Wifely Subjection: Mental Health Issues in Jehovah’s Witness Women
Kaynor J. Weishaupt, M.S., M.F.C.C.
The Watchtower Society, commonly referred to as Jehovah’s Witnesses, exerts a great deal of control over the everyday life of its members. Women, in particular, suffer from psychological stresses in this high-control environment, as it is also a culture where patriarchal attitudes limit women’s personal power and predominate in their relationships with men. A group of women responded to a questionnaire about their experiences during membership in the Watchtower Society and after leaving. The results indicate that while in the Watchtower Society, women experience a higher degree of mental health problems than they do after they leave the group. They also report experiencing more egalitarian attitudes in their relationships with men after exiting the group.
Little research has been done focusing on the experience of women in “high-control” or cultic groups, despite the fact that women make up a large proportion of the membership of such groups. The type of group referred to here as high-control is defined by the degree of control and restriction the group exercises over the everyday life of its membership. Such a group can be focused on religion, politics, militarism, psychotherapy, meditation, commercialism, or simply a “special” leader (Tobias & Lalich, 1994). A high-control group differs from other groups in that individual behavior is excessively limited by rules and regulations, access to information is restricted or managed (especially information critical of the group), pressure is high to conform in thought and behavior to group norms, and members must put the group’s interests before their own. The leadership in this type of group is absolute and considered infallible; outsiders are generally viewed as dangerous or evil; and members leaving the group are generally punished or shunned. While all members of such groups pay a psychological price (as well as reap certain psychological dividends, such as a sense of belonging and purpose), women often face particular difficulties in groups that are patriarchally based.
This article explores the relationship between women and the high-control social climate of the Watchtower Society (WTS), commonly referred to as Jehovah’s Witnesses. The article reviews literature bearing on the Watchtower Society’s control practices and patriarchal organizational structure, analyzes psychological implications of WTS’s social climate, and reports on the results of a survey of 20 female former members of the Watchtower Society. The survey explored three areas: (1) the degree of patriarchal versus egalitarian attitudes subjects felt existed while they were members of WTS compared to what they experienced after having left the group, (2) subjects’ perceived psychological distress while in the group and after exiting, and (3) subjects’ perceptions of the degree to which the group controlled everyday life and isolated members from outsiders. The latter area included a comparison group of women from other religious backgrounds.
The Watchtower Society as a High-Control Group
I am interested in a few things that are in my local micro-environment:
- uses for sea kelp washed ashore, and scientific research on enviro benefits for manipulation or recycling
- ditto for the brown stuff that is sort of like sea mulch (can I use it as mulch in my garden?)
- what to do with the sandbox sand on my patio, illegal to put on beach? affect? effect?
- the benefits of THC slow extraction from fat cells
- psychoactive/metaphysical space, disassociation, symbolic modeling and therapy
Trying to capture all my thoughts is exhausting but seems necessary in my creative process. The connections I see forming, as I let my thoughts go rather than trying to focus them, are astounding. Continue reading
“Feminism is anti-sexism.” — bell hooks
Feminism is a dirty word, or at least that’s what you’d believe from the reactions you get from people if you mention it. It conjures up images of radical women or lesbians with unshaved legs and armpits rallying outside abortion clinics, fighting domestic violence and rape, or gender equality. It is an image of a woman who you can’t relate to, she is one that you don’t know what to do with, and she is one whom you shy away from. Continue reading
“White privilege is best understood as a constellation of psychical and somatic habits formed through transaction with a racist world. As such, it often functions as unconscious: seemingly invisible, even nonexistent, and actively resisting conscious efforts to know this.” In Revealing Whiteness: The Unconscious Habits of Racial Privilege, Sullivan is trying to get us to think about and understand how white privilege can be unconscious when it is transactional because of the means by which that unconsciousness is formed through seduction by transference of enigmatic (meaning unknown to or hidden from both sender and receiver) messages from parent to child. Continue reading
When you walk into a Toys R Us store you can quickly see how toy stores teach gender through messages sent as an agent of socialization for children. The boy’s section of toys is separate and distinctive from that of the girl’s toys. Model cars, trucks, trains, building blocks, sporting goods and action figures stock the rows of boy’s toys and are brilliant and bold in their highly saturated colors of blue, red, and green. Meanwhile, Barbie’s, dress up dolls, house play sets, hair salon setups, stuffed animals and art & crafts supplies are flirty in pink, purple and passive pastel hues that cleanly segregate out the girl’s section. Continue reading
Go to www.keirsey.com and take the Keirsey Temperament II Sorter. You will be asked to identify yourself with a name and an email account. For those worried about being spammed, you may choose any name and any email. Please be sure to take the Keirsey Temperament II Sorter assessment—there are several offered at this website. Continue reading
The news of the successful cloning of an adult sheep, Dolly, launched a seemingly never ending debate as over human cloning. If you set aside the ethical and religious or moral debates on the subject there are a few key biological points to be considered. Continue reading
