Most of us know or have known someone we care about who has come under the influence of a perpetrator using him/her for self-serving purposes.

Very smart, educated, healthy people can, for some unknown, reason come under the spell of opportunistic, toxic, and insecure people. It is very puzzling for an observer of this phenomena to understand how the brainwashed person can’t see what is happening.

How it happens is a complicated process which we won’t address here. How we can help these people as a friend is, however, something we will tackle here. You will also see similarities to our conversation regarding befriending victims. But being brainwashed by another, in my assessment, is much more complicated and dangerous. When someone is brainwashed they may be at risk for joining a cult and blindly following the orders of that cult.

We must find our old friend compassion and understand how powerful this emotion is during times when our friends/loved ones seem to have lost their brains/common sense. Manipulative people, knowingly or unknowingly, can use very effective emotional tools to hijack another’s brain. Once they have accomplished this, they pretty much can control the brainwashed person.

There is a loyalty, a belief system, a history, a distrust of others, a lack of self- esteem, a lack of belief in one’s own thoughts, a loss of sense of self, and a loss of contact with reality for starters that interferes with the brainwashed person getting help.

Compassion for the victim’s suffering is not something the perpetrator will be giving to his victim. Compassion, for this discussion, is the ability to be concerned for someone’s suffering with kindness and tolerance. Someone needs to understand somewhere, somehow, you have lost your sense of self and someone needs to gently coax you, the victim into seeing this. Compassion will be a big help here, even if you never say anything, but rather just come from the understanding that this situation is difficult.


After listening to and understanding this person is under the influence of someone who is taking advantage of him/her for the purposes of controlling to manipulate, your best move is to start to question the person’s distorted reality. You want to come from your heart as you question their reality. There will be little phrases you can interject:

I don’t see it that way.
Funny I was thinking the opposite was true.
I remember when you and I were more in agreement on major issues like this one.
That sounds like bad behavior to me.
Are those your thoughts or someone else’s?

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Anne Brown PhD, RN of Sausalito, California, is a psychotherapist, speaker, coach, and the author of Backbone Power: The Science of Saying No. Anne's approach is especially applicable to people affected by divorce. Backbone Power is a no nonsense self help guide to making decisions while having backbone and integrity in all your choices, short term and long term. In addition to helping the divorce community, Anne has over twenty years experience as the trusted advocate and advisor to influential corporate leaders, trial attorneys, athletes, leaders, physicians and others seeking actionable guidance. Brown is a graduate of the University of Virginia, BS in Nursing; Boston University, MS in Psychiatric-Mental Health in Nursing; and International University, PhD in Addiction Studies. In 1997 Brown also reached a personal goal of obtaining her Black Belt in Soo Bahk Do. You can contact Dr. Anne Brown through her website: