Shunning, Parental Alienation, and How Trauma Causes Reclusiveness

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Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 090

HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 90 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon. In this episode, I have an update about my Jehovah’s Witness daughter who I’ve not seen for almost 3 years. I’ll be answering some more of your YouTube comments. And I’ll be discussing how I became a recluse.

So, for anyone following my story you’ll know that my JW daughters are now living with their maternal grandparents, also Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I’ve had absolutely no say in the matter. When I was disfellowshipped in 2019, my wife forced me out of the family home and along with her parents she proceeded to alienate my daughters from me, especially the youngest one who was only 13 at the time.

Try as I might to see my daughters, I was simply not allowed. My wife’s JW family and friends formed what seemed to be an impenetrable barrier around my daughters, but ultimately it backfired on my wife—now ex-wife—when she herself woke up and realised I was right all along about Jehovah’s Witnesses being a cult. When she disassociated, my daughters, no doubt encouraged by my ex-wife’s parents, immediately began shunning her too, even while living in the same home which she was none too pleased about, and in the end, they moved out so as not to have anything more to do with her. Such is the nature of shunning! My ex-wife’s parents were there, of course, on the sidelines, waiting like vultures to sweep in and take the kids away, and of course, they also cut off my ex-wife. So now my kids live with their JW grandparents, and the thing is, in all of this I’ve had no say, despite the Watch Tower claiming that “normal family relationships continue” after a parent is disfellowshipped. That’s just the story they tell the public. The truth is, Jehovah’s Witnesses break up families! 

Anyway, when my kids moved out and went to live with their JW grandparents, I filed a court order to establish that I had a legal responsibility to have an input into who my youngest daughter lived with, her education, her medical decisions etc. She’s now almost 16, which makes it more difficult because any court will obviously listen to what she has to say, even if she’s being coerced, or even brainwashed to practice shunning, as I believe she is. The problem is, my daughter, when she found out I’d submitted an application for a Child Arrangement Order, told me it was causing her stress and put the ultimatum to me that if I truly loved her I would leave her alone. So I did. It was a difficult choice, but I decided it would be best to withdraw, at least for now, and so I filed a C2 form to cancel the court proceedings. 

But, here’s the twist. Today, I received a letter from the court telling me that despite my request to cancel the Child Arrangement Order, they want to proceed regardless! Apparently, they’re concerned about my daughter’s safety, being that she’s trapped in a cult and I’ve had no say about things, and they want to review safeguarding arrangements. So that’s interesting. I actually thought this might happen. Obviously, I’ll keep you updated as I know more but for now, it looks like the court is going to look into the situation and decide what’s best for my daughter. I guess it’s out of my hands now and I just have to trust the process.

Time to take a look at some more of your YouTube comments.

Dianna Odman commenting on episode 88, The Mandela Effect & the Queen’s Death said:

“I’m heavily affected by the Mandela Effect. It is also known as a reality shift. [It is!] This has been going on in my life for 5 1/2 years. It was the Bible changes that woke me up to this experience, to where my memories are different from th[e] reality in some cases… [Interesting. I wasn’t aware of any Mandella Effects in the Bible. Anyway, Dianna continues…] [I] thought I would share a few that most people know… Movie quotes [ah, yes!]: From Forrest Gump: Life __ like a box of chocolates;  [Now, I know this one. People think it’s Life is like a box of chocolates, but it’s actually Life was like a box of chocolates.] Snow White, what does the witch say to the mirror? [I know this one too I think. It’s not Mirror, mirror, on the wall but actually Magic mirror on the wall. Who’d have known?]… In The Wizard of Oz, what does the witch say to her flying monkeys?  Fly, __ fly.  [Is it Fly, beauties, fly? I think. I could be wrong on that one. Let me now in the comments if you know the answer to that one. Then] songs: The Eurhythmics, Sweet dreams are made of __; [I thought it was Sweet dreams are made of these, but I could be wrong. It could be cheese, I don’t know.] Changes by David Bowie,  Time may change me but I cant __ time; [I don’t know that one, but I assume it’s change? I don’t know.]  The Mamas and the Papas, Stopped into a church I passed along the way well, I got down on my knees and I __ to pray; [Started? Began? Again, I don’t know that one. Let me know in the comments if you think you know. And] Bible changes [ah, here we go]:  For wherever two or __ are gathered in my name… (Matthew 18:20); [I’m pretty sure that’s For wherever two or three are gathered in my name, surely? Am I right? I think I’m right, but here’s a really interesting one. Dianna asks,]… How can the word couch be in the 1611 KJV [since] Jay Wellingdon Couch… invented [the couch, named after him] in 1895? [Hmm. Dianna doesn’t provide a verse for that one, but that’s worth checking out. It’s a mystery!]

