Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Chimp Paradox

Photo Credit: Gojo23

The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness by Steve Peters was one of my vacation reads.  Huddled under the mosquito netting deep in the bush, wildly waving a type of tennis racket that emits an electrical shock to annihilate mosquitoes; it’s very easy to believe that there is indeed a portion of my brain called The Chimp.

Nope, not much of a stretch at all. My chimp was occupied doing a type of 21st Century bug picking.
The writer, Steve Peters, explains that he’s very much simplifying the human brain while exploring the psychological mind. He cuts it into three main parts to start. The idea is that we all have a limbic brain—an emotional machine he refers to as the chimp—and a human brain—maybe best summed up as higher thinking—and also what he refers to as the computer part of your brain—think of that as information and facts. You yourself are the human, your chimp is the emotional thinking machine, and your computer is your storage and automatic functioning machine.

You know how sometimes you’ll be in two minds about something? Apparently that’s because you really are. Both the human part of the brain and the chimp receive information and they each interpret it. The chimp goes with feelings and impressions, pretty much basing its conclusion on assumptions, hunches, paranoia and defense. The human searches for facts and truth and logic. So obviously they don’t see eye to eye on everything. To further complicate matters the chimp is the stronger part of the brain. So wrestling with your chimp is futile.

Think about it. How well do you fare if you’re out to dinner, super hungry, and your first impulse is the order a cheeseburger although you know you should have a salad? Sometimes the salad wins, but think about the process that goes into that. A salad is healthier, your human brain thinks. The chimp is going Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! The human can counter with an argument: The doctor will put me on meds to lower my cholesterol if I don’t control my eating. The chimp might not like meds, or extra doctor trips to make sure those meds aren’t harming its liver, it might listen to that. If you’ve already established that scenario. Since I don’t have high cholesterol, my chimp just keeps shouting for the cheeseburger and is now eyeballing a chocolate shake too. My pants are too tight, the human says, and I hate tight jeans in the summer! Plus it looks terrible, and red meat makes me feel sick later. That worked for me, especially since I read through the tasty ingredients in a salad and caught my chimp’s interest.

What really caught my interest and held it throughout this book were the suggestions for ways to control the chimp—ways to get what the human wants and needs while keeping your chimp happy. It was a bit
S. R. Karfelt
inspirational to be given encouragement to keep my chimp happy. My chimp loves dessert and I’m trying to get into shape. During my vacation I managed to pacify my chimp’s cravings with a healthy makeshift dessert consisting of a vegan coconut wrap filled with bits of dark chocolate, cocoa nibs and goji berries. It worked beautifully. It took about a half hour every day to gnaw through it with my TMJ and my chimp was in bliss.

This book also made me watch other people with more interest as I watched for their chimps. I give it four thumbs up, two from my human, and two from the chimp. It never hurts to try to figure yourself out, especially if you’re struggling with fear, addiction, or simply trying to get where you want to be in life. 

A shout out to Jade for telling me about this book. I don’t know why he thought of me in reference to The Chimp Paradox, but my chimp is encouraging me not to ask. As for the rest of you, please let me know what your inner chimp thinks about this take on the brain. I’d love to hear from you!


  1. So today I've been drafting a blog called "Spock Vs. PMS"

    It's essentially this blog.

    Le Sigh.
    Clone Brains.

    We are so cool.

  2. PMS will win. You must pacify it. I suggest the usual manners--chocolate, books, movies, world domination.

    We are.

  3. Yeah, my chimp brain is a noisy sucker. I like the pacification theory, I usually try to kick my chimp to get him to shut it. He kicks harder.

    I'll have to check this book out, sounds like a good one, esp for those with a chimp of the cerulean persuasion.

  4. Hmph. My human brain checked out a long time ago. It's all chimp up in here now. (flings poo) ^_^

  5. It's definitely worth a look, Rob. I picked it up in ebook, and then decided I needed paperback too. :)

  6. DMK - What I wonder is where the muse comes in?