New Video channel started

I’ve decided to start a new video channel that will be a vlog/journal based on my life experiences before and after religion. I will also be talking about my journey as I apply for and go to graduate school! I purchased a new lens that should be better for making video going forward. I have a lot to learn about videoing myself and talking to a camera.

Working on my Interests

The time to apply for graduate school is approaching fast and I felt like I had a bit of dilemma on my hands. On one hand I want to research and be involved in helping other survivors of religions trauma. This interest stems from my own experience escaping the high control group known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. On the other hand I have interests in things like psychobiology, evolution, genetics, and domestication. Which direction do I choose when I go to graduate school? I feel like although I don’t have to entirely go one direction or the other I think knowing what I want will be important in selecting the right schools.

After much debating I have decided to make my second option my primary area of interest and make my religion trauma interest secondary. This was a difficult decision but I feel like working primarily with religious trauma will be stressful and draining for me. I know from my experience in undergraduate school that working with psychobiology type topics is energizing and much easier for me to work with.

This decision will help me narrow schools down. I also am redesigning my website again to reflect my new interest. I’m not sure exactly what I will be writing about on here yet and I am thinking of turning it more into a resume + blog of sorts.

Supporting others with empathic listening

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One of my goals is to train survivors of high control religions to be better able to support others survivors.  Learning empathic listening can go a long way in helping others.  I found this video that you may find useful. Like and share

Like I have mentioned when we were in our high control religion we were told what to believe and who were.  You’re job as a supporter is no longer to teach but rather to listen!  Check out this video by therapy in a nutshell.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

Defining my areas of interest

So I’ve been doing a lot of work figuring out what my research interests are. I’m going to make a list of terms here:

Learned helplessness

Behavioral Depression

HPA axis

Social defeat stress

Chronic social stress

Dorsal rapha nucleus (drn)

Bed nucleus of the stria terminals

Central nucleus of the amygdala

Basolateral nucleus of the amygdala

Conditioned defeat

Serotonin

Norepinephrine

Mister Mice

As my friends already know, one of my hobbies is breeding mice. I think when I talk about mouse breeding a lot people think that I like mice. It seems like they think about mice as pets like they may have had or be familiar with. To be honest I’m not that crazy about mice as a species to keep as a pet. They are smelly and their cages get dirty quickly. They seem to eat a lot when compared to other small species I’ve kept. But I do like how common mice are and that I can find other breeders to talk with and trade mice with. What I really enjoy with my hobby is genetics, animal behavior, and the selective breeding process.

Anyways so yea I breed mice and I am in the process of producing some really exotic looking mice. I have a page for them Mistermice.wordpress.com. They are also on instagram @mister.mice. I’m considering joining the fancy mouse breeders association but I need to do more research on that.

A New Direction

So I have been not writing much on my blog and I’ve been thinking about to do with it. I feel torn between writing about recovering from religion and writing about other topics. I don’t think it’s healthy to be focused so much on traumatic things and recovery but I also feel like it’s important to contribute to something on that front. I feel a similar sort of uncertainty when it comes to my education and career path.

Initially when I returned to school after leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses it was with the idea of becoming a psychologist or therapist of some sort. However after working in the mental health field as a residential mental health counselor and after talking with social workers and therapists I had some change of heart. The mental health system here is broken and dysfunctional and human service type employees get paid horrifically low wages. Also I didn’t think that working as a therapist with one-on-one back-to-back clients would be good for me. Another thing is that if I want to help people who have survived traumatic religious experiences my client pool is mostly limited to my locality.

While I was exploring those ideas I went to a psychology fair at my University. There they had a table for the School Psychology graduate program at my University. The program itself sounds good. But School Psychology? I had never heard of it. So I started looking into it and I started asking people about it (most had never heard of school psychology either). I even took a introduction to teaching elementary school class to get a feel for what it might be like working with kids. In the end I decided that School Psychology was a lot like being a social worker or therapist just located at a school. I didn’t know what I was looking for but I knew that being a social worker type was not my thing.

Part of the challenge was the only people I interacted with were social-worker types. At least that was the case until I took a neuroscience class. Interestingly I was enrolled in both the teaching elementary school class and neuroscience class at the same time. I really disliked going to the elementary school class but I felt invigorated by thinking about neuroscience. So I emailed my professor and asked if we could meet to discuss neuroscience.

The professor identifies as a Behavioral Neuroscientist. Although I had never heard of this term before it is clearly a subject I’ve been interested in for a long time. I just didn’t know the lingo. I told the professor that I wanted to blend my love of science and biology with my interest in studying cults and religious trauma survivors. How I would do that was still unclear but I knew I was heading in the right direction.

This summer I am going to have to pick graduate schools to apply to. This is a tricky process. I’ve been trying to find research that some how relates to both my interests in behavioral Neuroscience and Religious trauma. Recently I discovered something called Social Defeat Stress Mice. I am going to be writing more about this but I think its a topic that I am interested studying. Basically I’m thinking that social defeat stress in mice is related to the social trauma experienced with religious trauma. Another idea I just had was maybe looking into Social Isolation, but I haven’t looked into that at all.

But anyways my point of all this is I think I am going to move away from some of the articles I’ve been writing and write about social defeat stress and how it relates to religious trauma. I will write something soon.

My History as a Jehovah’s Witness

Ryan aka “elryancito” was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is currently counselor that works in an intensive clinical group living environment which is a pilot program designed to help dually-diagnosed disabled individuals with recovery.  Ryan is also an undergraduate psychology student at Worcester State University.