If you know of any other Mandela Effects, especially ones you’ve experienced personally, let me know in the comments.

Mac, commenting on episode 85, Can an Atheist be Spiritual? I think this was the episode where I mentioned my children and how they’ve been shunning me. Mac writes:

“I would tell you to pray for them but you don’t believe in God. I personally think that the only possible way to get them out is to debunk the teachings of the organization, by examining the scriptures carefully, but you don’t believe in the Bible. That’s OK. Just to let you know I do because of my life experiences. I got my wife, and my now 92-year-old mom out by me examining the scriptures carefully, and praying, and believing in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and finding Christ, and following him, by sanctifying him in my heart as Lord. Hope that helps you as well. Good video. We all have our choices. I don’t knock yours.”

Okay, thanks Mac. So, I do get where Mac is coming from. I spent my entire life believing the Bible was true and believing in God and Jesus, even after I left Jehovah’s Witnesses until I spent some time debunking my old beliefs. Even now, it’s not that I think the Bible has zero use at all. It may even be that parts of it are “inspired” by something beyond the human experience. It’s just that I don’t swallow the whole thing down now as being 100% from God, or infallible anymore, and that stance has come from my own life experiences. As I’ve explained in previous podcasts, I think the Bible has been messed around a lot over the years, especially the Old Testament, and there are parts of the Bible that I just can’t subscribe to morally or ethically. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m not spiritual, or that I don’t believe in something beyond the physical. I do. I even pray sometimes, although Mac probably wouldn’t call it praying, at least not how he understands prayer. But I appreciate the sentiments, and I’m pleased you managed to get your family out of the cult. Unfortunately, I have no way of doing that. I can’t reason with them because they are shunning me. Complete radio silence. I just hope that in time they wake up of their own volition and come and find me. If they do, of course, I’ll be here to welcome them.

And finally, Notnilc Popcorn Cruncher commenting on episode 16, Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a Cult?—Part 3 writes:

“Instead of force, the[y, that’s Jehovah’s Witnesses] use subtle coercive trapping techniques like… making lifestyle changes which consist of disassociating [from] friends and family who are not supportive in your decision, or anyone who is not a Witness. [That’s certainly true. He continues,] They strongly encourage you to befriend all of them, and that’s where their leverage is when you want to leave. [You] feel like you have no secular friends or support group and you will also feel like [you’re] letting them down as well as disappointing Jehovah.”

Exactly. Especially if you’ve been born into the cult like I was, you get used to having ready-made “friends”—and not just a few, but hundreds of them. Thousands. Millions even. Everyone who is a Witness is, supposedly, your “brother” or “sister” and this becomes your “normal”, but really it’s [it’s] not normal, not in real life anyway. And the problem is, if you leave Jehovah’s Witnesses there’s this massive hole there. That’s enough for many to “return to Jehovah”, not because they believe it’s true, but just because they miss the social aspect. It’s like a drug I guess and Popcorn Cruncher is right when he says it’s their “leverage”. It is, and as you say, a “subtle trapping technique”, and that’s another reason why it’s a cult. That’s how cults work.

BREAKING NEWS: I’ve just heard that Popcorn Cruncher has gone and disassociated himself. He just sent me a message saying: “I disassociated yesterday but my wife is still in and she’s at the meeting right now because they wanted her to be there for the announcement to fake love bomb her and whatnot.” That’s tough man. I hope you’re okay. Reach out if you need someone to talk to.

So, these days I’m pretty much a recluse. I’ve always been an introvert. By that, I don’t mean I don’t like people, I do, but what I mean is I find being with people for extended periods of time to be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Time alone is how introverts charge their batteries. It’s just my emotional makeup. But especially since 2019 when I experienced the traumatic loss of everyone and everything familiar from my life, I have become a recluse. So, I now live in a bedsit, I have done for the past 3 years, and to be honest, I rarely leave my room. I hardly ever go out anywhere, except if I have to, say for a doctor’s appointment or something like that. My entire existence takes place in a 10 x 8 foot room with a bed and, thankfully, a computer connected to the internet. The internet is how I keep in touch with people these days. I rarely see people face-to-face and when I do, I get quite anxious. And to think I used to be a teacher and, once upon a time, a wedding photographer—jobs that involved being with lots of people! But no more. Now I’m a recluse, and it’s all related to trauma. As I’ve explained in previous podcasts, I suffer from manic depression, but especially since being disfellowshipped in 2019 I’ve experienced PTSD from the trauma of losing everyone and everything from my life, literally overnight. 

