Codependency And Jehovah’s Witnesses

Ex Jehovah’s Witnesses overcome all sort of unhealthy social ideas and habits. One of those unhealthy things is Codependency.  It’s something that was ingrained in us from an early age. Let’s explore what it is and what kind of impact it might be having in your life today.

Google defines Codependency as an “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.” You might already be able to make a connection between your experience and the traditional definition of Codependency.

There is a lot that we could talk about in relationship to Jehovah’s Witness Codependency. We are going to focus on just one aspect. That of taking responsibility for the feelings of others and being dependent on their approval.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to constantly fear “stumbling others”. They are taught to be constantly checking to make sure their dress or behavior doesn’t offend anyone. You are taught to think about what other people feel when picking out clothing. You are taught to consider what other people will think when you select entertainment. You are taught to always give greater precedence to what other people think than to what you think. This teaching is toxic and abusive.

This teaches you to take responsibility for the feelings of other people. This is problematic because you cannot control what other people believe or think. You cannot control if someone is offended. You cannot control if someone else gets angry. This fear of offending other people opens you up to be controlled by other people.

We might carry over this tendency to think about what other people are thinking into our post-JW life. This might manifest in the form of anxiety surrounding doing something, buying something, or attending a certain event. It might also manifest in anxiety relating to one’s personal beliefs. This anxiety can lead us to perpetually seek validation and approval from outside sources. Can you think of any instance where you continued to be afraid of “stumbling others” even after you left Jehovah’s Witnesses?

When you were a Witness did you ever notice that when other people were offended you were supposed to yield to their feelings? What happened when you were offended by what someone else did? What were you told? Let me know in the comments below.

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Published by Ryan David Tuttle

PhD Graduate student studying Behavioral Neuroscience, Addiction, Stress, Behavioral Economics, and Individual Differences. Former member Ministerial Servant and Pioneer in a Spanish speaking congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

4 thoughts on “Codependency And Jehovah’s Witnesses

  1. Holy moley, you are completely right. I hadn’t thought about this before but it is 100% true.
    Late in my marriage, I realized I was codependent (we both were) and got the book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. I started working on myself to overcome it. But I never once came to the realization that I was specifically trained to be this way by Jehovah’s Witness.
    Thanks for this post. It’s going to have me thinking on it some more.


    1. Absolutley! You might also want to explore concepts like attachment theory, “disorganized attachment” specifically, or
      Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. I felt like both were super relevant to understanding my experience. As far as Erikson goes I would look up Erickson’s “moratorium” or ” identity vs. role confusion”.

      Liked by 1 person

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