The first mechanism of escape from freedom I am going to deal with is the tendency to give up the independence of one's own individual self and to fuse one's self with somebody or something outside oneself in order to acquire the strength which the individual self is lacking. The more distinct forms of this mechanism are to be found in the striving for submission and domination, or, as we would rather put it, in masochistic and sadistic strivings as they exist in varying degrees in normal and neurotic persons respectively. We shall first describe these tendencies and then try to show that both of them are an escape from an unbearable aloneness.In the case of the "love" the masochistic one will have for the sadistic party, Fromm goes on to say,
The most frequent forms in which masochistic strivings appear are feelings of inferiority, powerlessness, individual insignificance. The analysis of persons who are obsessed by these feelings shows that, while they consciously complain about these feelings and want to get rid of them, unconsciously some power within themselves drives them to feel inferior or insignificant. Their feelings are more than realizations of actual shortcomings and weaknesses (although they are usually rationalized as though they were); these persons show a tendency to belittle themselves, to make themselves weak, and not to master things. Quite regularly these people show a marked dependence on powers outside themselves, on other people, or institutions, or nature. They tend not to assert themselves, not to do what they want, but to submit to the factual or alleged orders of these outside forces.
We find three kinds of sadistic tendencies, more or less closely knit together. One is to make others dependent on oneself and to have absolute and unrestricted power over them, so as to make of them nothing but instruments, "clay in the potter's hand". Another consists of the impulse not only to rule over others in this absolute fashion, but to exploit them, to use them, to steal from them, to disembowel them, and, so to speak, to incorporate anything eatable in them. This desire can refer to material things as well as to immaterial ones, such as the emotional or intellectual qualities a person has to offer. A third kind of sadistic tendency is the wish to make others suffer or to see them suffer. This suffering can be physical, but more often it is mental suffering. Its aim is to hurt actively, to humiliate, embarrass others, or to see them in embarrassing and humiliating situations.
Sadistic tendencies for obvious reasons are usually less conscious and more rationalized than the socially more harmless masochistic trends. Often they are entirely covered up by reaction formations of over-goodness or over-concern for others. Some of the most frequent rationalizations are the following: "I rule over you because I know what is best for you, and in your own interest you should follow me without opposition." Or, "I am so wonderful and unique, that I have a right to expect that other people become dependent on me." Another rationalization which often covers the exploiting tendencies is: "I have done so much for you, and now I am entitled to take from you what I want."(p.123)
The sadistic person quite manifestly "loves" those over whom he feels power...there is a feeling of "love" and even gratitude for those objects of his domination. He may think that he wishes to dominate their lives because he loves them so much. He actually "loves" them because he dominates them. He bribes them with material things, with praise, assurances of love, the display of wit and brilliance, or by showing concern. He may give them everything--everything except one thing: the right to be free and independent.
Resentment or hostility will arise against the exploiter, subordination to whom is against one's own interests. But often, as in the case of a slave, this hatred would only lead to conflicts which would subject the slave to suffering without a chance of winning. Therefore, the tendency will usually be to repress the feeling of hatred and sometimes even to replace it by a feeling of blind admiration. This has two functions: (1) to remove the painful and dangerous feeling of hatred, and (2) to soften the feeling of humiliation. If the person who rules over me is so wonderful or perfect, then I should not be ashamed of obeying him. I cannot be his equal because he is so much stronger, wiser, better, and so on, than I am.All of these passages ought to sound sickeningly familiar to anyone who still is, or ever has been, one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
This is not an either/or situation, but more a combination of sado-masochistic tendencies in which one striving may tend to be more prominent than the other. Within the framework of the organisation a masochist is allowed to indulge his sadistic tendencies – from holding minor congregation privileges right up to serving as an elder and beyond. These are all methods of domineering over others.
The sadist/masochist relationship is a symbiotic one. The one with masochistic leanings enables the one with sadistic leanings to continue in their dominant role. The sadistic one (henceforth known as the Governing Body, or the faithful and discreet slave - FDS) does not want to destroy the masochistic one because he needs him to give validity to his own existence. At the same time, however, in the unique case of Jehovah's Witnesses these two sides have succeeded in extinguishing themselves. No one really exists. According to Jehovah's Witnesses the truths found in the Bible are fulfilled upon a “class” of people known either as the “other sheep” or the “anointed”. Who the individual members of these classes are is inconsequential.
