Exercise, Box, Banana
How to manage your Chimp
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Learning about Prof Steve Peters’ Chimp Paradox model has been incredibly useful for me and my clients, to understand how the emotional part of our brain works and how to manage it. I love his NEAT acronym. It’s Normal to have Chimp outbursts so we should Expect them to happen and Accept they are part of our emotional workings. When they do happen we need to Take care of the consequences including forgiving ourselves.
Last week I talked about how to nurture your Chimp brain. Until the needs of your Chimp are met, it will be in fight, flight or freeze more often. When your Chimp brain feels secure it can be managed in these three ways:
1. Exercising your Chimp
We can’t think clearly when we are high in emotion. It’s something I contract on with my clients, that all feelings are ok in the coaching room and they are encouraged. If something has made your Chimp angry, frustrated, sad, or powerless, then it needs to express this in a safe and appropriate way before it can be reasoned with. If you have close contact with little ones you’ll know exactly what I mean.
The key thing to remember here is that the emotions need to be released in a safe and appropriate way, meaning with someone who knows it’s your Chimp talking and not you, and will let you talk and talk for as long as you need to without interruption. Something else I contract on with my clients. There is no need to apologise for saying what you need to out loud, that is why coaching can be so powerful. It’s not rambling or nonsensical it’s exercising your Chimp.
For many years my safe and appropriate way was with my therapist. I could say anything to her and know that there was no judgement and it wouldn’t go anywhere.
Over time I developed friends and got married to someone I felt safe with, a vigorous Les Mills Body Combat class is great for anger, yoga for when I’m feeling burnt out (Yoga with Adriene is my fav) and of course you can’t go past Greys Anatomy when you need a good cry (well prior to the last few seasons).
There is also writing. Done freely with no judgement, censorship or editing, it can be a great way for your Chimp to get it all out.
You may need to exercise your Chimp a few times before it’s ready to be reasoned with and sometimes your Chimp won’t need to be exercised at all. If it is calm enough to be reasoned with go to 2.
2. Boxing your Chimp
I feel like tucking in your Chimp in would be a better analogy here. Once your Chimp is calm your human brain can come in and reason with it.
When I’m about to run a workshop or it’s the first session with a new client it’s not unusual for my Chimp to get scared. So I ask, “tell me about being scared?” I take time to acknowledge the fear and reassure my Chimp that it’s going to be ok with examples of prior success.
Because my Chimp is well nurtured and exercised I can reason with it. Maybe that feeling is excitement for the as yet unknown insights, maybe we can use that excitement.
Everyone has to find their own way to talk to their Chimp, or as Prof Steve says, to find the truth that will calm your Chimp down.
For me the hardest situation to manage is if I feel like I’ve been wronged or I’m disappointed. My Chimp loves to hold onto that feeling and my Human brain has to work overtime to help the Chimp let it go. Sometimes we just have to accept that life is not always fair and that we are going to be disappointed and that it sucks.
3. The banana
Exercising and boxing your Chimp are long term techniques that become easier over time but sometimes you need a short term fix to get you over a particular hurdle and that’s where banana’s come in.
The Distraction Banana
Your Chimp brain is much stronger than your Human brain and if you let it take over it will run rampant. So often a distraction can be helpful. Like when you’re waiting for a friend who is late, you could let your Chimp brain take over and start telling you how they are always late and they have no respect for you OR you could read a book or browse the web.
The Reward Banana
I use this one a lot. If I spend an hour on this now I can watch an episode of my favourite show. It’s surprising just how motivated your Chimp gets in these scenarios.
Banana’s are a useful short term solution not a permanent fix.
What do you think?
What are the ways you manage your Chimp?