Have you lost a friend or family member to bizarre and obsessive beliefs?
It's healthy to interact with people of differing political parties and world views. But much spirited debate has turned to silent bewilderment as millions in the US have gone from halfway reasonable to obsessively irrational. Families are falling apart. Friendships are ending.
For Empaths this is especially difficult to take because we're generally pretty good at seeing both sides of an issue. We can understand the reason and emotion behind an opposing point of view--even when we strongly disagree with it. But lately it's harder to make sense of some of these views. It feels like millions of people in the US are going a little crazy, all at the same time.
They're obsessed with adrenochrome, stopping the steal, vaccine microchips, a flat Earth, Jewish space lasers, and the return of JFK Jr., just to name a few.
Many of our friends and family members seem to be turning into strangers as they continue their descent down deeper and deeper rabbit holes.
If you love someone, it seems worthwhile to compromise. We might try to avoid the controversial issues to keep the peace, but that’s difficult when those same topics are constantly in the media and are affecting our everyday lives. (Read my blog on avoiding holiday drama for tips on keeping your cool)
And what about the beliefs and delusions that are hateful, dangerous, or undemocratic? Sometimes it doesn't feel safe or ethical to just “agree to disagree.”
Worse yet, extreme conspiracy theorists often don’t give us the option to try to get along because they're obsessed.
They attempt to “educate” us about “what’s really going on,” with excited rants and links to bizarre, angry YouTube videos about plots and hoaxes.
Some of the more extreme conspiracy movements like QAnon are now considered by many experts to be psychologically manipulative--just like cults. Pretty normal and intelligent people can lose themselves to this psychological manipulation and have trouble finding their way back. So how do we approach our relationships with friends and family who seem to have gone off the rails of reason?
Resist the tempting simplicity of polarization.
Arguing with an extreme conspiracy theorist, or telling them that they're acting crazy, isn't going to change their mind--no matter how true your words, however sound your principals. We can’t bully, or shame anyone into being reasonable.
Certain types of communication can be effective when dealing with people in delusional states however. For instance, skilled exit counselors are able to engage constructively with cult members, bringing them back to reality.
But this can’t be done through debate or argument, which will only push your loved one further into their extremism. It requires instead taking a non-judgmental approach and finding common ground.
There are resources available for friends and families of people who may be caught up in psychologically manipulative movements. Antidote is a great place to start. So many families are going through the same thing. Know that you are not alone.
Chaos, unrest, and sociopolitical upheaval create uncertainty and anxiety. People resist reality when they’re too unsure or insecure to face it. Obsession with an extreme conspiracy theory is often a maladaptive “fight or flight” response.
This is no excuse for hateful or irresponsible behavior, but it is a reason. And while being afraid doesn't make it ok to endanger others by denying science or human decency, keeping this in mind might help you to maintain your compassion and composure.
Having a friend or family member turn into someone you hardly recognize is heartbreaking and people obsessed with conspiracies can be exhausting.
It's totally understandable if you need to distance yourself. But try not to give up on your loved one for good if you can help it.
If you think your friend or family member may have been pulled into a psychologically manipulative group, organization, or movement, try to keep the lines of communication open--even if it's just to check in with an email once in a while. This will make it easier for them to come to you if they ever want help finding their way out of their delusion.✪
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My mission is to help each highly sensitive and empathic person wake up to their power, brilliance, and authentic path. Please get in touch if you have any questions, stories, or want to schedule a one-on-one session to explore your soul's purpose. Please share this article on social media if you think you might know other Empaths and HSPs who could benefit.