Book Summary: “The Chimp Paradox” by Prof Steve Peters

Book Summary: “The Chimp Paradox” by Prof Steve Peters

Short Review and Score

Not a bad book, had some interesting ideas but the way they are presented is a bit childish. Overall worth a quick read.



You don’t always seem to have control over your emotions or what you think or do.

Although these three brains try to work together, they very frequently get into conflict and struggle against each other to gain control, with the Chimp (limbic brain) often winning!

Effectively there are two beings in your head!

The main purpose of this book is to help you to manage your Chimp and to harness its strength and power when it is working for you and to neutralize it when it is not.

Have you talked to yourself, reassured yourself or had battles within your own head?
How can it be that you do not have control over what thoughts or emotions you have and what behaviors you carry out?

The truth is that it is your Chimp, an emotional machine, that is over-powering your human mind.

The session must be easy to do otherwise your Chimp won’t agree and you won’t do it.

Try to improve your ability to recognize when your Chimp is hijacking you with thoughts, feelings and behaviors that you don’t want to have. By doing this, you are learning to recognize the difference between yourself and your Chimp and who is in control at any point in time. This will help to make clear that there are two brains operating within your head and only one of them is you.

Emotional thinking means that the Chimp makes guesses and fills in detail by assumptions that are typically based on hunches, paranoid feelings or defensive thoughts.

However, as the Chimp within us is far more powerful than the Human, it is more likely that the Chimp will speak before the Human gets a chance to take control, and this will end up leaving John wondering why he didn’t just let go of the remark in the first place.

Sometimes the human needs to say to the chimp, “I don’t care how you feel, we have to do it,” or “I don’t care whether you are in the mood or not, it is not about mood.”

It then searches out evidence to back up its opinion and prove its point. In doing this, it typically twists the facts to fit its opinion and is very unreasonable and irrational if challenged.

Whenever they perceive something is wrong, they have a tendency to start worrying about what might happen and then get things completely out of perspective. This frequently leads to terrible feelings of gloom and doom and stomach-churning moments.

The chimp uses its sex drive along with other drives to try to fulfill this agenda. Therefore your chimp has this drive high on its priority list! A strong sex drive indicates a healthy chimp.

The drive for the male to have se and therefore perpetuate the species overrides his own safety, and he will mate with the female knowing he is highly likely to be eaten if he can’t escape quickly enough.

Human is saying and wanting one thing, and the chimp is saying and wanting another.

If you think about it, a female chimpanzee that is highly insecure is the one that is most likely to survive and be vigilant enough for their offspring to survive. A confident female chimpanzee is probably not going to make it!

For example: “Do I want these feelings?” or “Do I want these thoughts?” or “Do I want to be behaving this way?” If the answer is no then you are in Chmp mode, and if the answer is yes than you are in Human mode.

It is no use trying to control a Chimp with willpower. I call this ‘arm-wrestling the Chimp’

If your chimp is insecure, you need to make it feel secure so that it is in a position to be managed.

If your chimp is telling you how insecure it feels because it does not know its role then it is your duty to go and establish this role with your line manager and make sure that you are happy and the chimp is feeling settled. Otherwise the chimp will become insecure and start acting out because you haven’t looked after it.

Sublimating the drive can fulfill it. Sublimating means constructively redirecting the energy and drive somewhere else. Some people will sublimate this drive by taking on professions that care for others, especially youngsters. The dog is easily recognized as a classic substitute for a child.

Expressing emotion means saying exactly what you think, no matter how irrational it may be and doing this for as lon as it takes.

By the right person, I mean someone who recognizes that this is just a Chimp letting go and not you. Therefore, you can say what you like and they will not react to whatever you say, get worried or repeat things. They recognize that it is just your Chimp, not you.

So if you are listening to someone else’s Chimp then wait until it has finished exercising!

A better and logical answer might be “There has been an injustice but this particular injustice may never be resolved and we need to set a limit on the efforts to resolve it”

“We don’t think, we just get up on the count of five… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1 and feet on the floor.”

If you say to your chimp, “When you have written five emails you can have your coffee,” it is not unusual for your chimp to suddenly give you the incentive to start the emails.

You can reward the chimp by phoning a friend and inviting them round to view the new paint work in your room. It is not surprise that the chimp will jump up and make you paint the room because it wants the praise (and also because it doesn’t want to look bar in front of the friend).

You need to replace the Gremlin with a positive Autopilot statement and you need to think about this regularly, rehearing it until it becomes your automatic response.

The word “Should” often evokes a sense of judgement, a command, guilt or a feeling of failure, whereas using the word ‘could’ usually evokes feeling of possibility, hope an option, a choice, empowerment and potential for change.

True friends like us for our values and personalities, not for our achievements, position and possessions.