So, a recluse is a person who lives in seclusion from the public and society at large. The word “recluse” comes from the Latin “recludere”, which literally means “shut up”, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve shut myself up in a tiny room for the past 3 years. It’s been long known that PTSD can occur after an extreme stressor, although it doesn’t happen to everyone who is traumatised, but when it does occur it results in a range of maladaptive changes to one’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. Reclusiveness, the feeling of wanting to shut oneself away, is just one of those symptoms. For me personally, withdrawing has always been my coping mechanism, and I think it comes with my personality. Like I say, I’m naturally an introvert, and a deep thinker, and a creator. Reclusion kind of comes with the territory. In fact, many famous thinkers and creators were reclusive:

  • Isaac Newton was;
  • The singer-songwriter Enya, she is;
  • Nikola Tesla was;
  • Michelangelo;
  • and of course Emily Dickinson, my favourite poet for reasons I’ve discussed before. I genuinely feel I was Dickinson in a previous incarnation! But that’s a discussion for another day. So for all you recluses out there, we’re in good company!

So what causes a person to remove themselves from society and live a life of solitude? For many, it’s because something horrible happened and they had no control over it. After something terrible occurs, it can be difficult to connect with others. Especially when the trauma causes PTSD, many people have a hard time just being around people. It can be triggering or you can find you’re simply unable to relate to people anymore. It feels like no one understands what you’ve been through. Or, like me, reclusion can just feel “safe”. 

Now, Jehovah’s Witnesses, for the most part, underestimate how traumatising disfellowshipping is. They do it because they think the Bible tells them to—certainly, the governing body and the organisation tells them to do it—and they even frame it as a “loving provision”. But it’s not. It equates to a kind of psychological murder. The disfellowshipped person is viewed as dead, and they even compare disfellowshipping to the ancient practice of stoning among God’s people, the Israelites. In fact, if you look up “Stoning” in the Watchtower Publications Index you will find a direct link back to the subject of Disfellowshipping. So, if you think about a literal stoning—imagine being stoned—you would instinctively curl up in a ball and try to protect yourself, and, I guess, that’s emotionally what happens to many ex-Witnesses who are spiritually “stoned to death” by their friends and family. And yet somehow Witnesses are able to square this barbaric, abusive act as “loving”. I did so myself for many years before I realised how traumatic it actually is to the individual, not to mention the moral and ethical implications of shunning someone completely.

Just this last week I heard of the tragic situation where a disfellowshipped ex-Jehovah’s Witness took their own life due to the trauma of being shunned by friends and family. It reminded me that I myself attempted suicide due to being shunned, and I’m sure there are plenty of other stories like ours out there—hundreds, thousands perhaps. Simply put, shunning causes unnecessary trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety and so forth—and, sadly, this often leads to suicide, and yet Jehovah’s Witnesses persist in this cruel treatment of other people, often for no other reason than that the person no longer believes their religion is “the truth” anymore. It costs lives, but somehow Jehovah’s Witnesses are okay with that. I’ve even heard ones liken the suicide of an ex-JW to the death of Judas. “Look what happens when you leave Jehovah!” they say. It’s like they have no concept at all of what’s actually going in, namely that they are responsible for these untimely deaths, attempted suicides and so on, and saying “the Bible tells me so” is, frankly, no excuse. Even if it does advocate complete shunning—and I don’t believe it does, and neither did the Watch Tower for most of its history—it’s simply not right, but these are the kind of atrocities that are allowed to take place when a group of people think they have God and the Bible on their side. It really is despicable!

So, I’d like to hear from any of you that have experienced PTSD as a result of being shunned, and if it’s not too triggering let me know in the comments how close you came to taking your own life. For me, it was very close and I’m lucky to still be alive and talking to you now.

Thanks for listening. That’s all for this time. Join me again soon. Bye for now.