“I want to give Bonnie Zieman’s book, The Challenge to Heal, to every ex- member of a high-control group, and every therapist, that I can. This book is a gem. It will be essential for people newly out of a high-control group and informative for people out for many years. Therapists who read it will get a primer in understanding the unique challenges facing people who are born into religious high-control groups.
“Zieman offers reasons why people join, and identifies the ways that high-control groups (like religions, gangs, and cults,) impede growth and take away freedoms. I will use this in my work to help people recover from spiritual abuse and recommend it frequently to others. I believe this book will help many people recover, regain agency, and move into a fulfilling life of their own making.” ~Karen Wanjico 12-6-16
“I was in this cult for 45 years. An “elder” for some 20 years. This book [Exiting the JW Cult] is an excellent portrayal of life inside, the difficulty of getting out, and how to normalize in the real world. Just as an aside, I have never been happier in my life than I am now. Freedom tastes so sweet when you’ve been a slave for so long! Thank you Bonnie Zieman!” ~Frank A. Puett, 6-21-17
“Bonnie Zieman has created an easy to understand, quick reference tool [Cracking the Cult Code for Therapists: What Every Cult Victim Wants Their Therapist to Know] to help therapists understand clients who have cult involvement. She is a retired therapist and ex-cult member, which gives immediacy to what she writes. Each chapter defines the techniques used and the effects on the person. She pulls together research to define a cult and their techniques, and uses examples from various cults to illustrate her points.
Zieman discusses the after-effects of love-bombing, isolation, identity formation, control, threats, fears and repression of needs, and much more. She does a good job explaining the differing needs of people who join cults as adults and those who are born in. She does not tell therapists how to treat the client, but shows them the possible issues that may need to be addressed during the therapeutic process. This book can be given to therapists by ex-cult members to ease the transition into therapy.
I hope this book becomes mandatory reading for students preparing to join the ranks of therapists. I say to therapists, “Buy a copy for yourself and one for a gift” because the need is there.” ~Amazon Customer, 7-6-17
“Being away from JWs and their indoctrination over a long period of time helped me find my way back to reality. Bonnie Zieman’s book “Escaping the JW Cult,” also helped me as well. Her book literally takes you out of Watchtower fantasy land and slowly helps you reintegrate back onto the real world with all of its issues and beauty as well. When you read Bonnie’s books, it’s like a trusted friend having a heart-to-heart conversation with you. If you haven’t read this book and are having some emotional and psychological issues as a result of leaving the organization, I highly recommend it.” ~John McCarthy, 2-8-18
“Having been born and raised in a devout JW family, and having married into an equally devout JW family, I began discerning distinctions between Bible teachings and certain Watchtower teachings by the time I turned 30. That is when I began struggling with intense feelings of guilt, although I had not adopted a practice or lifestyle for which one could be disfellowshipped from one’s congregation. By the time I turned 60, I realized I could no longer accept, support or recommend the JW religion, yet I was not free to pursue Christian fellowship outside the JW religion without dire consequences; therefore, I finally disassociated from JWs, yet my feelings of guilt only intensified. Psychotherapist Bonnie Zieman helped me identify two likely sources of the guilt which has plagued me for more than 30 years. EXISTENTIAL GUILT results from denying one’s true self, especially when one fails to meet one’s true potential, a feeling with which many JWs can identify. NEUROTIC GUILT comes from an imagined transgression such as changing one’s mind on religious matters and leaving one’s religion, a feeling with which most ex-JWs can identify. While existential guilt can serve as a healthy guide back to one’s true self, neurotic guilt is unhealthy and damaging and is the type of guilt placed on doubting JWs by the Watchtower. If one does not understand the difference between the positive and negative types of guilt, the punitive part of one’s mind (called the Superego) assumes one has sinned and deserves punishment, and one can end up unknowingly creating forms of self-punishment (e.g. depression, failures, accidents, chronic pain, illnesses, chronic anxiety, self-sabotage, etc.) Changing one’s mind and leaving the Watchtower organization is not a sin, and one doing so certainly deserves no punishment! This is what I learned from Bonnie Zieman’s wonderful book [Exiting the JW Cult: A Healing Handbook], and Bonnie provides many practical suggestions on how to rid oneself of such damaging guilt so that one can enjoy a happy and fulfilling life outside of the Watchtower Society. Thank you, Bonnie Zieman!” ~Roger Kirkpatrick 9-23-15
