Professor Steve Peters is a consultant psychiatrist, university lecturer and elite sport coach England. His mind management techniques have been credited with helping to transform the performance of Britain’s elite Olympic athletes. Prof Peters also uses his techniques to help CEOs, leaders, hospital patients and university students.
This best-selling book was first published in 2012. The author uses simple analogies and metaphors to help the reader understand the basics of neuroscience and how the mind works. He refers to planets, moons and sunrise. The three basic components of the psychological mind are described as:
The Chimp: the name given for the amygdala part of the brain. This area controls our “fight, flight, freeze” reactions. It is referred to as the “primitive” part of the brain, hence the analogy to a chimpanzee/primate. Peters writes; “You wouldn’t let a chimp out of his cage in a grocery store, would you? So why let him run wild in your brain?” The Chimps goal in the wild is survival and the amygdala’s goal is the same- keep us safe, protect us at all cost and make quick survival decisions when triggered.
The Human; the name given to the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain controls our rational, logical, creative, compassionate, diverse thinking. When the blood is flowing to the “Chimp”, we cannot think as clearly as we would like to. If you find yourself saying “I don’t know what happened, I just reacted” or “My mind went blank. I couldn’t think” then you know that your Chimp was in charge, not your Human.
The Computer: the name given to the brain’s process of storing information and having it quickly available, usually at a subconscious level. Just as with computers, the brain can store massive amounts of data, most of which is necessary and helpful for navigating life. However, some information needs reprogrammed as it does not benefit us any longer. For example, when a professional woman is confronted with aggressive conflict at work, she cries due to data that was entered when she was a young girl that says, “When you cry, they will let you alone, or you will get your way”. She may not even be aware that this story is in there!
The author continues to refer to these three components throughout the book as he presents techniques for managing emotions, building relationships, understanding personal values, dealing with conflict, managing stress and achieving happiness and success.
The book presents an easy and fun way of understanding how the mind works. Key takeaways :
1. Emotional flooding is “normal”. It is the brains way of trying to project us, even if we don’t need protected.
2. When we continue to allow the blood to flow to the amygdala, we are strengthening our fight, freeze, fight reactions. Stress also triggers this part of the brain.
3. In order to be creative, understand differences, be open-minded and communicate in ways that we are proud of, we need to understand the stories that are triggering our Chimp.
4. Some of our stories have been there since childhood, some are newer. Most come from experiences we had or fear. Listening to what we tell ourselves helps to uncover these stories. Reflecting after a high emotion incident occurs can also reveal stories. What are your “gremlins”- those negative things we say about ourselves.
5. Values drive behaviors and reactions. Discovering our personal values can help us to make better decisions.
6. Why we need a “Troop” to survive and how to let the Human and not the Chimp choose your troop.
This book is deceiving, as it is not a simple, easy read! While it references chimps, moons, planets, etc., it is complex and challenging. Each chapter ends with thought provoking exercises. This book is about changing your mindset and changing your life, not just about controlling your Chimp!
The Chimp Paradox is an outstanding resource for anyone wanting to teach others about emotions and the brain, or for individuals wanting to use it as a complex, self-help book.