Are you in control of your life? Do you ever?
Chances are, according to consultant psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, it’s your inner Chimp that’s running a muck. Peters is probably best known for his works in elite sport. Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton and snooker's Ronnie O'Sullivan have all publicly spoken on how he's helped their performances, with Hoy recognising his contribution to Beijing and London Olympic Gold success in British cycling.
As bestselling author of The Chimp Paradox, Peters puts forward the idea that there is a separate primitive part of your brain, the Limbic area – the ‘Chimp’ or emotional part of the brain as he terms it - which can often work in direct conflict with the more rational part of the brain which makes us human – the Frontal area (Pre-frontal cortex).
Essentially, there’s a battle between the separate ‘Human’ part and the more primitive Chimp part of your brain. And what’s worse is that because the Chimp part is an extremely powerful emotional machine working 5 times faster than the Human part, unless we have techniques for managing the inner Chimp, it often ends up in control of your life and you’re left wondering ‘Why on earth did I do that?’
The key question to ask if you think your Chimp might be playing havoc is: "Do I want these thoughts, feeling or behaviours?"
If the answer is ‘No’; it’s your Chimp.
The Chimp’s purpose is to ensure the next generation; survival and sex to you and me. These two agendas are necessary for the species but can cause you problems. Your Chimp interprets information with feelings and impressions. It gets a feel for what’s going on, and then uses emotional thinking to form a plan of action. But emotional thinking involves guessing and filling in the gaps with assumptions typically based on a hunch, paranoid feelings or defensive thoughts, as opposed to the more logical, fact or truth seeking Human part of the brain.
Furthermore, you can’t stop your Chimp because it reacts 5 times faster than the Human part, and there are occasions when you want that; the old flight or fight situation, if you’re in danger you want your Chimp big time.
That is The Chimp Paradox – you need it but often it’s a pain in the proverbial a*$! The bottom line is: when your Chimp and Human agree on what to do ‘no problem’, but disagree and Chimp wins as the most powerful and therefore ruler of thought and action.
No, the short answer is that you can’t stop it but you can manage it and must. Peters uses the analogy that the Chimp in your brain is like dog owning.
Managing your Chimp will be one of the biggest factors determining success in life.
Firstly, realise you can’t bully your Chimp. You have to nurture it. Meet the needs of your Chimp first and it will be in a position where you can then talk to it rationally and it will listen. How?
There are many mind management techniques to tame your inner chimp and you can find out more about this on our free webclass.
But here’s one further ninja technique. If Chimp brain operates 5 times faster than Human, then bring on the computer part of your brain, which Dr Peters says operates 20 times faster than Human and 4 times faster than Chimp part. Its function is to run automatic programs (think riding a bike, heart beat, etc.) and also to act as a reference source for Human and Chimp.
Both Human and Chimp areas of the brain store stuff here, but more importantly refer to this part in new situations. There is a term in computing GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. If you store bad data in your computer memory you’ll get bad data out. If you have a strong foundation of positive helpful beliefs and values, when your Chimp looks to your computer it’s calmed by the new situation. For example, your Chimp will not panic when it meets strangers if your underlying value is ‘treat all people with respect.’
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