The Chimp Paradox
One of the ladies who attends my mindfulness classes lent me a book a few weeks ago called The Chimp Paradox by Prof Stephen Peters.
In the book Stephen separates the mind into 7 sections (if I recall correctly) but then simplifies it even more by concentrating on three main brains…
- The Chimp brain
- The Human brain
- The Computer
The Chimp brain is the primitive brain that kept us alive in the jungle. It’s very emotional and reactive.
This brain was great when danger lurked around every tree and rock but is not so helpful in modern times when left to its own devices.
The Human brain is the part of us that thinks logically. It is good for planning and completing tasks.
The Computer runs all of our automatic programmes. It’s good for tasks that you can put on auto-pilot like driving or riding a bike.
Both the Human and the Chimp feed into the Computer.
The Computer can therefore develop positive or negative programmes. As they say in the programming world… “Garbage in, garbage out.”
The Human and Chimp also receive help from the Computer when making decisions or, in the Chimp’s case, reacting to situations.
So what’s all this about dogs?
I live in the UK, a nation of dog lovers that spend many pounds and hours on training our cute little pooches to be more obedient, calm and loving pets.
What amazes me is that we do this for our dogs but we don’t do it for our own minds – or in this case our “inner-chimp.”
The inner-chimp is five times stronger and faster than us. It can’t be forcefully controlled.
Trust me, try fighting a chimp and see who wins. I don’t care if you are Bruce Lee, you will lose and lose badly!
The inner-chimp must be carefully managed or put into a box; otherwise, it will burst into a rampage of emotional reaction. That’s when bad things happen – just think King Kong!
- If you needed a trainer, would you hire a human or a chimp?
- If you needed a chauffeur, would you hire a human or a chimp?
- If you needed a mediator to help with family or work relationships, would you hire a human or a chimp?
These questions sound crazy but our lives are being dominated by our inner-chimp.
- It’s our inner-chimp that decides we don’t feel like training today.
- It’s our inner-chimp that decides it’s time to stick two fingers up to the car in front, beep the horn and shout superlatives out of the car window.
- It’s our inner-chimp that decides it’s time to shout at friends, partners and colleagues whilst slamming the door and storming off in a huff.
Although our inner-chimp plays a vital role in our survival, it needs to be controlled!
I don’t have a spirit animal so I decided to name my inner-chimp for some company on these lonely days when I write.
My chimp is called Clyde – think “right turn Clyde” from the Clint Eastwood movies.
It’s easier to manage your chimp when you call it by name.
Sorry, I’ve got to go now… Clyde needs a banana!
Gareth, trainee Jedi and newly promoted chimp handler.
P.S. I am aware that Clyde is an orangutan!