The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness by Prof Steve Peters


Chimp Management

I first learned about the Chimp Paradox when I was working in an education setting earlier this year. We were hosting a conference and Dr Kate Goodger was one of the speakers. Some of my colleagues had sat in on the presentation before so I asked if I could join in this time. I only saw the first half of the presentation but I was intrigued enough to buy the book.

When I first started experiencing problems in my life a few months ago I began to read it but my head wasn’t in the right place to absorb the information. I’ve now finished reading it and I think I’ve learned something about myself. I haven’t completed all the exercises so I need to re-read and work on the mini projects but I feel like it’s worth the effort.

In the presentation Kate asked us to think about whether our chimp was male or female and what we thought he/ she was called. I thought about it for a minute before deciding I have a male chimp, given it is prone to knee jerk reactions, and as those reactions sometimes get me into trouble that was indeed his name.

The back of the book asks 3 questions:

Do you sabotage your own happiness and success?

Are you struggling to make sense of yourself?

Do your emotions sometimes dictate your life?

I answered yes to all 3 but I wouldn’t say I do all of those things all of the time. Most of the time I get along pretty well and am a happy person who tries to make people laugh, but I can see how I might need help to stop sabotaging my happiness. I also struggle with maintaining confidence so I would like to learn to be more confident. Luckily I think the programme can help me with all of that. If I can crack happiness and confidence then hopefully success will follow!

The book is popular among management circles and my sisters partner was advised to read it by the people he works with. The conference I went to earlier in the year was aimed at Headteachers and I know from the book that the programme is also popular with people from different sporting backgrounds. The ideology won’t appeal to everyone, but I think most people would take something away from this book.

I’ve discussed parts of it with my friend and she doesn’t see the validity to it, that might be partly to do with how I put it across. On the face of it I would imagine some people would be turned off the idea of thinking of themselves as controlled by a chimp. Or maybe they will be happy to blame their bad behaviour on the chimp once they realise!

I admire people who can make a success of life and remain happy as life really isn’t easy and there are times we all need help and support. That is why your ‘troop’ are so important and when you find good troop members it is important to spend time nurturing those connections.

Or in other words, when you have good people around you take the time to invest in those relationships because a strong troop is what is needed to help you succeed in life.

The book talks about ‘The Stone of Life’ on which you carve your ‘truths of life’, ‘values’ and ‘life force’.  I know I waffle on a lot about the type of person I want to be and I hope this book will help me with that. But it has also given me a dilemma.

I said that I haven’t been able to dream for weeks, no sooner had I admitted it, I fell asleep that night and dreamed of him. I woke up the next morning and he was the first thought in my mind. As I read this book I kept thinking how he would benefit from reading it too.

Not that I’m suggesting he needs to change, (if you’re reading this) I’m not, I adore him just as he is faults and all. A lot of the ideas in the book are those he tried to help instil in me and it doesn’t hurt to reinforce your ideas from time to time.

I thought, if I see a second-hand copy cheap I would buy it and send it to him. My reasoning for sending it is that I believe in my heart it will help, he will be able to relate to it and take something positive away from it. I thought if I happened to find a copy it would be fate. Due to the popularity of the book it isn’t easy to find cheap copies.

But by chance I found a cheap copy and brought it, I saw it as a sign it was meant to be. I put it in my cupboard and decided to wait a while and see if it still feels right before sending it. My chimp decided not to make a rash decision for a change!

Then last night I fell asleep watching TV and was woken by a warmth covering my heart and it began to beat faster. I’ve experienced that feeling before. I always thought it was him thinking about me because whenever it happens he springs into my mind. I know I sound mental but there it is, I may well be! I have no proof of what causes it, maybe I was just comfortable and warm!

I woke up thinking of him this morning, turned on the radio in the car and ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ was blaring out. I was starting to see signs everywhere that I was doing the right thing in sending the book. That it would be received in the manner it was sent as a friend helping a friend.

The only trouble is when I went to get his address out my address book to write on the package I froze. Suddenly my chimp was fearing the reaction that it would receive and I started to panic.

I’d always considered it would reignite the anger/ hate he feels for me and he would take it out on me again. But it could just as easily reach the man I’ve supported, helped and cared for the last 2 1/2 years and he would see it was sent with good intentions. He might even appreciate the gesture and enjoy the book even though he hates reading.

But my chimp is wounded and can’t face any more anger right now and my human is tired of over ruling him. My human believes that sending the book is the right thing to do. I possess something I believe will help a friend, albeit a friend who cut me off, but someone I still consider a friend. I shouldn’t have to think twice about helping someone I care about if I have the ability to do it.

But people don’t always receive help in the manner it is given and that is what scares me. I can’t face another angry outburst or fight. That is what hurts about the whole situation. I didn’t choose it, I don’t want it to be like this, I want to carry on supporting and helping my friend but I have no power to do anything because they took it all away. Some people would say it is his loss, but it is mine too.

I believe in my heart, one day we will talk again and when we do I’ll know I had a chance to help and didn’t because I was too scared of what might happen. In doing that I deny him the chance to take even one positive thing away from reading the book, that might make life a little bit easier for him and that just makes me want to cry. Or he could just throw in straight in the bin.

Making the wrong decision now would jeopardise any hope of contact in the future. I don’t even know if I want to be in contact with him again but I definitely don’t want to make things any worse.

I can say for sure that when I think of never speaking to him again I catch my breath and want to cry at the thought of the loss. The things I adore about him outweigh the things I ignore, the times I miss him outweigh the times I was angry with him, the times he made me happy outweigh the times he upset me.

Things were never perfect between us, there are differences, some of which could be worked on, others maybe only tolerated but there are shared interests too and there were times when we meant something to each other. I just feel like those times deserved better but I can’t change what happened between us. Although it will probably never be the same I can’t see me ever wanting to close the door permanently, even if that makes me a little crazy.

To be honest I think I’ve always been a little different, a little hard to make out for some people. I’ve always been an individual and never followed a crowd and that can make you unpopular. But I have people who tell me how much they love having me in their lives and that is all I can ever ask for or want.

Success and happiness are relative, you chose the benchmarks of what they mean to you. Right now I’m happy that I have people around me who are willing to help me through this phase of my life and encourage me to find a new direction to follow. Life is ever-changing and I think now I have learned some more skills to help me navigate those changes. Learning new skills is never a bad thing!


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