Preventing and Recovering from Extremism (Video)

It’s been a few months since I have been in touch with you.

Own Your Brain continues to grow!  

Tragedies like the mass shooting in Orlando and almost all terrorist attacks and hate crimes are the result of a young mind being influenced by some form of extreme mental manipulation. 

Politicians try to exploit the tactics of manipulation daily in their pursuit to win votes.

These manipulative tactics must be exposed!  Exposing these tactics is THE GOAL of Own Your Brain!!

Many people want to fight the enemy with guns or condemnation of a belief systems, such as Islam.  They argue, sometimes brilliantly,  about how wrong a doctrine, such as those held by an extremist group, is.

As a former cult member, I can tell you, condemnation of a doctrine or belief system is not an effective method to dissuade someone who is caught in an extremist mentality.  It doesn’t work because extremists are caught in circular thinking.  They cannot see outside that circular thinking and the condemnation only increases their commitment.  This is why prevention and helping those who want to leave is so important.

There is good news!

Many people are walking away from extremist religions, cults, gangs, terrorist groups and abusive relationships.  They are seeing through the tactics used by religious leaders and politicians.  This is GREAT!

However, they need support. 

They also need a new set of tools in order to recover fully.  To rebuild their lives.

Tools like critical thinking  are important for them, so they can understand why they were vulnerable, and so they can learn how to be more in control of their decision making processes.

Another set of skills those who are leaving extremist groups may need are cultural conflict resolution skills, so that they can build healthy and productive bridges to their loved ones, who may still be part of the group they were in.  This is especially true in places like Pakistan, where it can be very dangerous to merely question extremist Islamic doctrines.

Skills like these must replace the circular thinking they are walking away from.

I am developing a “Mental Skills Toolbox” Video Series to address these needs.  I will let you know when these videos are available.

They will be FREE.

The video below clarifies a concept called circular thinking, which is a key component to extremism, no matter what the doctrine behind the extremism is.

Understanding the mental trap of Circular Thinking can help us all avoid being taken advantage of.  I speak of it in my TED talk but this video explains the concept in more detail.

Circular Logic is a mental trap, difficult to break free of and highly dangerous.

Don’t see the video?  Click here to see the video.

I have posted a number of videos recently.  Please follow my channel on YouTube.

I am also very active on Twitter @ownyrbrain

Thank you for your continued interest and support!



M. Ayub Ayubi was born into Muslim Extremism. He is Now a Peace Activist (Video)

I was contacted by M. Ayub Ayubi, from Pakistan.  He wanted to tell his story.  I hope you will watch the video.  It may be hard to understand, due to his accent, so please hit the “CC” button to turn on the closed captions.

Don’t see the video? Click here to see the video!

Ayub has come to define the group his family is still part of as a Muslim cult.  As he headed off to college, hoping to find freedom from the restraints of his family’s radical belief system, he became involved in another extremist Muslim “cult”, this time of a leftist nature.

Breaking free from the influence of mental manipulation is not easy, especially when it involves family.  Without proper counseling, or at least access to information about how mental manipulation works, vulnerability to a different flavor of mental manipulation is high during the breaking free process.

Many people stay in radical groups, even if they don’t really believe in the doctrine, because of how difficult it is.  During adolescence and early adulthood, if someone attempts to break free from the radical belief systems of their family, they are especially vulnerable.  It feels lonely.  There is a cognitive dissonance that is painful.  Filling the void with another radical belief system is not uncommon.

Ayub’s reading about cults helped him understand what happened to him. The more he understood about the psychology behind what he had been through, the more determined he became to prevent others from the mental trappings of radical groups.

Ayub is now literally risking his life to do the work he does, to prevent radicalization among young people in Pakistan. The work he is doing is very important, but not very safe.

Ayub told me he has written his obituary, and is not afraid to die.  Although Ayub is on the other side of the planet from me, and I have only talked with him via Skype, he has become a friend and someone I have great respect for.

Ayub has founded an organization called Renaissance Foundation for Social Innovation, Pakistan (RESIP) Through this organization young people in Pakistan learn critical thinking skills, conflict resolution skills and about the need to value diversity.

Below are links to his website and to a Global Giving site where he is trying to find funding for the work he is doing.  Please support his work in any way you can.  Simply sharing his story is a great help.


