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on 14 December 2013
Life-changing is over used hyperbole in the self-help 'new you' book market but that's exactly what this book is. Written in a very simple style it walks us through an intuitive model of how our minds work that's linked to what we know about the physical structure of the brain. If you read it carefully and do the exercises at the back of each chapter it will absolutely change your life.

The genius of the book is that Peters takes complex information about the physical structure of our brain and builds a complementary psychological model that explains how each part contributes to our 'in-mind' experience each and everyday.

The model is made of the following components;

There's our inner Chimp, the emotional part of our brain, designed by evolution to support our survival, it's thinking is characterised by feelings and paranoia, it works on impressions and interpretations, not facts and responds up to fives times faster than our rational brain.

There's our Human mind, which is rational, weighs up evidence and reaches careful and deliberate conclusions using cognition. It is where our highest values of humanity reside, it is where we can strategically plan our actions and think through the consequences of events and arrive at balanced and considered conclusions. It works five times slower than the Chimp.

And then there's the Computer, a bank of a remembered experiences full of automatic habits and responses, some good, some bad, the place where both our Human and our Chimp look for association and similar experiences when processing what's happening to us. The Computer works twenty times faster than our Human and four times faster than the Chimp.

Peters says that the first thing we need to do inside our heads is recognise these three powerful structures in our mind, if we do not we will always be running to catch up with ourselves.

The Chimp is as much a part of us as our Human brain and if we don't learn to manage the Chimp it may keep getting us into trouble again and again and again. The Chimp (emotional brain) is ancient, strong and fast-moving and as it works five times faster than the Human, it will sometimes beat that part of ourselves to responding. The Chimp is always active when we are unsettled or worried, it tends to think in black and white absolute terms, can be paranoid and often catastrophises things. As it was designed to keep us safe in a very dangerous prehistoric past you can see why it has been designed by natural selection to be like this. However it's fast, strong and often vicious responses don't often resolve many of the complex 21st century problems our lives are now full of. In our adolescent children the Chimp is often pumped up on hormones and also, with teenage self-esteem so brittle, the adolescent Chimp may see potential threats and slights much more readily than our more settled adult Chimps does.

Steven Peters recipe for managing the Chimp runs thus;

1. Recognise you have a Chimp and that it will respond sometimes when you are angry, stressed or perceive any kind of threat (physical or psychological or reputational) and it moves much more quickly than the Human part of your brain and it will likely embarrass you with its responses. It might shout and rage, be rude and angry or violent;

2. Watch for Chimp-like responses, these are easy to spot, they are responses which when you reflect later aren't ones you're proud of. They are likely the ones that if you had your time again you'd do differently, or they are the responses that you might, with the benefit of hindsight, think you need to apologise for;

3. Be aware that everyone has a Chimp and managing it is an everyday challenge, when we're tired or stressed our Chimp becomes more difficult to control and can overwhelm us more easily. Observe other people's responses,you can see Chimp behaviour everywhere;
4. Having become aware of your Chimp you can work on boxing your Chimp, ignoring it's instinctive and rapid reaction and giving yourself some thinking time to work out a better, more Human response;

5. We can use the Computer part of our brain, our automated habits, to put in responses faster than the Chimp can react. This takes time and practice, but if we make a conscious effort to put in a different response to the impulsive Chimp one, we can develop what Peters calls an Autopilot, which is a ---script or response that overrides the unhelpful Chimp response before it can be enacted.

________________________________________________________________________

Example of Computer trumping Chimp

Someone pulls in front of you when you're driving and instead of offering them some creative and energetic hand gestures, flashing your lights and standing on your horn you simply imagine that they are having a very difficult day, have an emergency to get to or simply didn't see you. This is an autopilot you had already programmed in over several days in preparation for the inevitable bad behaviour you sometimes see on the road. This means you do not react, drive more aggressively or head out into road-rage and instead arrive at your own destination calm and untrammeled by the experience that could have potentially de-stabilised your mood. (This kind of automated response will take training and practice developing an autopilot because each time it happens your chimp will react and respond very quickly and it's only the Computer part of your mind that can beat it.)
________________________________________________________________________

6. A Chimp response is a natural, if unhelpful response. As it is a prehistoric and simple creature it responds in simplistic, emotional ways. It's responses are not nuanced and complex enough to cope with anything beyond life or death survival. We can never be rid of it, but we can recognise it and circumvent it.

