Top half of headless mannequin dressed in jacket, suit and tie: with handkerchief in top left hand pocket.

In The Chimp Paradox, Dr Steve Peters likens emotional outbursts to a chimp’s hijack of the brain. Primitive thinking invades the rational mind.  

Adrenalin is released through the body as imagined threats gain traction. 

This is cause for concern: as Peters observes,

‘…When this adrenalin is coupled with negative thoughts, your Chimp will go into an anxiety state.’1

A chimp in an anxious state is an emotional mess. However, it is only a chimp. We are in control, and so we move our chimp with exercise, walking, running, dancing, cycling or swimming. Occupy it with movement—something it understands.

An alternative to the exercising scenario would be to contain the chimp. One way in which you can do this is to imagine the chimp. Then drain all the colour from your mental image of it. As soon as the image is black and white, shrink the image down to the size of a postage stamp. Then downsize to a pinhead, then make it so small you can flick it away with your finger.

If the visualisation is not for you, you can always feed the chimp; but give it something healthy like a banana. 

Identify who or what triggers a negative emotional response in you. This shows awareness. Assume control. Start by identifying the behaviour or fabric you would rather wear. Then address the pattern that needs cutting. What you want is to separate the default behaviour triggered by your chimp from what the logical you would rather do. 

So, you choose a new behaviour or fabric. And a new pattern of response forms in your mind. Rehearse until perfect, making sure you exercise to disperse the adrenalin in your system. It brings together intention and solution; you are an emotional tailor.

If it is a thing or an event that triggers negative emotions, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a solution. It is non-invasive way to access a controlled positive response. It can help rewire your unwanted instinctual response.

The way it works: You say what is that is bothering you as you tap your finger on key acupuncture points. 

‘The words direct the subconscious mind to the specific problem you want the tapping to address. However, if you are ‘in’ the problem before you begin to tap, and you are feeling panicky or tearful, for example, then don’t worry about the words, just tap; you already have the attention of your subconscious mind and there is no need for direction.’2

EFT is a powerful, though gentle tool. There are many examples of it on YouTube, but look for the work of founder Garry Craig for a comprehensive introduction. With EFT you are in control, and your understanding and response to a situation are empowered.

However, if the issue is with another person, chances are they too will have a chimp—one that is ready to bounce in and cause havoc. Their response to you regarding their behaviour and speech is also an emotional tell. They might respond more passive aggressively or politically, but their behaviour will give them away. Remember, they too might feel threatened and/or scared. Consider their response an act of theatre. Do not let their emotional energy trigger your chimp. Your chimp has seen it all before and now recognises it for what it is—theatre.

The difference between you is that they have not yet learned to tailor their behaviour. They are at the mercy of their chimp. You, however, have mastered the art of emotional tailoring.


1. Peters, S. (2012) The Chimp Paradox. London, Random House. ISBN 9780091935580.  PG 33

2. Beer, S & Roberts, E. (2013) Step-by-Step Tapping: EFT – The amazing self-help technique to heal mind and body. London, Gaia. ISBN 978 1 85675 328 9

#emotion #response #control #tailoring

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