How to Change a Mind

Missy spent more than five years getting her husband to leave a cult, but the breakthrough was simple

Eleanor Gordon-Smith
Forge
Published in
11 min readOct 14, 2019

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Illustration: Reza Hasni

MMissy met Dylan when she took a job at the restaurant he worked at, waiting tables. The couple moved in together and got engaged not long after, despite what Missy saw as a huge red flag: Dylan was a member of a religious sect that she believed to be a cult.

Missy was certain she could see through to the man Dylan would be without the sect, and certain she wanted to be with that man. She did not, however, want to spend her life with a member of his sect.

“Did you consciously think to yourself, I’m gonna change this guy’s mind?” I asked Missy, years later.

“Yes. Absolutely. I made a five-year plan.”

I met Missy and Dylan while researching my book, Stop Being Reasonable: How We Really Change Our Minds. Their story is singular, but many of us will someday find ourselves in something like Missy’s position, trying to talk the people we love out of believing — against all the evidence — what someone powerful is telling them. If we do not understand the structure of our loved ones’ beliefs in situations like these, our attempts to change them may well fail.

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