Remember: The person that you want to be is the person that you really are.

What is happening is that as you are trying to be you, the chimp keeps interfering or hijacking you with emotion or emotional thoughts and making you present yourself to the world in a way that you don’t like.

Her chimp would suddenly take over and make remarks that she later regretted because she had lost control of the chimp.

The important lesson here is that we need to understand who is in front of us and how they think and work. If we accept this then we can work effectively with them but we have to be willing to look at people with an open mind in order to do this. In effect, our relationships with others are very often dictate by our expectations of them and our reactions totem.

They are often, but not always, involved in criminal activities because they have no conscience.

Conversely the chimp uses emotion and feelings and looks for people who possess fairly superficial qualities such as looks and power.

For example, an unreliable and selfish person is unlikely to be chosen by the human but if they are fun to be with and seen as the life and soul of the party then the chimp may cling on to them.

Usually a partner cannot fulfill all of our needs.

List the members of your troop. Importantly, recognize who is not in your troop and whom it is unwise to rely on or open up to.

Think about what each person in the troop if offering you and what you are offering him or her. Try to recognize when you are asking a troop member to fulfill a role that is not suitable and find someone appropriate to meet your needs .Writing out your needs first is a good starting point.

Once you know who the members of your troop are, prioritize your time to engage with them. Look after your troop, as neglected people often leave. Ask yourself what you have recently done for each member.

Either way, the person will be unlikely to hear the message because their emotions have taken over and their chimp will not have an agenda of its own.

Speaking steadily will help us to get messages across in the way that we intend and help the other person to listen.

The things that will make you stop your chimp in its tracks when it’s suddenly stress are:

  • Recognizing that the chimp is reacting.
  • Slowing down your thinking (to allow the human to get involved)
  • Stepping back from the situation
  • Getting a perspective
  • Having a plan

Whenever you want to stop the chimp, always actively slow your thinking down. This will work in all situations. It is another excellent way to manage the chimp.

Imagine you have climbed into a helicopter that has taken off and is now hovering above the situation. You can now look down and get some perspective on what is happening.

Some people suffer with the “Mushroom syndrome” instead of mushrooms they grow worries. If there is nothing ot worry about then they will find something. They are unable to stop this very destructive Gremlin. Is it a learnt destructive habit. It is not only tiring for them but also enormously tiring for others around them. This is because they keep making things into worries and then presenting these to others. Sadly the response from others is usually irritation and this leaves the Mushroom sufferer feeling alone to worry again and in a state of chronic stress.

Imagine that you have gone to sleep with something on your mind that is really concerning you. You wake up in the night and your mind starts racing. At this point the human is fast asleep and the chimp is now in full control. Therefore, your thinking irrational and emotional. The chimp will think and see things catastrophically and worry you for however long you are ‘awake’. Eventually, you will collapse asleep and come round again in the morning. You now get out of bed and wake yourself up and wondering why you were thinking so emotionally during the night.

The answer is simple: During the night your brain changes its functioning and the human no longer gives any check to the chimp.

If you wake during the night, any thoughts and feeling you might have are from your chimp and are very often disturbing, catastrophic and lacking in perspective. In the morning you are likely to regret engaging with these thoughts and feelings because you will see things differently.

Motivation is chimp-driven. It is a feeling based on emotion. Motivation generally happens when there is a great reward to gain or when you are suffering so badly that you want things to change.

Commitment, on the other hand, comes from the human and does not depend on feelings. Commitment means following the plan even if you don’t feel like it that day.

Motivation doesn’t matter. It is commitment that will finish the operation.

If you were given a million pounds to do the task before the end of the day could you do it? If the answer is yes, i would definitely have it completed, then this means that it is possible to do it. It means that if you don’t do it by the end of the day, then any reason you offer as to why you didn’t do it is just an excuse for not being disciplined. It would suggest that you are not so serious in wanting to fulfill your dream.

However, most chimps within us do need recognition from the right person, and if you deprive them of this than they can be come very bitter, angry and upset.

The moon is a goal that you know you can achieve by effort, The stars are a goal that you could achieve by great effort and it will feel fantastic to reach. If you aim for the moon your chimp can get complacent, but if you aim higher for the stars your chimp and human commit to it and get excited by the big challenge.

The fewer tasks you focus on, the more likely you are to succeed with them.

When you reach a goal, make sure you celebrate.

Monitor the success with a chart or some form of visible records so that you can see your progress.

Your first task us to take time and decide what makes you happy, then at least you know what you are working towards. The brain releases different chemicals when it is anxious, to when it is relaxed or than when it is happy. Therefore, it might be easiest to approach the way to happiness by defining three different states.

Sadly, it is very common experience that when we have managed to get the promotion, we often dismiss our achievement instead of celebrating it and then we look for something else to achieve.

