making amends to the elders or try to make a new life away from the organisation.

For those that control how they leave, the idea of there being an issue with identity can take them by surprise. Perhaps they didn't realise they would be asking themselves "if I'm not a Jehovah's Witness, what or who am I then?"

However you find yourself now on the outside, you're faced with dilemmas about what to believe, whether there is a god, whether Armageddon is actually real, will my family ever wake up or speak to me again? Plus so many other mind crushing problems.

These are hard enough challenges to face but they are compounded when, at the root of it all, you don't even know who you are any more. What is your identity?

Those that don't fully understand the whole JW experience could argue that actually the world is your oyster. You are free and can do anything you want to. To some extent this is true but you may have no idea of just what possibilities are out there. When you have had a lifetime of indoctrination that the world outside of the JW's is evil and the 'worldly' people that populate it are to be avoided whenever possible, you cannot simply wipe out that level of brainwashing overnight and launch yourself out into the world.

There is no doubt that some people find they are able to embrace their new found freedom and live life to it's fullest, very quickly. But many ex JW's really cannot figure out how to do that and the biggest problem is often because they do not have an identity.

It's extremely difficult to imagine how life could be for you and then try to make it a reality if you don't know who you are and, therefor, what it takes to make you feel happy.

It would be like trying to build your dreamhouse but you've only ever lived in, seen, read about or heard about one single style of house for your whole life and then realise that living in that house doesn't make you happy. You know what DOESN'T work but you have no idea what DOES.

Identity issues can be complex to figure out but for a lot of ex JW counselling clients, the realisation that they even have a problem with their identity can actually help. It's a little bit like getting a diagnosis for an illness. When you know you are struggling, to find out the reason behind it can actually be comforting. If your leg has been hurting for days and it's not obvious what the problem is, you could even start to wonder if you are imagining it. To then find out it is, in fact, broken, makes a lot of sense and you realise that you were not going mad after all. Then you can go about getting it fixed.

Now, I am not suggesting that the road to recovery for ex Jehovah's Witnesses is simply to show there is an identity problem and put a cast on it to make it better in a couple of weeks.

Figuring out your identity and how you fit into the world can be a tough and sometimes upsetting journey. But the first step in fixing anything is to understand what is actually wrong and issues surrounding identity are extremely common among ex JW's.

To find out more about Counselling for ex Jehovah's Witnesses visit

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