The Chimp Paradox part 1: dealing with anger - a needless, unhelpful and unwanted emotion!
Recent events have prompted me to consider how our emotions, particularly anger, can have a negative impact on our mental health.
I absolutely hate arguing with people and find it very damaging to my mental health, so I try to do everything I can to avoid ever coming into contact with this needless emotion!
But unfortunately that's not always possible!
Why can’t I cope with anger?
It was anger that first disrupted my dormant bipolar disorder because it threw me off my perch and prompted the onset of my first depression.
The subsequent fracture to my mind is something that I’ve had to nurse and protect repeatedly over the last twenty years, so I try to avoid disagreement at all costs!
Unfortunately, there has been a repeated cycle of disruption, illness, and recovery that I’ve had to contend with through the whole of my adult life which means that it’s been lived on an impossible (and terrifying) rollercoaster of extreme mood and emotion.
This is something that I managed to finally, finally extricate myself from last autumn when I got off the rollercoaster for good and started to live where everyone else is; on a much more gentle, undulating, train ride through life instead.
But, recently there’s been some disruption in my life and it’s sent me parachuting (only temporarily I hope) back to the beginning where my illness first started.
I think I’m going to be able to dodge this bipolar bullet this time because I now have so much knowledge and weaponry at my disposal, but whenever I experience anger these days (either in myself or from others), it immediately sends me back to a place I don't want to revisit - so it’s something I basically run from like the bubonic plague!
What is the point of anger?!
This is a very good question and one I’ve been deliberating over the last few days!
To me it seems like a needless emotion which only causes harm to both the person experiencing it and to those around them. Because of this, I did a bit of research last night into the origin of anger and how it’s stuck with us through evolution. This is what I found…
Historically, anger’s role was one of survival and was associated with unlocking hidden energy to serve as a shield and protection mechanism.
Fortunately, we are not continually having to run away from danger or hunt for our food as our ancestors once did, but unfortunately, our brains have not changed or developed to accommodate for this!
This means that when the ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in there becomes a confliction in the mind because we can’t rationalise or attribute our feelings to an obvious cause.
This can give rise to problems in our mental health through the development of anxiety and/or depression and other mental illnesses.
The answer to all of this is to educate ourselves so that we can learn to manage our minds better – something that is sadly completely overlooked in psychiatry today!
Revisiting The Chimp Paradox
Recent events have reminded me of a book I read during my recovery from severe bipolar disorder called the Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters.
I’ve read a couple of Professor Peter’s books after reading that he helped the British cycling team to their huge successes at the London Olympics.
His book is based on the premise that the psychological mind is made up of three components:
You are the Human
Your Chimp is an emotional thinking machine
Your Computer is a storage area and automatic functioning machine
I remember reading ‘The Chimp Paradox’ when I was on holiday in France about five or six years ago, and my friends and I still refer to the Chimp now, because it made us laugh so much at the time!
Rereading some of the main take-out points has really helped me to understand myself, manage my emotions, dissipate anger, and regain some balance this week - I highly recommend that others read or revisit it too!
A story of two halves
I have decided to split this post into two parts because there’s too much to discuss in one sitting!
Tomorrow, I will be discussing the Chimp paradox in detail and explaining how we can use mind management to help our mental health and lead happier more balanced lives.
So be sure to check back in!
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,