7. Nurture your autopilot responses to events or circumstances that keep recurring so you can ensure that the Chimp response doesn't define you.

8. Reflect on your responses during the day, identify Chimp-like responses and look at alternative ways of responding. You have to take responsibility for your chimp's responses.

9. Anticipate the Chimp, look ahead each day to see the moments when the Chimp might be more likely to react and respond so you can out think it in advance
10. The Chimp needs to be safe and secure in order to be calm, if you keep getting a Chimp response then it will because you are not feeling safe and secure (psychologically or physically or reputationally) and in order to address this repeated Chimp response you will need to address its anxieties regarding safety and security before it will be calm and you can respond with your Human rather than your Chimp.

Heartily recommended.

***** (A Rare five stars)
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on 9 January 2012
this book is fantastic... i have been a profesional sportsman for 20n years winning 3 world titles..4 uk champs..4 masters titles plus many more titles... my journey has not always been the the best in terms of how i have felt about it.. many times vowing to retire.. it has been that hard.. in this time i have worked with many people to try and help me through the journey... and in my opionion nothing has come close to how this book explains things.. this book really helps you make the descions for yourself.. it gives you he tools to deal with all things life can throw at you.. it has enabled me to to see the wood through the trees.. it has helped me see that i was not going mad.. i just was not able to understand how my mind the machine works..i now am able to play snooker and not feel that my self worth depends on winning a game of snooker.. which i have done for years.. yes i still want to win.. but i dont need to define my self through having to win every snooker game i play in..i now feel able to play.. and handle the the negative thoughts which used to make me wanna lose and go home..and tell my self i did not want to compete..i had that mind set for years..
the book has also helped me make good choices in making time for the people who really matter in life.. this is called the troop.. and how much better life has got since getting the right people back in my life..tjhis has made i massive difference to my life.. it is ongoing.. and needs you to put the work in.. it wont just happen.. you need to make it happen.. the book really does offer simple but effective ways on how to really improve your life..i have red many self help books.. and worked with many people the field of self help.. and nothing comes close to to this model.. anyone can get something out of reading the book.. its one of those books u just wanna buy for people you know..u just know they will thank you for it.. and say i really got a lot out reading the book...and lets be honest .. what price can u put on being happy?..
Ronnie O'Sullivan
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on 30 May 2015
It took me some months to complete this book. Not because it is tedious or badly written but because the concepts take time to absorb and begin to make sense.

Peters' credentials, his work with British Cycling, are flawless. The language used is clearly designed to be understood by the vast majority of people. The concepts are, however, hardcore science and very powerful. Watch out for self-help junkies commenting negatively - if they can quote a string of other books they deem better then clearly nothing so far is working for them. This book will work for most people willing to listen and implement the lessons.

Take your time. If you're going to change your life you won't do it by reading a book in 24 hours. It will take months, maybe a year or two. Understand each idea totally before moving to the next. Each idea on its own is relatively easy to grasp but there are loads of them and stitching them all together in a useful way takes time and patience.

I found some of the metaphors confusing at times. Humans and chimps fine. Then add computers, gremlins, goblins, autopilots and it's starting to get mixed up. And then add stones of life, planets, moons, and at one point cogs, and you wonder if there may have been a more consistent method of presenting the ideas. Don't make the mistake of dismissing the messages because you don't like how they are delivered though. See through the metaphorical irritations.

At the start of the book I had a highly paid but stressful job 200 miles from home, living out of a suitcase 4 days a week. Irritable, irritated, and irritating to others. Today, as I finish it, I've changed jobs, pay cut but still comfortably paid, a short commute from home. Changed the car, and have gone on holiday for the first time in 2 years. I felt my life changing as soon as I made decisions to solve everything making me stressed and unhappy, as soon as I started managing that chimp inside me and learning to recognise and deal with other chimps around me.

I must've changed to others too. Not only did I walk the interview for my new job but my old colleagues, with the single exception of the boss (complete with out of control misplaced ego / chimp) who was recipient of some honest feedback, all said how they would genuinely miss me with an affection I hadn't realised existed. At home and with friends I'm more relaxed and sociable, less introverted and more confident than I can ever recall since very young childhood.

Next task... start the book again from the beginning as I'm sure I've missed things or not really understood them first time. I expect my journey to take a year or so but others may take more or less time. A friend also reading the book is going slower than me. It is good to have someone else working through the book though as you can talk chimp things through without appearing a nutcase.

Don't rush this - it's like doing a university course over a couple of terms not a weekend read. No-one can guarantee success but I wish those who give it a genuine go the very best of luck, though you make your own luck really and this book shows you how. Off for some sangria overlooking the blue ocean now. Thanks Dr Steve Peters.
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on 20 September 2015
An amazing book introduced to me by a friend. I feel that it has helped me better understand myself as well as others and can carry myself forward better than I have with previous self-help books. Would recommend this to anyone that is uncertain of themselves or want to make a positive change in their lives, one small step at a time!
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on 2 April 2016
The author labours an extended metaphor and could be considered a little patronising at times. The science is not groundbreaking and Peters acknowledges it is vastly simplified. Peters repeats himself often and the content of many chapters seems to overlap. Despite (or because of) this 'The Chimp Paradox' was a slow read - only a 346 page book but it took me 3 holiday days to read (maybe because I kept pausing to do the exercises and make notes). And it is brilliant!
This book offers a paradigm which can make further reading about the mind more accessible and it creates a vernacular to discuss personality, mental health and success. My family have each received a copy for their birthday's this year and as a teacher I wish I could give a copy to every teenager in my form and say read this: understand yourselves better, be more successful and stress less!
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on 11 September 2012
Honestly, I had to decide between 5 stars and 2.5 for this book.

In the end, I gave it 5 stars, because the basic premise of the book, the idea that we have a 'chimp' who cannot change or be changed, but who we need to manage, has been so liberating to me.

I have a tendency to be anxious and am always very hard on myself. I work in a teaching environment, so I expect that I should be able to learn from past mistakes and shouldn't (for example) get anxious over trivialities. Yet, despite learning CBT techniques, I still find myself getting anxious about whether I have done well enough at work or what other people think of me (although I hide it well and come across as very confident). This has given me even more reason to beat myself up and so the cycle continued.

Now when I get anxious, I simply see it as my chimp playing up. It is something I cannot stop, but I can try and foresee and manage. My life hasn't turned around, but it has radically improved just by this one type of mental imagery.

I also appreciated the emphasis on values and how these define us as humans, which allowed me to get perspective on some issues.

This book should not be read as a psychology text book or as a guide to the workings of the brain. It is a suggested mindset to help deal with life, for those who find they struggle (and that's most of us sometimes). As I see it, the chimp represents evolutionary drives, the 'human' is the essences of me/you or conscious selves.

OK - now for the bad bit. The structure of the book does not make sense. There is a computer and an autopilot, there are goblins and gremlins, there are various planets and moons and in amongst them all friends, success, stress and communication. It's all just too confusing and muddled. Maybe it will make more sense on second reading, or perhaps these are areas to be dipped into when needed. But ideally, I think the author should re-think/re-write the structure.

I would still recommend this book without hesitation though.
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on 12 April 2012
I heard Dr Steve Peters on the radio where he described, in outline, his work with the British Olympic cycling team. It was enough to get the gist and then buy the book. Having read other reviews, which varied from enthusiasm to irritation, I think the reader needs to be someone comfortable with metaphor; he uses a lot. As someone at ease with metaphor and anecdotal story telling I found the authors style accessible and illustrative.

