The Chimp Paradox – Managing the Chimp 

By  Lysette Offley

As you know, in “The Chimp Paradox”. Dr Steve Peters calls the emotional brain, the part that tells us how we feel, the “Chimp”.

He likens the Chimp to owning a dog. You’re not responsible for the personality of the dog, but you are responsible for keeping it well behaved – for managing it.

He says, when you improve your ability to recognise when your chimp is hijacking you; hijacking your thoughts, your feelings and behaviour, you can begin to distinguish your Human, that is to say: you from your chimp, and that is to say the emotional part of your brain, which you need of course, but which you don’t want taking over.

But let’s look at what happens when we react. When something stresses us.

Remember, stress is a healthy response and it’s meant to be uncomfortable. Aggression, impatience, depression and anxiety are there to alert us to something being wrong and to do something about it – to keep ourselves safe.

However… the first reaction to stress will be a chimp one. It’s important to recognise that – and to accept it as normal and healthy. After all, it might even save your life!

But, as we all know, whatever’s going on usually isn’t a life or death situation and our emotional reaction then gets in the way of our thinking straight.

Now, the useful thing to know is that a split second before the emotional chimp reacts, it quickly looks into the computer before acting. So if the computer’s got a plan, the chimp will let the computer get on with it.


The Chimp Paradox - photo of book

So what am I saying?

You need to:

  1. Recognise when the chimp is reacting
  2. Slow down your thinking – step back and get perspective
  3. Have a well-rehearsed plan in place.

When you use more of your emotional intelligence and deal better with stress, you won’t have to use food, shopping, cigarettes, alcohol etc, etc, to make yourself feel better.


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Lysette Offley

Genius Maker & Founder of Genius Material and The Genius Principles. Working with professionals who need exceptional academic & professional development.

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