M. Ayub Ayubi is the founder of Renaissance Foundation for Social Innovation, Pakistan (RESIP)  You can find his work at

Another way you can support the work of countering Islamic extremism is by donating to a newly launched Global Giving campaign.  Learn more here:

Former Extremist Speaks From His Heart To Young Muslims (video)

As I watch young men and women commit atrocities in the name of ISIS, I continue to ask the question, “Whose voice will get through to a young Muslim who is vulnerable to radicalization”?

Those are the voices, the stories, I am looking for to include in The Stories Campaign.

This week is an excellent example.  I bring you Mubin Shaikh.

I spoke with Mubin in a park in Toronto, Canada.  As a teenager, in the very park we filmed this video, he felt torn between two worlds; his family’s culture of a strict Muslim tradition, and the life he shared with his friends and classmates.  His confusion took him down a dangerous path.  His incredible story is in his book Undercover Jihidi:Inside the Toronto 18-Al Qaeda Inspired, Homegrown, Terrorism in the West

Mubin Shaikh is an expert on Radicalization, deradicalization, countering violent extremism, National security and Counter-terrorism.  However, we spoke on a more personal lever.

In the video below Mubin speaks directly to young Muslims who may be heading down the road toward terrorism.

Watch this video. Share it on your Facebook page. Get it out there!

Don’t see the video?  Click here to see the video!

Radicalization – Into and Out of Hate (video)

If you want to understand how the recent terrorist attacks in Paris could happen… you have to start with understanding the radicalization process.

Christian Picciolini was vulnerable to the radicalization that he happened to be exposed to at a critical time in his life. The suicide bombers in Paris were vulnerable to the radicalization which they were exposed to.  The similarities in the stories I bring to you each week are more important than the differences.  This is Christians story of his journey into and out of hate.

Don’t see the video?  Click here to see the video!

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Women From Rival Gangs Tell Their Stories to Prevent Violence (video)

The Stories Campaign begins with the story of three women from Portland, Oregon who were in rival gangs, before they turned their lives around.   I had the honor of meeting Nicky Taylor, Dee Dee Wallace and Lunita Renfrow and hearing their stories first hand.  Here is their story.

Don’t see the video?  Click here to see the video!

Gangsters sell drugs, carry guns and shoot at each other for wearing a certain color. But underneath the violence and criminal activity are human beings, just like you and me.

If we want to prevent young people from turning to street gangs we need to listen to the stories of former members of gangs. These stories can teach us many things.

Read more

Sam Harris Podcast on Cults

I just listened to the Podcast Sam Harris posted a few weeks ago. The link is below and I definitely recommend listening to it.

Sam makes a strong argument that “belief is the primary driver of behavior”. He points to cases such as the Heaven’s Gate cult, in which members took their own lives, or to groups like ISIS, who commit atrocities for their belief. While I don’t disagree, I would add another layer.

Having been in a cult, I know first-hand the power that belief holds.

I remember a day, when I was about a year into my 5 years of being in a religious cult. I got a call from my brother telling me that my Mom had breast cancer. He asked me come home, said she needed me. I was in the middle of a training that I believed was critical to God’s work. I believed the messiah was on the earth and I was receiving God’s words directly from his son, Sun Myung Moon.

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Richard Dawkins Tweets a Question

OzzZhX-_Richard Dawkins tweeted the following today. “My son’s a good Muslim … so I don’t understand what he’s doing there [trying to join ISIS].” Is it precisely BECAUSE he’s a good Muslim?

There was an immediate response of people calling Richard names and being aghast at the question. Most didn’t take it as a question, but as a personal attack on all Muslims.

Why do people join terrorist organizations, religious cults, gangs? There are a variety of psychological reasons. One of the answers has to do with the use of doctrine.

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Should We Talk to Terrorists?

isisThe Big Question, the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations – in partnership with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue is asking the question, should we talk to terrorists.

I’m sure it will be a great discussion. Since I won’t be able to attend, here are my thoughts.

I would like to re-frame this question. The relevant question, from my perspective, is about communication, not talking. A better question might be: How can we maximize our chances of meaningful communication with those who have influence within terrorist organizations?

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