I am the sort of person who builds up a lot of things in my head before they actually happen, like exams, races and sometimes social events. I don’t have anxiety, just a case of some rather ruthless butterflies. Exams and races, for example, are high adrenaline situations that stimulate a fight-or-flight response. In my personal experience I almost always want to flee, but stay to fight because I know that I don’t have much of a choice – either I’m already sat at the start line, or I’m in the exam hall waiting for the invigilators to say that we can begin. This affects my performance as a consequence.
A couple of years before I started university (and rowing), I used to do flat water kayaking (ironically named, as the water was very rarely flat). It was here that my coach introduced me to the idea of the Chimp Paradox. Fast forward a few years, and you have me today reading the book about it by Professor Steve Peters.
It’s not my usual cup of tea (I’d much rather be reading some YA fiction) and it is the first “self help” book I’ve ever read, but so far it has been very insightful. It describes a model featuring three parts of your mind: the human (rational thought, considers the consequences before acting), the chimp (irrational, acts impulsively on thought and emotion) and the computer (a store of all your learned beliefs and behaviours). According to Peters, you cannot outsmart your chimp, but you are still responsible for its actions, which is why we “let our emotions get the better of us” sometimes, or say things without thinking, that we don’t really mean.
I won’t spoil it for you (mainly because I don’t think that I’d be able to do it justice) but I’m just going to strongly recommend that you read it, and take your time doing so. Unless you dedicate yourself entirely to reading it, it can take a while to pick up on some of the concepts and actually benefit from it.
If you’ve read it, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments!