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The Chimp Model

What is The Chimp Model?

The Chimp Model is a powerful mind management model that can help you to become:
 
  • Happier
  • More Confident
  • Healthier
  • More Successful
It simplifies the complex processes that take place within your mind to help you:
 
  • Recognise how your mind is working
  • Understand and manage your emotions
  • Manage yourself and become the person you would like to be

This article is an introduction to ‘The Chimp Model’ and provides a brief overview. If you’d like to learn how to apply the model in your life, ‘The Chimp Paradox’ offers more in-depth information to help you begin your journey.

What is a Model?

A Model is not pure scientific fact or a hypothesis. It is just a simple representation to aid understanding and help us to use the science. It may also help us to make sense of how we have been in the past, how we are now, and how we can manage ourselves better in the future.

In The Chimp Model, the inner Chimp is the emotional team within the brain that thinks and acts for us without our permission. The logical team is the real person, it is you; rational, compassionate and humane, and is the Human within. The memory banks for reference are the Computer.

Simplyfying the Mind

The human brain is complicated, with multiple areas of the brain contributing to our emotions, thinking and behavioursBy simplifying the mind, The Chimp Model helps you to better understand your emotions and thoughts.
 
It is easiest to consider the human brain as a system of many brains working together. Within The Chimp Model, three of these brains combine to form the ‘Psychological Mind’.
 
The three psychological brains in our model are:
  • The Human
  • The Chimp
  • The Computer
The Human and Chimp have independent personalities with different agendas, ways of thinking and modes of operating. Either of these two brains could run your life, but they try to work together, and therein is the problem! Effectively, there are two beings in your head and they are not in agreement about most things.
It is important to grasp that only one of these beings is you, the Human.

Introducing The Chimp

 

The Chimp is the emotional machine that we all have. It thinks independently of us and can make decisions. It offers emotional thoughts and can be very constructive or very destructive.

Important Point: The Chimp is an emotional machine that thinks independently from us. It is not good or bad, it is just a Chimp.
The Chimp Paradox is that it can be your best friend or worst enemy, even at the same time.
 
Some traits of emotional (Chimp) thinking are:
 
  • Jumping to an opinion
  • Thinking in black and white
  • Paranoia
  • Catastrophic thinking
  • Irrationality
  • Emotive judgement
The Chimp’s agenda is the perpetuation of the species and self-survival. It may have other objectives but the main agenda of The Chimp is to produce the next generation.

The Human is You

The Human is you, a conscious being that uses facts and logic to make decisions.
 
If you were to write down the person you would like to be; this is The Human part of your brain. It is your Chimp that hijacks your behaviours preventing you from being who you would like to be.
 
Some traits of logical (Human) thinking are:
 
  • Using evidence and facts
  • Rationality
  • Putting things in context with perspective
  • Seeing things in shades of grey with balanced thinking
The Humans agenda is to achieve self-fulfilment. This is usually about becoming the person you want to be and achieving the things you want to achieve.

The Computer – the final part of the ‘psychological mind’

 
The psychological mind also has a storage area for thoughts and behaviours called ‘The Computer’.
 
Your computer has two functions:
 
  • It can think and act automatically for you using programmed thoughts and behaviours.
  • It is a reference source for information, beliefs and values.
Potentially the Computer is more powerful than the Chimp and the Human because it is the reference source that both of them look to for help and guidance.
 
The Computer acts 20 times faster than the Human and 4 times faster than the Chimp. If the Chimp and Human are relaxed and are not worried, then you will automatically work with with the ComputerThis means you can perform routine tasks without conscious effort, as your Computer works according to automatic programmeHowever, if any danger or unusual cricumstances appear, then the Chimp or Human will wake up and take ovr.
 
You can programme your Computer to settle down the Chimp before it acts.

Key Points

  • You are The Human
  • Your Chimp is an emotional thinking machine
  • Your Computer is a storage area and acts automatically.
  • Any one of them can take complete control but they usually work together.

Applying The Chimp Model

Learning to accept and manage your Chimp is a skill that takes practise. You can not control your Chimp but you can manage it. By taking the time to get your Computer in correct working order, you can avoid Chimp hijacks.
 
Key Point: Managing your impulsive, emotional Chimp as an adult will be one of the biggest factors determining how successful you are in life.
 
There are a number of ways you can learn about The Chimp Model and how to apply it in your life.
You can read one of Professor Steve Peters Books:

Dr Steve Peters explains the struggle that takes place within your mind and then shows how to apply this understanding to every area of your life so you can:

  • Recognise how your mind is working
  • Understand and manage your emotions and thoughts
  • Manage yourself and become the person you would like to be

The Silent Guides

During our childhood we learn to manage emotions and thinking by developing coping strategies. These strategies, whether helpful or unhelpful, often progress into habits for life – our Silent Guides. Helpful habits can give many advantages in life. Unhelpful habits that persist into adult life usually bring stress and can be detrimental to our day to- day functioning, psychological health and relationships.

My Hidden Chimp is a book specifically for children and a companion book to The Silent Guides.

The children’s book features easy to follow explanations and simple strategies to help them understand how their mind works. With ten habits to put into practice, such as smiling, saying sorry and talking about your feelings, children can work on managing their behaviour and emotions and understand why they sometimes behave and feel the way they do.

You can also:
 

The Science Behind The Chimp Model

Consider some specific areas

If we consider the brain as a machine that can function in different ways, a valid question could be ‘can we develop the ability or skill to manage our brain, and make it work for us in the way that we want it to, all of the time?’ In other words, ‘be the person we want to be, have the emotions we want to have and always act in the way that we want to act?’

As a starting point to try and answer this question we will look at an example of how the brain deals with some input. This may help to understand how The Chimp Model developed.

 

 

1.  The amygdala (a chief emotional centre in the limbic area or limbic system)
2.  The orbito-frontal cortex (a smaller area on the outer edge of the frontal lobe)
3.  The uncinate fasciculus (the pathway joining the amygdala to the orbito-frontal cortex)
4.  The dorso-lateral pre-frontal cortex (part of the frontal lobe)
5.  The ventro-medial pre-frontal cortex (this is the area encircling pathway number
6.  The cingulate gyrus (this is a part of the limbic area).

The diagram shows six specific numbered areas of the brain. Research indicates that each one has a specific role to play and most have much more than one role to play. For example, the amygdala has as many as seventeen different nuclei each with its own specific role, most of which are based on emotional responses.  The cingulate cortex (or gyrus) is involved in memory formation, learning and decision-making.

To keep it simple and make it understandable we will consider just one role for each numbered area, even though some areas contribute to the same role.

Selected individual roles for each area of the brain

1. The amygdala is a fast acting defence mechanism that does not think but responds quickly
2. The orbito-frontal cortex acts by trying to control impulses and uses moral judgements to keep us within social norms.
3. The uncinate fasciculus is a moral guide providing us with a conscience and guilt
4. The dorso-lateral pre-frontal cortex works analytically thinking with logic
5. The ventro-medial pre-frontal cortex considers the feelings of others and empathises
6. The cingulate cortex is involved in decision-making influenced by past experience

There are two different thinking areas within the brain

It is in the outer edge of the brain, known as the cortex, where thinking takes place, where we put into good use our ‘grey matter’.  If the outer edge had just one area for thinking we wouldn’t have a problem.  However, there are at least two thinking and interpreting areas.

The dorso-lateral edge is interpreting in a rational logical way.  The orbito-frontal cortex is interpreting by impression, feelings and emotions and has direct links to the amygdala.  So this second way of thinking has ‘joined’ forces with the strongest emotional centre within the brain, the amygdala.  What we now have in effect are two interpreting brains.  One of them is virtually automatic and thinks for us without our input and is based on emotion.  The other is under our control and allows us to think, as we want to.  The trouble is that these two ’brains’ do not think the same way and they do not typically agree on the interpretation of what is going on.  We have a potential ‘battle’ within our head going on all the time!

The Chimp Model is a simplified way of understanding our two thinking brains

Is there an easy way to make sense of this and to manage the situation to our advantage? The Chimp Model offers a simplified way of understanding our two thinking brains and how we can learn to use them to the best of our ability.  A model is not pure scientific fact or a hypothesis.  It is just a simple representation to aid understanding and help us to use the science.  It may also help us to make sense of how we have been in the past, how we are now, and how we can manage ourselves better in the future.

In our model, the inner Chimp is the emotional team within the brain that thinks and acts for us without our permission. The logical team is the real person, it is you; rational, compassionate and humane, and is the Human within. The memory banks for reference are the Computer.

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