For example, playing sport can easily satisfy aggressive and territorial chimp behaviors. This is socially acceptable and the human can enjoy it too.If there is no outlet for aggression then it may displace itself into unhealthy violence.

As our chimps work by having a partner in mind before they actually meet them, they often superimpose onto someone what they want to see rather than seeing what is in front of them.

Imagine that you are going to hand your partner over to another person and you have to be absolutely truthful bout your partner, warts and all. Try speaking into the air and tell the new person what to expect from the relationship.

By doing the ‘handover’ you may come to realize that the new person is unlikely to take your partner, and you yourself may wonder why you are hanging on tot them. I have used this exercise with many people who are suffering in a relationship that really isn’t going ot work and it has given them a different perspective.

Typically, the chimp will be very self-critical and lack confidence in its own abilities in order to eliminate errors or show weaknesses. It will be intolerably of any shortcomings or mistakes that it makes.

Make sure that you know your values and the values that you honestly want to be measured by. Then measure yourself and others by these values and do not allow your chimp to hijack you. For example, if you put cheerful friendly and honest high on your list then measure yourself by these human values.

The chimp will look at your physical appearance and your achievements to define who you are. Beware, the chimp can change its mind very quickly and is very subjective. One minute it will think that you are the most amazing person around with stunning looks and the next it will believe that you are the ugliest creative walking the planet.

So how you decide on self-image is a decision between going on the chimp’s values and going on the human’s values.

If, for example, you choose to weigh your worth against being a happy person who brings a lot of pleasure to others just by being pleasant and smiling, then you have a chance of seeing yourself as a very valuable member of the community. Your happiness levels will rise accordingly because even the chimp will like this.

It is very important to know what you absolute values about life and people are, before you start trying to work out who you are.

Try to develop the habit of looking for solutions rather than dwelling on problems.

You can choose how much a situation bothers you.

Try to deal with the cause of a situation and not the symptom. Sometimes getting things off your chest is all that is needed (letting your chimp have a safe scream). On my immediate happy list would be a cup of coffee, phoning a friend, counting my blessings, sitting back and taking a deep breath!

This means that at any time i can make an effort to raise my mood and often that’s all it takes, just a little effort, Try now to name 10 things under your control that you could do to make you feel happier.

It is a useful exercise to monitor your happiness. Keep a diary and record the things that make you happy and list the things that stop you being happy.

Imagine your are one of two identical twins. Your twin is your best friend and loves you and is looking out for you.

You now become your twin. In your role as the twin, give advice to yourself and tell some home truths about what you should and should not be doing with situations, your life, and your problems.

When they imagine being the twin they give amazing advice to themselves.

Another example is to believe that being happy is something you have to battle to be, instead of relaxing and seeing being happy as normal for you.

Seeing everything as all or nothing, win or lose, success or failure, is dichotomous thinking where everything is seen as having just two options. It often shows inflexibility and leads to unhappiness.

Despite its beauty, the tiger is a dangerous animal and you will never be able to bring it to your home. It belongs in the wild. Sometimes people can be like this. You can admire them and even being love with them, or revere them, but you can never share your life with them. They are dangerous and can do some serious damage to you.

Happiness is more about being at ease with yourself than it is about being at ease with others.

Happy people learn to become their own biggest fan and accept themselves as they are and support themselves. It is a choice. Be happy by loving yourself, faults and all.

Keep a diary of each day and note down just a few lines or thoughts that brought your happiness. Also, note down how much effort that you made to attain happiness for that day. By doing this for just a couple of weeks, you may realize how much or how little effort you are putting into ensuring your happiness.

The two choices for confidence are: to base your confidence on your believe in your ability, or to base it on doing your best. You can guarantee to make your best effort.

What a nightmare! You look back on the scenario and ask, “Did I achieve a high level of competence in dealing with the situation?” The answer is clearly ‘no’ but “Did i do my best at the time and with the ability that I had?” “The answer now is “Yes”.

“Doing your best” as a basis gives 100 per cent confidence.

When you have written out your concerns then you can write down the truths next to them.

Whgen we share concerns or worries, or when we go through experiences with others, it is surprising how much we can manage.

So, if you are in love, remember that you are not quite in a balance d state of mind; in fact, you’re a little mentally deranged! Listen to your best friends because they are not so blind.

Whenever you chimp is feeling insecure, be practical and where possible seek reassurance. For example, if you feel insecure at work then make sure that you establish exactly what you role is meant to be, where your boundaries are, who you report back to, what their expectation is of you and how you will be assessed. You can also ask for feedback to know who you are doing and how you could improve in any areas of weakness. Being practical in this way is very reassuring for the chimp.

If you have an insecure chimp then establishing a routing that is familiar to you can do wonders to settle the chimp.

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