Advice for those down the rabbit hole
These are all the pieces written for Webworm by therapist Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson has been a wonderful friend to Webworm, looking at conspiracy theory belief from a very compassionate point of view — offering advice and insight for those with friends and family down the rabbit hole.
Anytime he writes a piece for Webworm, I’ll list it on this page.
I hope it’s helpful.
Paul Wilson’s Webworm pieces:
A therapist’s view of conspiracy theories
Who better to talk to about disappearing down rabbit holes than someone who's dealing with them in their day job?
A therapist on conspiracy theories: Part 2
This is the second part of my conversation with psychotherapist Paul Wilson
A therapist’s survival guide to holiday hell: 2020 Edition
Getting up close & personal with that uncle who's into QAnon? The cousin who wants to talk adrenochrome? Here’s how to cope during the holiday season
A therapist’s survival guide to holiday hell: 2021 Edition
Staying sane while distant relatives descend into your life with screams of “I’ve been doing my own research...”
Feel free to share these pieces with those who need them — thanks to kind paying Webworm subscribers, I can keep them up for free. Thank you.
In addition to Webworm, one other thing I've found particularly helpful over the last couple of years is RNZ radio, in particular the Nine to Noon show with Kathryn Ryan, Saturday Morning with Kim Hill and Sunday Morning with Jim Mora.
Their interviews with actual epidemiologists, virologists and conspiracy theory researchers have been invaluable in helping me keep on top of everything that's been going on in the world and why people are prone to believing some crazy shit.
Although I've heard talk about Cognitive dissonance before, I've not really appreciated what it meant until I listened to this recent interview with Ed Coper:
To loosely quote Ed:
"The brain doesn't care if something is true or false. We think we're more rational than we actually are but the brain wants to fit all the information we see in the world into our existing world views, our existing identity and existing values.
And so when we see a piece of information we don't assess it for whether it's true or false, we go straight to the part where we file it under whether this reinforces something we think, or whether we reject it because it doesn't reinforce something we already think."
This really helped me understand why some highly intelligent and ordinarily rational people are able to fall down these conspiracy theory rabbit holes.
Also there was an amazing comment made by Bex on your last article on the Wellington riot that deserves a mention here:
"I truly think that the best thing we can do for our loved ones down the rabbit hole is not cut them off entirely. Because then they are completely at the mercy of the conspiracy grifters and alt-right crowd. They make "new friends" who "understand" (and fill their heads with more nonsense). I'm having some success with a friend who is very far down the rabbit hole by just engaging in "how are you" and then completely ignoring any conspiracy theory bullshit that comes up. If there's 3 paragraphs of conspiracy, I'll only reply to the part about how her kids are doing. She's actually started reaching out to me more for other things, and that means I'm maintaining a connection with her that she can use if she ever decides to come back from the VFF cult. It's so hard but holding the boundaries gently seems to be working."
I don't think this is something people can undertake lightly because it can be hard dealing with a wall of BS but it gives me hope for dealing with some of my own loved ones in a similar situation.
I have a cousin who has some fairly well-ensconced conspiracy views around Covid (China virus, plandemic, just another flu etc etc) and the vaccine (poison jab, killer needle, govt sanctioned mass murder). We don’t catch up as often as we once did, but when we do I’m always careful to remind her that her choice is her choice and while I made a different one, it shouldn’t dominate our conversations. I kind of minimise it for her, and remind her that there are literally a million other things tying us together. We are both mums, we share a wider whanau, we both get frustrated at grocery prices, we worry for our kids, we both lament the onset of menopause…..it just goes on and on. Our opinions on Covid and the vaccine are literally a minuscule part of what binds us, so why let it ruin us? She knows I hold different views and don’t agree with her theories, and she also disagrees with my thoughts - she is genuinely concerned I’m having the wool pulled over my eyes. But we leave it there, and focus instead on her house reno, or my new found casserole recipe. Thankfully she’s meeting me halfway, and I’m thankful for it.