It is possible to get the gist of his thesis in the first 30 / 40 pages; understanding and managing two competing personal reactions to new or emerging situations. I found that enough to start thinking about how I might apply what he is saying to my own interests, i.e. a non sportsman and retired ex professional. After the initial pitch in those early pages Dr Peters begins to nuance the story with added layers to his thesis. And this is where I have come unstuck because my son has borrowed the book before I can finish it! Is that not a recommendation?

Dr Peter's work is grounded in his earlier experience of working with alchohol abusers. He has adapted his learning and experience to work with top flight sportsmen and women, who sing his praises. So my interest, in part,lies in thinking how this work might be applied to other groups I remain interested in such as: the soon to be and recently retired, young people, managing conflict in the workplace.

The book is not a dry academic textbook, neither is it airport bum fluff. There are serious and interesting issues within it that are described in a useable way.

I've already recommended it to friends and used the premis of Dr Peter's theory within minutes of reading about it.
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on 29 May 2016
I would recommend this book. It has many helpful and clearly laid out things to say on many important topics. It deals mostly with the balance between our emotional thinking which it calls the chimp and our more rational thinking which it calls the human. It also looks at the more automatic functions of our brains which we can influence and change which it calls the computer.
Topics include a look at these different parts of our brain and how to wrk with them perhaps especially how to work with our emotions to damp down stress and anxiety and unhelpful lines of thought and how to work towards success, happiness and security however we define them.
Two things I find particularly helpful are that our chimp and human don't always agree and how to manage that and also that chimp thinking is very black and white and can be catastrophic.so when I see that in myself I can manage it a bit better and so beat myself up less.
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on 3 February 2012
A brilliant, brilliant, brilliant book. I am a GP and former medical student who was taught by Dr Steve Peters. This book has helped me in my own personal life and I have started to use the techniques to help my patients. The changes this model can make to the outlook and mental health problems of my patients has been amazing. With regards to myself this is helping me achieve my goals in my amateur sports and in dealing with the huge pressure that comes from practising medicine. By adopting the chimp model I can operate in a calm manner that allows my 'computer' to work freely and me to be the best GP I can to my patients, optimise my life with my very busy surgeon husband and enjoy my free time effectively. I have used it in my amateur sports of tennis, swimming and running and the effect is so powerful. I have gone from being able to practice at tennis with any of the good players at my club yet falling apart in matches to now enjoying playing matches and playing well in them!!

A huge burden of the work of a GP is mental health problems and this is a fantastic book for people to help heal themselves. However, this is not just a book for those with anxiety or depression or another mental health problem, it is a book for anyone and I believe everyone would benefit from reading it. Everyone has a 'chimp', so everyone can get a lot out of this book and therefore more out of life. I have already recommended it to my friends, medical and non medical, as I rate it so highly. £11.99, (the price of a take away pizza) for a better life?! No contest in my opinion!
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on 23 May 2012
Steve Peters is a genius. When you have spent years being told you are too direct, too difficult to deal with, you have an attitude problem, and always wear your heart on your sleeve, it hurts, but it makes you fight the world more and you end up hurting yourself in the end. Reading this book was so enlightening, I laughed and I cried, Steve has a way of making you see yourself through other peoples eyes but not in a bad way. I became embarrassed at the thought of what I had become and WANTED to put it right without feeling I had to change because I was being told to. I can honestly say when I read the section on "what a chimp wants" I was horrified at how accurate this was to my own personality, despite initially laughing at it, it gave me food for thought and how much I wanted to be different. Knowing I'm not a bad person but appearing that way was awful. Now I feel stronger, more confident despite endless traumas in my life, I'm not fighting the world now I'm trying hard to be a better person and the rewards are amazing. You do have to take a step back and a long look at yourself, but the realisation of how much can change if you make the effort is worth the hard work. Thank you Steve, you are my hero. x
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