The Chimp Paradox,
The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness
Professor Steve Peters is a consultant psychiatrist who specialises in the friction of a human mind. He has written three non-fiction self-help books circulating around mind management and how to control/understand your mind and others. The Chimp Paradox has sold over one million copies and has had thousands of good reviews regarding people’s opinion on the self-help books, not to mention the reviews and quotes plastered on the cover and the start of the book. They say never judge a book by its cover, but with glowing quotes and recommendations from numerous famous people it really does pull you in… something I should have learnt from the last book I read.
The Chimp Paradox is all about mind management, understanding your mind and how it works. This elaborates on to being able to understand your mind, meaning you can potentially move on to understand others. Self-help / mental stability books are an ideal theme for last month. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and because of months and days like World Mental Health Day, mental health is being addressed and talked about now more than ever. It is important to talk about mental health and not be afraid of it. Be open and share and push your friends to be open and share too, keeping thoughts and feelings bottled up is not good for any state of mind so speaking out or reading self-help books, like this one, to help you understand your thoughts and feelings, can really work. Mental Health is just as important as Physical Health, nobody wants to talk about it, but with a little bravery, you can and you will. Reach out if you can’t talk, reach out to others who can’t. Never let a stumble in the road be the end of your journey, keep going and keep thinking positive thoughts.
The Chimp Paradox focuses mainly on your mind being split up into three main sections, the computer, the chimp and the human. The computer is like a database filled with memories and the mind works through what has previously been encountered by the human. The human is our human state, what we think as a human naturally. The chimp is the raw emotion, the fear, the panic, the anxiety and most of the time the chimp’s emotion overthrows the human emotion because as human’s we don’t see the choice we have of picking the chimp reaction or the human reaction.
I first decided to read this book because my boyfriend had been told to read it to deal with his own anxieties. The person who told him to read it had had issues and this had worked with him, helping him understand the stages of the mind and why things happen. My boyfriend told me it was worth reading as it was quite an easy to read and was split up into stages to make it really easy to understand the metaphoric situations the author suggests for us. As I deal with severe anxiety myself, I decided to give it a go. I struggle with finding the balance of control, what to worry about what not to worry about. I panic about the smallest situations that a lot of people would not bat an eyelid about. Unless I have a clear exit to get out of somewhere, I will stress myself silly until I can be physically sick or have a panic attack or breakdown. An exit to me can be something as simple as a door or something like telling someone I feel uncomfortable so they know if I start to panic, what is going on. I didn’t expect the book to help me ‘overcome’ my anxiety as such, but I was hoping it could help me understand it or why I feel the way I feel the majority of the time. I think that the way the book helps people understand others is key. With this book being available on multiple platforms, it brings a sort of ‘calm’ aspect suggesting other people are reading this, they will be able to understand why I act the way I do. It sort of sets your mind at ease, knowing people understand you and you understand other people.
What I liked about the book: I liked the explanation of the way we think in different ways, the brain being split into a number of sections with other problems and mind bumps along the way. I liked the idea of being able to meet someone who can understand your inner-chimp more than others. Peters goes on to say, you can meet someone who recognises and understands when ‘your chimp’ is talking and playing up and when ‘your human’ is the one who is talking. I like that the metaphor is displayed this way because when we are closer to people, I feel I can really tell a difference when they are acting strangely and are aggravated/irritated by something. I understand that. A main way of handling your chimp is to ‘exercise your chimp’, let your chimp out (in a safe area) and just let it shout and get everything it needs to out, tell everything to that person that understands it is your chimp talking and you need to let it out. Let your chimp calm down by expressing what they really feel, to someone else, who understands. Avoid the big reaction because they know it isn’t you, it’s your chimp.
Another section of the book I enjoyed was the gremlins that take over your ‘auto-pilot’. This made complete sense to me and I think this is what is in control of my mind. Your mind is usually set into auto-pilot mode in day to day things. ‘Gremlins’ can take over and make that all change, something that seems like an everyday task can be changed to make you think you can’t do it or you can’t go or something is stopping you do what you normally do, the break in routine. This is like anxiety taking hold of your everyday life, not being able to go to the hairdressers because something is telling you something is going to go wrong, people are looking at you etc. Something so simple circulated around an auto-pilot, everyday routine criticised and attacked by negative thinking all created into a section in the mind called the ‘gremlins’. I think this is very clever.
