Good Morning Writers! ~ Embrace Your Inner Chimp

March 2019

I totally forgot this book. Haven’t read it but I liked the idea and it shaped my thought that we need to accept the fact that there is something very ancient working in our minds that often makes us react in unlogical ways.

November 2014

How is your writing going? Do you have new plans or are you still working on an old project? Do you achieve what you have planned or is your inner monkey playing you up?

Last week I saw Steve Peters on Russel Howard’s Good News. For all those who have never heard of the man: He is a psychiatrist who has worked for many years in Rampton high-security Hospital with patients with serious personality disorders. But he is most known for leading British cyclists Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton to victory. He is also a teacher at Sheffield University.

His model of the human brain and how some parts of it can sabotage everything you want to achieve seems ingenious to me: According to Peters the human brain works in three parts:

– the chimp: emotion-driven, black & white thinking, 5 times faster reacting like the logical part
– the human: logic driven, thinking in different shades of grey, longing for self-fulfilment
– the computer: filing every experience ever made both good and bad.

Peters says that you cannot outsmart the chimp. It is that ancient part in our brains that is set on survival but if you know how to deal with it it can be your best friend.

The example goes like this: You have written your book and you edited it and now it is going out to publishers for publishing. Suddenly all your fears and anxieties pop up: I am not a good enough writer, my grammar is all wrong, my story has been written before. And you do not send it. That is the chimp part of your brain kicking in. There is only the perfect book (those of the others) or the worst book (yours). It is the chimps black & white thinking.

Peters says you cannot stop that. The chimp is too ancient to stop but you can give it some time and let it tell you everything it wants. Just let it all out. After that, after it feels like it is taken seriously the human part can kick in and bring in all the facts that show the opposite: The good grades you got in English, the competition you won… (If you have every had Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy you will recognise this system as questioning your own negative believes and changing them into positive ones.)

Then you allow yourself not to compare yourself to others but to only achieve your personal best. Do the best you can, get all the help you can and you’ll win. Well, yes, of course, this is just a simplified version of a long process but I think it can give you some ideas about how to work with your anxieties.

Fighting with depression and anxiety for many years I have experienced that suppressing these sabotaging emotions does not work at all. They come out one way or the other anyway. But giving them a voice, giving that inner child the feeling it is heard and taken seriously makes it much more able to work in your favour.

Of course, this is not that easy to do this: It is a process that needs years of training to recognise you own chimps and finding ways to make them feel happy and work with you, but it is possible as athletes like Hoy and Pendleton have shown.

And I encourage you to take good care of your inner chimp, inner child, and inner artists to get you to the best result that you can possibly achieve. May your writing be blessed this week.

video source: Improvement Psychology via YouTube

If you want to learn more about Steve Peters “The Chimp Paradox” find the book and others here


Steve Peters on Wikipedia

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