Your Chimp Troop (and Why You Need One)

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Chimp Paradox" by Steve Peters. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why do you need a chimp troop? How can belonging to one improve your health and happiness? How can you choose group members successfully? 

Your chimp troop is a small group of people who support you and provide companionship. Your inner Chimp wants to belong to a troop, but it can sometimes choose the wrong one. In his book The Chimp Paradox, Steve Peters tells you how to pick your troop and the qualities to look out for. 

Read on to discover more about your chimp troop and chimp management. 

What Is Your Chimp Troop? 

Your chimp troop is a small group of people who support and nurture you. It’s an important feature of your Planet of Other People because it provides you stability and happiness. 

Your Chimp has a natural drive to be part of a troop. In the wild, chimpanzees without a group of chimpanzees are unprotected against predators, and our inner Chimp feels the same way. Your inner Chimp will therefore go to great lengths to be a part of a troop. This means that your Chimp cares greatly about what other people think because if they think badly of your Chimp, they might exclude it. Consequently, your Chimp will conform to the norms, beliefs, and values of the group so as to stay included. 

Your Chimp’s drive for a chimp troop also means that it’s hyper-aware of who is or is not in your troop, and views people outside of it with suspicion. This can cause conflict when your Chimp reacts negatively to someone just because it perceives them as part of a different group.

Your Human also wants a troop, but less for survival and more for the benefits of living in a community where all people are cared for. Your Human wants to be popular and liked just as the Chimp does, but your Human recognizes that in a civilized society, you can disagree with members of your troop and not face exclusion and eventual death. Further, your Human tries to see people outside of your troop as potential friends, recognizing that not everyone is automatically an enemy just because they are different. 

Therefore, the Chimp and Human see other people fundamentally differently. To function effectively in the real world, you need to let your Human be courteous and personable with everyone, inside or outside of your troop, However, you do need to listen to your Chimp sometimes, too—the truth is, some people really are outside your group, and not everyone has your best interest at heart. 

Choosing Your Troop 

Your Chimp wants to create a group that protects it and aids its survival, and will look for members who can fill that purpose. It will look for:

  • A leader—unless your Chimp is the leader, in which case it will look for followers
  • People with status and wealth, who can boost the strength of the troop in society
  • People with superficial qualities like good looks 
  • Familiar people, such as people from your hometown or school. 

When choosing your chimp troop, chimp management is essential. Selecting your chimp troop with chimp management in mind will prevent you from choosing the wrong people. 

Your Human will look for more desirable troop members who can provide friendship, and will seek out people with personable qualities that complement you, such as:

  • Honesty
  • Loyalty
  • Sense of humor
  • Positive outlook
  • A general ability to control their own Chimp, so as to minimize arguments

Sometimes your Chimp and your Human will disagree on a member of the group. This might happen when someone has certain markers of success like popularity but is actually not a well-meaning person. For example, your Chimp might like to hang out with the party animal who has lots of friends, while your Human recognizes that this person has irresponsible lifestyle habits that can affect you negatively. In this case, choosing your chimp troop involves chimp management.

When choosing your troop, be careful to assign roles appropriately, so that the other members of the troop agree with their roles. For example, some people need a leader—this might be a boss or a doctor, or a childhood friend. However, if that other person doesn’t want to fulfill this role for you, you can’t expect them to, or you’ll end up with conflict.

Your Chimp Troop (and Why You Need One)

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Steve Peters's "The Chimp Paradox" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Chimp Paradox summary:

  • Why we struggle to control our urges, succumb to temptation, and sabotage our own success
  • How to manage your inner chimp to become happier, more balanced, and successful
  • Why your psychological world is like a solar system with 7 planets

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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