In a previous blog, I shared what I learned from a wonderful conversation with Dr Anna Waters who is Psychological Skills Mentor at the Chimp Management Ltd. She now works exclusively using the ‘Chimp Model’. Today, I expand further on the topic…
The differences between the chimp and the human?
The chimp reacts based on emotions and impressions, it jumps to conclusions, it thinks in black and white, it is judgmental about things and people and just reacts to situations whereas that human, rational and logical thinking part of the brain uses facts and evidence to make decisions. So the chimp (the emotional part of your brain) will make a decision about something and then will look for facts and evidence to support that decision whereas the human part of the brain will look for facts and evidence and then will make a decision. So, it’s two different ways of processing information.
We see ourselves as ‘evolved beings’ but are we?
The chimp part of your brain is the most primitive and often acts inappropriately. If you get stressed over something, it is likely that the emotional part of your brain is seeing the situation as a ‘life or death’ situation and doesn’t allow you to have perspective on this external event. It is the rational, logical thinking part of your brain that gives you the ability to have perspective on situations. That’s why people can sometimes get overwhelmed and feel stressed because it feels like there is no way out and it’s all consuming whereas if you can step out of a situation and address whatever is causing the stress, you can reduce the feelings of stress.
What is the chimp focused on?
Its main agenda is survival of the self and of the species. It relies on instincts and drives. Instincts would be the ‘flight, flight, freeze’ response which is there for our protection and safety and sometimes it is really appropriate.
If you go skiing and go off piste and end up in a dangerous situation, your chimp might get really scared and might not allow you to continue which is a safe thing to do if you do not have the capabilities to manage. Often our chimps look after us, even if you might want that to happen, it can be the right behaviour.
Other times, it may be reacting inappropriately, be rude to somebody or get annoyed about something, or behave in a way we don’t want to.
Your chimp is not all bad and your human is not all good. Your chimp is your best friend but also can be your worst enemy, hence the concept of the the ‘chimp paradox’.
Understanding your chimp, the good points about your chimp is important. Your chimp got you to where you are in life, often from the ‘good’ points such as your drive and your ambition. Your chimp has the parental drive for example for caring for people and others. It is important to work with your chimp rather than think that this is this ‘animal’ that you have to block.
The key drives are food (eating), shelter, parental (nurturing, caring drive), ego (if you are competitive then your chimp probably has a high ego drive), security and your troop (close group of people around you), the troop is important for most of us. Close to Maslow’s hierachy of needs (physiological, safety, love and belonging).
How well do you know your chimp? I can see how important it is to be friends with my chimp. What do you think? Feel free to comment below.
Dear Fabienne, thank you for your review. Is there a relation between the “inner child”, as described in recovery and trauma literature, and the concept of the “inner chimp”? Thank you and kind regards, Chris
I am afraid I don’t do any work on ‘inner child’ and I don’t know a lot about it but I guess that we could compare the ‘inner chimp’ with the ‘inner child’ who would respond emotionally to anything that reminds them of a ‘trauma’ or an event which reminds them of abusive childhoods, and/or neglect, which may have wounded them. When our needs as children are not met, these needs do not just go away when we are adults.
I hope it answers your question? Feel free to add or comment