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMIV) is not used to categorize or label people, but rather conditions or disorders that people have. If I said my friend Barbara is breast cancer, you would laugh at me, right? No, silly, you would say, Barbara has breast cancer. Well the same is for another friend. She isn’t a manic-depressive, she has manic depression. While it maybe true that labels may burden a patient with the stigma surrounding it, finally having something concrete to learn about, to understand, to fight against and to conquer can be such a relief. Labels provide patients with a means of communicating about what is going on with their body or psyche with others. It helps them identify and to find support. Continue reading
I believe spanking should be a last resort in disciplining a child, but not out of the question. I agree with Dr. John Rosemond, To Spank or Not to Spank: A Parents’ Handbook, that are more effective means of disciplining a child, but that when done properly spanking is a viable option that can benefit an errant child. Dr. Larzelere (Combining Love and Limits in Authoritative Parenting: A Conditional Sequence Model of Disciplinary Responses; 1998) contended that “optimal disciplinary responses begin with less severe tactics, such as reasoning, but proceed to firmer disciplinary tactics when the initial tactic achieves neither compliance nor an acceptable compromise.” Continue reading
- The scientific study of mind and behavior
- Social/Behavioral sciences
- Principles are based on research
- Psychology has its foundations in philosophy and biology
- For tips on how to study and other information about the field of psychology, visit http://www.psychwww.com
- Psychology is a behavioral science
- Because it is a science, all of the principles of psychology are supported by someone’s (or several people’s) research. Continue reading
During my 25 years as a therapist, I have seen hundreds of people disappointed
over unfulfilling relationships. I have seen passion turn to poison. I
have grieved with patients for the love they lost or never found.
"We seemed to love so much, but now it’s gone," one woman lamented
to me. "Why do I feel so lonely every night even when he is right there
beside me? Why can’t a relationship be more than this?"
It can. I was once invited to the 60th anniversary celebration of a remarkable
couple. I asked the husband, Peter, if he ever felt lonely and wondered where
the love between him and Lita had gone. Peter laughed and said, "If you
wonder where your love went, you forgot that you are the one who makes it.
Love is not out there; it’s in there between Lita and me."
I know we can love deeply, tenderly and lastingly. I have seen such love,
and I have felt such love myself. Here are the laws I have discovered for such
lasting and loving relationships:
Put time where love is. A fulfilling relationship begins when two people make
time together their No. 1 priority. If we hope to find love, we must first
find time for loving.
Unfortunately, current psychology rests on the model of the independent
ego. To make a lasting relationship we have to overcome self-centeredness.
go beyond what psychologist Abraham Maslow called "self-actualization" to "us-actualization." We
have to learn to put time where love is. Many couples have experienced
a tragic moment that taught them to value their time together.
In crisis, become as one. Just after a couple left my office
one evening, I heard what sounded like a gun-shot. I looked out the window
and saw the couple
backing toward their car, and the shadow of a large figure near a street
light. Clinging together, they couple kept backing away. The figure quickened
pace toward them. The couple joined hands and ran to their car. As I dialed
security, the figure came closer, and I saw it was one of our guards. I later
discovered that the "shot" was a noise that had nothing
to do with my couple, but they didn’t know that. Like herd animals, they had
reacted to danger by coming together, in a "couple caution circle." Threatened,
they had become one.
Take a loving look. How we see our partners often depends more on how we
are than how they are. The loved-ones in a relationship are not audience,
observers in each other’s lives. Author Judith Viorat once wrote, "Infatuation
is when you think he’s as gorgeous as Robert Redford, as pure as Solzhenitsyn,
as funny as Woody Allen, as athletic as Jimmy Connors, and as smart as Albert
Einstein. Love is when you realize he’s as gorgeous as Woody Allen, as smart
as Jimmy Connors, as funny as Solzhenitsyn, as athletic as Albert Einstein,
and nothing like Robert Redford in any category–but you’ll take him
anyway." This law of lasting love instructs us to look with instead
of for love.
Try another perspective. This law illustrates how some people spend their
relationships struggling to change a partner’s mind. People in lasting-love
relationships begin with the premise that there are many realities. They
learn to accept different points of view. When a couple breaks free of
trap, their problems are solved. The lasting relationship is never sure
of the seperate "selves" that
make it up. But it has complete confidence that the relationship will grow
in a never-ending process of learning.
Look out for No. 2. There is a power healing energy that emanates from loving.
Lasting love can learn to sense it, send it and make it grow. We are energized
by love if we put our energy into loving. Bad energy springs from conflicts
that arise when two egos collide. When I watch couples argue with each other,
I want to shout: "Grow up, stop fighting, start loving!" It is better
to learn how to love than how to fight. Don’t try to win in your relationship,
win for your relationship.
Relationship is designed primarily for giving rather than taking. It is meant
to be a permanent union of two unselfish people. As one person told me, "The
old saying was look out for No. 1. But we’ve learned to look out for No. 2.
If you fight for yourself, only you can win. When you fight for your relationship,
you both win."
* Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at Wayne State University School of Medicine
and former Director of Professional Education at The Kinsey Institute for Research
in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.