City Research Online

An exploration of the lived experience of leaving Jehovah's Witnesses

Aboud, A. (2020). An exploration of the lived experience of leaving Jehovah's Witnesses. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The act of disaffiliating from one’s religion has become more common in recent years, although few studies have investigated the phenomenon in an experiential way. For those who are socialised into a high-demand religion, disaffiliation may involve excommunication, where individuals are cut off from their closest family and friends. This study investigates one such religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses, by asking how former Jehovah’s Witnesses experience leaving the religion. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis was used to analyse interview data collected from eight former Jehovah’s Witnesses. Findings suggested that leaving the movement is characterised by emotional trauma and existential insecurity. With this, three master themes emerged: Chancing one’s own truth encapsulated a desire to rebel from the religion which deprived them of experiences which were wanted. An outcast in a foreign world evidenced the alienation and emotional trauma participants experienced in relation to their closest relatives. Held captive to death sentence reflected a deep insecurity which former members held about being deserving of death at the hands of their once loving God, Jehovah. The findings relate to studies involving the intersection of religion, disaffiliation and mental health. Implications for counsellors and psychologists working with former members of high-demand religions are discussed.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of DPsych Portfolio - Andrew Aboud (Final Redacted 3).pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (1MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login