Chimp and Human

“We all have a Chimp, can you recognise yours?”

Emotions… they keep us company every day. They can be helpful and make us feel great, but they can also cloud rational thinking and take us down a spiral of negative thinking such as worry, fear, anxiety, frustration, stress, anger and so on. 

It can be difficult to manage these unhelpful emotions, but building awareness of why they appear, how they manifest themselves and recognising the triggers is a great starting point. 

To explain, I will use an analogy of a Chimp and Human. 

“Human” lives in the logical and analytical part of the brain. Human is responsible for making decisions, planning, using facts, truths and calculated risks. 

“Chimp” lives in our emotional part of the brain. Chimp is irrational, illogical, instinctive, uses feelings, black and white thinking, it likes to catastrophise. Chimp is 5 times faster and stronger than Human and once it comes out, it is difficult to tame it. Its purpose is survival! 

Chimp is there to protect you and it can be either your best friend ( protecting you from danger ) as well as your worst enemy - protecting you from perceived danger and stopping you from doing the things that matter to you. 

Let’s put that in context… Your boss has asked you if you would like to be involved in delivering a presentation that you know (this is your Human talking) will give you exposure in your company and will raise your profile. The problem is, you are afraid of public speaking, so your Chimp will now work very hard to protect you from what is uncomfortable, unfamiliar and scary. The Amygdala (the defence mechanism that works closely with our Chimp) will activate your fight, flight and freeze response and the Chimp will try to talk you out of delivering that presentation. Maybe you will delay making the decision (freeze) or decide not to take the opportunity at all as it is too scary, so you run away from it (flight). 

There is a constant battle between your Chimp and Human, and they are fighting for your attention. Whichever will gain control of you will win. If our Chimp manages to win, that’s ok, accept it. Once your emotions settle, reflect on it and think how you could have managed your Chimp better so you will be better prepared for it the next time it strikes.  

Written by Roksana Anning, Director of Apex Mindset Ltd