It may feel overwhelming and stressful to watch a family member become progressively more involved in QAnon. If you are wondering how to get a family member out of QAnon, there are some concrete steps you can take.
How to Get a Family Member Out of QAnon
Getting a family member out of QAnon is not just a matter of changing their opinion. According to research that examined the links between personality traits and the attraction to conspiracy theories, people who tend to be drawn to QAnon and other conspiracy theory groups/domestic terrorist groups:
- Tend to display low levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness
- Tend to be symptom internalizers (in particular anxiety, depression, and anger)
- Have low levels of intellectual humility (open-mindedness)
- Have high levels of negative affect (low self-esteem, negative emotions)
- Display narcissism and impulsivity
It's important to understand that your loved one may have their identity very much tied to QAnon, which may make it very difficult to discuss the validity of it with them in a rational, logical way. Be sure if you decide to attempt to help your loved one, that you set appropriate expectations for yourself.
Although you may find yourself having a hard time connecting with them, it's important to approach your family member with empathy and open-mindedness. Instead of viewing their beliefs and thought processes with judgment, try to:
- Listen to how they arrived at certain conclusions
- Remain neutral or share your thoughts in a non-defensive way ("Thank you for sharing your opinion- I have different views, but I appreciate you sharing yours.")
- Remain curious about their perspective
Being consistently empathetic may allow you to be a safe person for them to connect with and share their thoughts with. This means that, if at any point, they begin to question something, or want to hear a different opinion, you may be the person they go to. Continue building trust with them, and enter into QAnon-related conversations without judging, berating, or belittling them.
Understand What Needs QAnon Meets
For your loved one, QAnon may fulfill the following needs:
- Belonging, connection, and purpose
- Feeling special or important
- Sense of security and control
When individuals seek out extremist groups as a means to get their needs met, often times, they are motivated by unconscious childhood traumas and/or attachment related issues where their needs weren't met within their family of origin. Understanding the level of significance QAnon may hold for your loved one can help you grasp the intensity of their beliefs and understand their reasoning why it is so important to them.
Set Appropriate Boundaries
Even if you are determined to help your family member out, it's important to take care of your own mental wellbeing and set appropriate boundaries. This means:
- Know when you are in the right mindset to have a conversation with them about QAnon.
- Know when to step back and take time for yourself to process.
- Reflect on previous conversations that felt triggering or extra draining to you, understand why, and prepare yourself if a similar conversation comes up again.
Knowing what your boundaries are and maintaining healthy boundaries can not only help you prioritize your own self-care, but can actually help you better connect with your loved one.
Reflect and Heighten Their Emotional Perspective
There may come a time where your family member shares situations or experiences that QAnon has made more difficult for them. They may say:
- Their work has been negatively impacted
- Their social life has changed since they subscribed to QAnon
- They feel other areas of their life have become more difficult
If they confide in you, you can reflect and heighten their emotional response and experience as a way to highlight how QAnon is negatively impacting them. For example, if they share that some of their friends find QAnon ridiculous and that they aren't spending as much time together, you can say something like, "I hear you saying that some of your friends think your involvement in QAnon is ridiculous, and you feel like you don't spend as much time with them." Then you can add, "That must be really difficult to experience."
Offer Appropriate Resources
If your loved one is on the fence regarding QAnon or is questioning some aspects of it, you can ask if it's okay to share some resources with them that they may find helpful.
- Therapists who specialize in cult recovery and extremist groups
- Support groups for cult survivors
- QAnon debunking research
- Former QAnon believers' experiences after moving away from it
Be a Consistent Source of Support
Being a constant source of support for your loved one gives you more of a chance of being seen as a safe person to them. This may allow them to open up to you in the future regarding their beliefs and thoughts. They may even come to you with doubts or ask your opinion. Be sure to tread lightly if this happens and try to remain neutral and/or respectful when sharing your thoughts.
Maintain Awareness of Body Language
When you speak with your family member about QAnon, be very aware of your body language and theirs.
- Signs of connection include good eye contact, mirroring gestures, bodies oriented towards each other, and a relaxed, open pose.
- Avoid rolling your eyes, crossing your arms, pointing your feet in another direction other than towards them.
- Try to maintain good eye contact, mirror their body posture, and lean forward towards them instead of backwards.
Trying to help a loved one can feel incredibly draining. It's really important that you take time for yourself to decompress. It's also critical that you continue to hold appropriate expectations regarding the situation.
Helping a Family Member Who Is Deep Into QAnon
Wanting to be there for your loved one is incredibly kind and thoughtful. Although there are no guarantees that your family member will choose to get out of QAnon, you can continue to be a source of support, empathy, and resources for them.