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  • Writer's pictureAalia Phiri

The Chimp Paradox: Dealing with monsters of the mind

The Book

The Chimp Paradox by Doctor Steve Peters is the book I decided to read for our personal development class. The Chimp Paradox is a mind-management system that aims to make readers happier, healthier, more confident, and more successful (Peters, 2011). I selected this book because the title piqued my curiosity and I wanted to learn more about the Chimp Paradox. After reading the book, I can say it was one of the best books I could have chosen for this course.

What did the Chimp Paradox teach me?

Although the human brain is a complex organ wherein every part plays a role in forming an individual's personality, Doctor Steve Peters divides the brain into three sections: the Chimp (the irrational and emotional side within us), the Human (the sensible and coherent side), and the Computer (the unconscious part that stores information and acts automatically). These three brains make up the psychological mind, and they all function together, or at least try to, but frequently come into disputes, leading us to behave in unfavourable ways.

The entire book is both intriguing and useful, but the section regarding the computers components, notably the Gremlins and Goblins, resonated with me. A Gremlin is “an unhelpful or destructive belief or behaviour that is removable” and a Goblin is “an unhelpful or destructive belief or behaviour that is firmly fixed and extremely difficult to remove” (Peters, 2011). Furthermore, Goblins are hard-wired into the computer at a young age, but Gremlins appear after the age of eight, are soft-wired, and are relatively easy to remove.

One of each comes to me when I think of my own Gremlins and Goblins that I have to deal with and hope I can repair. I have a Gremlin that believes everything should be flawless. Nothing and no one is flawless, as we all know, and expecting perfection is unreasonable. This largely impacts me now at university, where I have a propensity to slightly obsess over things being perfect, or when I used to work and had to create presentations for my manager, where I took longer than I should have because I fixated over everything being perfect. One of my Goblins is that I have trouble saying something unless I'm sure I'm correct. I have struggled with this since I was a child in school, and even now at university, I usually don’t answer questions in class because even if I'm 90% confident I'm correct, there is still a possibility I'm wrong and may end up embarrassing myself.

How to deal with Gremlins and Goblins

Dealing with Goblins is something that requires professional assistance; nonetheless, the book offers suggestions on how to get rid of Gremlins. The first option is to transform a Gremlin into an Autopilot by eliminating it. Autopilots are "constructive and helpful automatic behaviours and beliefs" (Peters, 2011). As a result, one must first locate their Gremlin and replace it with acceptable truths.

The second solution is to replace the Gremlin named "Should" with "Could." The word "should" conjures up thoughts of judgement, shame, or failure, but the word "could" conjures up feelings of possibility, empowerment, and transformation. Subsequently, doing this is beneficial since it provides us with a reality that is simpler and more reasonable to live by. Referring back to my Gremlin, "Everything should be flawless," I can alter it with "everything could be flawless," which allows for the potential that things will not be perfect and that is perfectly all right.

The final recommendation is to write down Gremlins as they emerge and then work on each one individually to turn them into Autopilots. The Autopilots we choose to substitute them with need to ring true to us, or they will not function (Peters, 2011, pp 96-113). All of these recommendations are quite helpful, and I will be implementing them as soon as possible. However, considering removing Gremlins and replacing them with Autopilots can take many weeks or months, and because Gremlins have a tendency to resurface, I hope that in a year or two, I will be able to firmly state that I have successfully removed the Gremlin listed above, as well as others.


Peters. S. (2011). The Chimp Paradox. New York: Penguin Group.

Peters. S. (2011). ‘The Guiding Moon (Part 2): How to manage your computer’, in Peters. S. (Ed.). The Chimp Paradox. New York: Penguin Group, pp. 96-113

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