Ryan’s Parents and Grandparents were Jehovah’s Witnesses.  His grandfather found solace in the religion’s anti-war message and joined the religion after returning from the

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Ryan at the Spanish Congregation in Cherry Valley, MA. 2013.

Korean War.  Ryan’s Father was considered “inactive” since before he was born.  Ryan

attended Meeting’s at the South Worcester Congregation in Worcester, MA with his Mother, Aunt, Grandparents until 1999 when his mother became inactive.

Ryan’s childhood was very isolated due following the Jehovah Witness teaching to not be friends with non-members and his families inactivity leading to little contact with other members of the religion from 1999 to 2005.  Ryan also experienced profuse bullying at school due to his religion and lack of social experience.  Ryan was also regularly harassed by family members for not being baptized and not attending Jehovah’s Witness meetings during this time period.

In 2005 Ryan attended Quinsigamond Community College and in 2006 again started attending Meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  He believed that they were the answer to life’s problems, as this is what he was taught throughout childhood.  Due to the religion

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Ryan doing volunteer construction work on the Shelborne Falls Kingdom Hall. 2013.

and family stress Ryan dropped out of college in 2006.

Ryan was baptized around the age of 20 but soon started to notice inconsistencies in the teachings and behavior of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Soon Ryan was appointed as a

Ministerial Servant in the congregation.  Around the year 2011 Ryan decided to learn Spanish and move to the Spanish South Worcester congregation in Cherry Valley, MA.  He felt that he needed to escape the environment and moving to learn a new language was generally encouraged and acceptable among members of the Faith.

Ryan quickly learned Spanish and took to the new congregation.  Ryan was appointed Ministerial Servant in the Spanish congregation and later in 2013 as a Pioneer.  However, he eventually noticed the same inconstancy, hypocrisy, poor boundaries and generally toxic behavior of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

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Ryan at a Pioneer meeting in Roxbury, MA.

Ryan expressed that he felt that there were problems with the congregation, that there was a lack of social support, and that he felt depressed.  Because of this in 2014 Elders from the South Worcester, Spanish congregation told Ryan that he was removed from his Ministerial Servant and Pioneer positions due to being, “Mentally Unstable” and “spiritually sick”.  He was also told by the elders that he was no longer welcome at the Spanish congregation.  At that time Ryan experienced shunning and gas lighting from the members of the congregation.

Ryan at a Jehovah's Witness convention in Rutherford, NJ 2014
Ryan at the 2014 Spanish International convention in Rutherford, NJ 2014.

Ryan also experienced online harassment from members of the faith and bullying at his job from managers who were also from the Religion.  Ryan was told that he was not allowed to speak about what the elders had said or done.  He was also instructed to not speak about the treatment he received from other members of the faith.

In 2015 Ryan returned to Quinsigamond Community college.

From 2013 to 2015 Ryan experienced profound depression, confusion, and disillusionment with his life and his religion.  In October of 2015, Ryan was reading a blog post about Narcissistic religions and cults.   It was at that time that he recognized Jehovah’s Witnesses as a Fundamentalist Cult.  In December of 2015, Ryan wrote a letter to the Watchtower Bible and Tract society informing them that he considered his baptism and involvement with Jehovah’s

witnesses to be void due to coercion and false information.

In December of 2015, he quit his Job as an insurance counselor due to harassment from

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Ryan at an English Convention in Amherst, MA. 2014.

Witnesses and started working as a Residential Mental health Counselor.

In the spring of 2017, Ryan graduated from Quinsigamond Community College with an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts.

In fall 2017 Ryan enrolled in the Psychology program at Worcester State University.  Ryan plans to graduate in 2020 with a Bachelors degree in Psychology and then enroll in a graduate program for Neuroscience.

In the future, Ryan hopes to become a neuroscience researcher and use his knowledge to help survivors of trauma and of fundamentalist religion.  Ryan also seeks to promote awareness of child abuse in fundamentalist religions.

ExJWs: What to avoid when Listening

When you are supporting a fellow XJW by listening there a few things that you should avoid.  Psychologist Dr. John Grohol describes 7 common phrases that tend to impede Active Listening.

  1. Avoid asking “Why?”. Asking “why?” might be a legitimate and sincere question. However it might make the other person defensive.  Can you think of time where someone asked you, “Why?” and you got defensive?
  2. Avoid saying, “Don’t worry about that”.  Again sometimes what we say may be well intended but not received well.  Telling someone not to worry about something is often perceived as invalidating.
  3. Don’t “should” people. Avoid saying “You should. . .” or, “You shouldn’t. . .”
  4. Don’t Advise.Don’t give people advice.  Don’t tell people what they should believe.  Don’t tell people what is best for them.
  5. Don’t dig for information.  Don’t pry into peoples lives.  Don’t try to force someone to talk about a topic that they don’t want to talk about.  Don’t try to get someone to divulge personal information that they don’t want to give you.
  6. Don’t Patronize. Dr. Grohol says to not say things like “You poor thing, I know just how you feel.”  This is perceived as invalidating even if your expression is well intended.
  7. Don’t Interrupt.Interrupting shows that you are not interested in what the other person is sharing.

Grohol, J. (2018, October 8) Become a Better Listener: Active Listening. PsychCentral. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/become-a-better-listener-active-listening/

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