This is the best overview I have seen:
The psychiatrist, who has worked at Rampton high security hospital and helped in the search for the Soham killer, Ian Huntley, applies an extended primate analogy – expounding in his best-selling mind-management manual The Chimp Paradox how the brain comprises a rational “human” part and an emotional, rash “chimp” component (with a third part, “the computer”, storing information and experiences.)
The key to happiness and success is managing the inner chimp – the carrier of fear, emotion and irrational thought; the part of you which will always want to jump to an immediate opinion, see things in black and white, think the worst and put you through hell. Managing the chimp allows you to make the logical decisions on the field of play, rather than be bullied by emotion.
The analogy is purposefully amusing but has a serious scientific base. By using an MRI scanner you can actually see blood flowing into different parts of the brain when you are making rational or emotional decisions. Those Peters has worked with – Craig Bellamy, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Taekwondo athlete Sarah Stevenson and the England rugby team that reached the World Cup final in 2007 – will tell you they are training the brain, a functioning machine, to manage emotion. Every brain is different but the process typically involves a relentless application to the same pre-match preparations.
Peters is perhaps the most unlikely success story in British coaching. His background is in serious mental health – for 12 years he was based at Rampton high-security hospital, working with individuals suffering from severe personal disorders – and he never watches sport on television.
At lunch, we chatted with Dr. Stephen Peters of Britain, a world champ and record-holding sprinter, with his tax-accountant lady pal and some friends. He claimed he doesn’t jog in warmup
The Chimp Paradox is refreshingly free of psychobabble, making it very accessible. This is something Peters says is probably due to his background in education.
“I’ve been a lecturer at Sheffield University for 20 years now,” he says, “and when you’re teaching doctors it’s very important to get your ideas across simply and effectively so they can use them in a practical way.”
Peters says he has “cheated a bit by simply saying there’s a chimp and a human”, because in fact there are between six and 10 different bits of the brain that “think”. But that would be too hard to explain. “The chimp, on the other hand, is a concept everybody can grasp and which is usable.”