Amazement Life Mental Health Wonder

Today I learned…

…all about Chimps.

Photo by mwangi gatheca on Unsplash

No, not chimps as in the real walking and climbing around kind, the Mind Management Chimp Paradox kind. The hidden chimp on our minds, you know the one! We all have them.

It makes complete sense. We’re all irrational at times and that’s your Chimp, right there at work just then, playing mind games with you.

Professor Steve Peters explains in this book that we are all born with 2 identities. Looking at the image above you can see, the Frontal Lobe is us, and the Limbic area is our Chimp (the emotional machine that we all possess.)

When people have accidents that damage their frontal lobe or where they have a disorder or illness affecting the frontal lobe, their personality alters. Effectively the Human part of the brain stops working and the new personality that presents is the Chimp. Very often, people affected in this way will become disinhibited and lose their judgement, or they can become apathetic or have outbursts of aggressive behaviour.

You can recognise the difference between your Chimp thinking and Human thinking without knowing any of the science. How many times have you talked to yourself, reassured yourself or had battels within your own head? Often you have thoughts and feelings that you do not want and even carry out behaviours that you know at the time are not really what you want to do. So why are you doing this? How can it be that you do not have control over what thoughts or emotions you have and what behaviours you carry out? How can you be two very different people at different times?

Technology can go some way to answering this question. Functional brain scanners show the blood supply in your brain going to the area that is being used. If you think calmly and rationally then we can see the blood going to your frontal area, the Human in your head, and you become the person that you want to be and that you really are. If you become emotional and somewhat irrational, especially when you are angry or distressed, then we see the blood supply go to your Chimp, and you would usually say this is not how you want to be and that you don’t want this. The truth is that it is your Chimp, an emotional machine, that is overpowering your Human mind.

This starts to explain many things like why you worry or why you say things in the heat of the moment and then regret them, or why you can’t stop eating or why you don’t exercise when you really want to but just can’t get your act together. The list is endless. Wonder no more: it is not you doing these things, it is your Chimp that is hijacking you. Having a Chimp is like owning a dog. You are not responsible for the nature of the dog but you are responsible for managing it and keeping it well behaved. This is a very important point and you should stop and think about this because it is crucial to your happiness and success in life.

It’s a fascinating read and is easily read in fact there is now a book out called My Hidden Chimp which is designed around teaching children about the subject.

Professor Steve Peters explains neuroscience in a straightforward and intuitive way – offering up 10 simple habits that we as adults and children should have in our arsenal to deal with everyday life.

They include:

– Smiling
– The importance of talking through your feelings
– Learning how to say sorry
– Knowing how to ask for help

By also explaining the developing ‘chimp’ brain in children, he shows us how 10 habits can help children to understand and manage their emotions and behaviour. These 10 habits should and can be retained for life.

Image from the Chimp Paradox

What’s fascinating to me is how the image would look for someone who had a personality disorder?

Where would that extra identity sit and how it would connect with the Chimp (Limbic), the Human (Frontal), and the Computer (Parietal)?






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