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Monday, 22 January 2018

The Chimp Paradox

These notes are based on ideas developed by Prof Steven Peters in a book entitled 'The Chimp Paradox', in which he presents an incredibly powerful mind management model based on the neuro-science of the brain The model simplifies the science into a practical way to help you understand how the mind works and give you the ability to manage it. Using the model with your clients can help them lead a better quality of life, where they feel more successful, more confident, happier and healthier.

The model explains how to recognise, understand and manage
  • internal struggles
  • emotions and thoughts
  • the self and the person you want to be

Please feel free to email print off this information for your clients, or to adapt it to work with them in your sessions, we only ask that you leave the copyright information intact.

Introducing the Chimp Paradox

Everyone has an inner chimp. Your chimp can be your best friend or your worst enemy - this is the Chimp Paradox. The Chimp Model explains how the mind can be seen as three teams, each with their own agenda and way of working.
  • The Human (the self) is mainly based in the frontal lobe and is associated with logical thinking; it works with facts and truth.
  • The Chimp, mainly based in the limbic system, is an independent emotional thinking machine and works with feelings and impressions.
  • The Computer, spread throughout the brain, is a storage area for programmed thoughts and behaviours. Both the Human and the Chimp can add information to the computer.
The key is to store helpful information in the computer to help manage your chimp.

A beginners guide to managing your Chimp

  • Nurture and reward your Chimp: give your Chimp the recognition it needs. For example, you might ask for praise and approval from someone whose opinion you value, or you might offer your Chimp incentives by rewarding yourself as a way of looking after your emotions when you have achieved something important.
  • 'Exercise' your Chimp by expressing your emotions safely. Recognise the need to express your emotions and do this safely, in the right place, with the right person or alone by speaking aloud in a safe place (like the middle of a field), or by writing your emotions down. Recognise that what you are saying or writing are just emotions and once expressed you can gain perspective.
    It's essential that you listen to the Chimp for as long as it takes. Don't try to stop it or interact with it. Eventually your Chimp will tire itself out, and may even go to sleep.
  • Afterwards - let your Human select the rational, sensible things that have been said and work out a plan from there.
  • Distract your chimp: this can be an effective way to stop your Chimp thinking and to over-ride it. For example, recognise when it is best not to interact with a situation and to put it on hold by actively engaging with something else.
One of the secrets to success and happiness is to learn to live with your Chimp and not get attacked by it. To do this you need to understand how your Chimp behaves and why it thinks and acts the way that it does. You also need to understand who you are and not muddle yourself up with your Chimp.

How do you know if your Chimp is hijacking you?

  • Do you have unwelcome thoughts and feelings?
  • Do you struggle to live the way you want to?
  • Do you sabotage your own happiness and success?
  • Do you act impulsively and regret it later?
  • Do you procrastinate or find it difficult to stick to resolutions?
If the answer is yes, you may not be managing your Chimp as effectively as you might.

Chimp Golden Rules

  1. Don’t try to control your Chimp with willpower Just as an actual chimpanzee is five times as strong as a human being, so your inner Chimp is five times as strong as you. You can only manage your Chimp, so you need a rational management plan.
  2. It's important to remember that you are your Human, not your Chimp. The Chimp thinks independently from you. It is not good or bad, it’s just a chimp.
  3. You are not responsible for the nature of your Chimp but you are responsible for managing it.

Understanding and relating to other people

Different parts of our brain receive and interpret the actions and words of others around us.
The Human within us searches for the values people hold and the potential they possess, and aims to have meaningful relationships.
The Chimp within us searches for people who will satisfy short term needs, and demands that people comply with its expectations. Because the Chimp's drives are so strong, many people end up in a relationship with people who can’t make them happy long term.
The best relationships are the ones where you accept the person as they are and work with this. Focus your time and energy on the people you care most about.
When you engage with someone, how you approach ad interact with them will affect how they interact with you. If you want to build bridges with someone, you have to build the bridge. Successful people don’t make demands of others but set the scene so that the Human in others can respond rather than their Chimp.


John Covell is a Retired Senior Lecturer - Huddersfield University - and a qualified Cognitive Behaviour Therapist and Hypnotherapist. He runs the Taylor Hill Therapy Centre in Huddersfield. John also hosts regular discussion groups in Huddersfield for therapists - please contact him for more information if you are interested.

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