The book itself is an easy read. My boyfriend listened to it on an audiobook because he isn’t a strong reader and I borrowed the book from my local library. I love the feel and smell of books, I couldn’t listen to an audio book I think it would send me to sleep! Noticing the author of the book is a psychiatrist and lecturer, I thought that the book would be a difficult read, but it wasn’t. Simple sentences and not too complex vocab, there were even pictures that elaborated on the theories and analogies to help us understand it better.
I think that the intended audience for this book is people struggling with mind/mental health issues, someone who wants to understand the mind and how it works or someone who wants to be able to understand somebody else’s mind. Maybe even someone who wants to develop or improve their state of mind, maybe they want to become a better person, make relationships work, motivation, success… Building confidence and managing your emotions or at least understanding where they stem from is a main part of this book, it is also key for the basics of understanding our mind and how it works, so anyone interested in that is part of the main intended audience. Before reading the book I would have thought the book was aimed at intellectuals, people interested in the non-fiction self-help books, people who like the study of the mind. However, unintentionally, I think that this book has grabbed everyone’s attention. Since reading this book, and when I read a book I take it everywhere with me, so many people have approached me to make conversation about it. They want to know what I thought about it, telling me what they thought about it, people asking for recommendations whether they should purchase it… My boyfriend hasn’t read a book since he had to in school and he was quite excited to read/listen to it and when he did, he loved it. A mixture of people have read this, people who don’t read, people that only read fiction, people who can’t read. This book has opened people’s eyes because it addresses something that was once quite uneasy to talk about. Mental health is becoming easier and easier to talk about because of books like this, people are looking into understanding the mind, people are interested in understanding the mind – not just their own but others, people are listening when people need to talk, people are listening when people need to ‘exercise their chimp’.
Personally, I don’t choose to read non-fiction unless someone recommends a book to me. Although, I really enjoyed this read. I only had a few minor criticisms. A lot of the book is repeated and I know the book is a self-help book and this is a technique and a way of almost ‘drilling’ it into your head so that you remember and understand, but it is quite irritating reading the same thing again and again when you understood it the first time.
Another criticism is that sometimes the book can just be a little too farfetched. I think we can all agree, the chimp in your mind is a fantastic analogy and if you have ever watched ‘The Black Dog’ analogy YouTube, they both fit really well. However, the book goes onto use all kinds of analogies adding to the original chimp, computer and human you already had. I like the three way mind split and would have liked that to be the analogy throughout rather than the introduction of others. This is a self-help book and I wouldn’t want to get to irritated and confused with the mix-up of analogies and theories. Although, the original structure of the chimp, computer and human is so wonderfully interesting that it just fits into our daily thinking, once you have read it you know that before you react you need to remember you can choose, the chimp way or the human way.
All in all, the book provides good stability and a great purpose for mental health issues, which I believe to be key at the moment. Mental health is so important and people don’t see it being as important as your psychical health, but your psychical health starts with your mind. If you don’t feel good inside, you don’t look good on the outside. It is all about self-care, self-help. It is so important to be able to understand your own mind and why you are feeling the way you are because I am sure someone else is feeling the exact same, although you may feel alone, you certainly are not. Learning about your own mind can help you understand other people’s minds, so that you can speak and help others as well as yourself. I am not saying this book is going to help everyone, I am not saying this book is going to completely take away any form of mental issues, but it is a good way to start. Reassure yourself, tell yourself you are ok. When you start to feel good on the inside, you feel better on the outside. The start of dealing with mental health is to talk. This book has a stripped basis of attempting to understand your own and others minds. Talk to each other, speak to your friends, make sure they’re ok, making sure they’re controlling their ‘chimp’ and not letting it take over. If they are, reassure them, talk to them, and don’t let them suffer in silence. Help them control their chimp.
This book was great and really helped me understand my mind better and the way it works using different theories and ideologies. Knowing so many people had read it and wanted to read it made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and more and more people are understanding why mental health is important and why people act the way they do. I would recommend this book to anyone who feels like they need it.
I will be reviewing Hans Fallada – Alone in Berlin next. A classic I was told about in University and never got round to reading.