“This book [Cracking the Cult Code] is so helpful. It’s giving language to how I’ve felt while in and coming out of my former churches. Several years ago I began labeling my experience as having been in a cult, and many people thought I was being overly dramatic. After reading the first 10 chapters, my assessment is being validated as spot on. I was not born into the “church” but my family of origin was highly controlling and my sense of identity lost so that I could confirm to my parents’ agenda for my life. The pump was primed for being drawn into spiritual communities which would be cultish.” ~ Maribeth Jaklik, 11-5-17
“All my life I have rested all my faith, dreams, thoughts, you name it, on the Watchtower Society. I am a 45 year old man. Just left 9 months ago. Stopped all Wt. activity 2 months back. Just about had a nervous breakdown. For two months I cried everyday at least once, like a child who’s “Mother” abandoned him when I discovered all the lies, cover- ups, scandals. I loved my life as a witness. I was a zealous unstoppable “Jehu”. But that dream ended in an instant of time. The worst nightmare of any witness came true. The “apostates” were right all along! As a suggestion, I believe that these 4 books should be sold as a rescue kit for ex-JW’s:
- Crisis of Conscience,
- In Search of Christian Freedom,
- Combatting Cult Mind Control,
- and this MOST excellent book [Exiting the JW Cult]!!!!
I suggest reading these books in this order. Their is no book that can help you get on with your life quite like this book. Written by someone who was truly involved with the Watchtower and now a professional in psychology . This book gives practical, professional advice on how to deal with the psychopathic residue of this most deceptive cult. Escape the childlike behavior of having to answer to “Mother”. Stand proud and feel good about your independence . Having been a totally indoctrinated “true believer”, I am critical about many books. Some seem empty and repetitive about escaping the Watchtower. This is not like that. It has substance you can dig into. Do not waste time. Hit the purchase button NOW!” ~Anonymous, 7-26-15
“There are a lot of books out there that very effectively deconstruct the Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. This is not one of those books. This book gives suggestions on how to transition ones life from being a JW to being a “worldly” person. It gives excellent counsel in correcting negative thinking and cognitive distortions that come about from being a witness. When I got to the end of this book [Exiting the JW Cult], I immediately started reading it from the beginning. If you need help in figuring out what to do and how to heal after leaving or being expelled from the organization, be sure to read this book. I’m so glad I did.” ~Yeshua Grundy, 9-26-16
“Bonnie Zieman has created an easy to understand, quick reference tool to help therapists understand clients who have cult involvement…
“Zieman discusses the after-effects of love-bombing, isolation, identity formation, control, threats, fears and repression of needs, and much more. She does a good job explaining the differing needs of people who join cults as adults and those who are born in. She does not tell therapists how to treat the client, but shows them the possible issues that may need to be addressed during the therapeutic process. This book can be given to therapists by ex-cult members to ease the transition into therapy.
“I hope this book becomes mandatory reading for students preparing to join the ranks of therapists. I say to therapists, “Buy a copy for yourself and one for a gift” because the need is there.” ~Karen Wilson, 7-6-17
“The Challenge to Heal is the kind of book that grows with you. I’ve read it very slowly because it uncovered layers that I didn’t know were there. One of my favorite things about the book is the quotes. I love to have sticky notes and memes around my house as reminders of how I want to show up in my life. Zieman has pulled the best thoughts from around the world – wisdom traditions, philosophy, science, and more – into one place for healing and the inspiration to rebuild your life.
“This books draws out the nuances of cult life so those who have lived the experience can say “YES! That’s what happened to me” and those who have never lived it can begin to understand it. She gives the reader permission to begin healing from their previous life whether it was a religious or political cult or an abusive personal relationship. Many times when people think of self-care they imagine getting their nails done, or soaking in a bath. Zieman takes self care to the inner life where real change and restoration can take place.” ~Emily Krenzke, 5-4-17
“Amazing book [Exiting the JW Cult]! Lots of resources. Feels like a compassionate friend talking to you and giving you practical advice.” ~Anonymous, 2-23-17