This non-existence also applies to the governing body. The FDS eliminates itself. Who individually make up the FDS is unimportant - it only exists as a composite slave "class". The men who make up the FDS at any given time distance themselves from decisions made. Personal responsibility for decisions made is absolved because if any mistakes have been made the FDS "class" will eventually put things right by the power of the holy spirit. They render themselves impotent and in this way indulge their own masochistic tendency by giving up their authority to some faceless force outside of themselves.
Tools used by the sadistic party might include narcissism and necrophilia - both symptoms of the troubled psyche. Narcissism is an extreme form of self-obsession. The men who make up the FDS have their picture taken and published in the literature. Congregation members must know who they are and admire them, but they have no idea who individual congregation members are, and have no desire to know. In fact they have resentment for the common rank-and-file. This is not stated directly but it is subtly insinuated by things like the continuous reminders of rules and regulations and the suggestion that the nation of Israel was a “stiff-necked people.” Necrophilia is an obsession with death. Watchtower literature seems to take particular delight in presenting colourful illustrations of the dead and dying at Armageddon. Paragraphs often include reminders of the terrible deaths of those in the Bible who defied authority.
The greatest achievement of the sadistic one is that the masochistic one eventually internalises their authority so that even in the absence of the FDS the congregation members will keep on living their lives as if the FDS is always present. (WWFDSD?) In that way they are rendered completely impotent and cannot manifest any further growth because their own growth is entirely dependent upon the existence of the authority figure. God alone is not enough, the intermediary is required. Individual growth is stifled rather than encouraged.
This sado-masochistic mindset is the reason why the Society can only suggest that those who leave the organisation either want to lead people out, or attach themselves to another religion. They cannot conceive of anything outside of their sado-masochistic tunnel vision. Someone wanting to do neither of these things and simply realise their own desire for freedom is inconceivable.
Sadly, however, the Society is often proved true. Those who leave the religion still feel a need to indulge their sado-masochistic fantasies. Sites like my own, Meleti Vivlon's Beroean Pickets, and numerous others, show a tendency to indulge our sadistic streak and the need to present the self as an authority figure, someone with a voice that we want to be heard – otherwise we might not exist. This is often done anonymously because we fear being found out and having to endure the wrath of the authority figure, further proving the extent of the Society's sadistic power over the quivering masochistic one.
On the other hand, the majority of those who leave the organisation often tend to float aimlessly, eventually attaching themselves to another religious denomination, or finding solace in ex-JW forums, a place to vent the spleen or convey solidarity, something that can go on for years. There is no harm in this as long as it is only a stop-gap on the journey to authentic freedom. Going cold-turkey is not easy, like someone quitting smoking needing to wear a nicotine patch. The act of leaving the organisation in itself, though, must not be mistaken for having gained freedom.
The reminder that Peter said, “Whom shall we go away to?” rather than “Where shall we go away to?” is a common chorus, but we forget that Peter is an example of the model masochist. He was overwhelmed with his own sinfulness and could not conceive of himself as anything other than being attached to a leader. His question is always treated as rhetorical, as if the answer was obvious. We don't hear Jesus saying, “Oh for heaven's sake, Peter, haven't you been listening to a word I have said? The kingdom of the God is within you. You have no need to 'go away' to anyone.” (John, while we're on the subject, is a prime example of the sadistic tendency – wanting to sit by Jesus in the heavens; wanting to rain down fire on inhospitable villages; the likely cause of the “who-is-the-greatest?” argument, etc.)
To conclude: The one with greater sadistic leanings is driven by their fear that they might be a nobody, the masochistic one by their fear that they might be a somebody. Clinging on to their symbiotic relationship means that they don't have to experience real freedom, they can fully immerse themselves in their fear of freedom.
If all of this appears to be a thoroughly sordid, messed-up affair with no easy solution, that's because it is. Am I somebody? Am I nobody? The answer is, both - and it is the eventual full realisation of this answer that ultimately marks out the (narrow) road to complete and unadulterated freedom.