According to Dr Steve Peters, in The Chimp Paradox, as well as the Chimp and the Human, the brain has a third ‘part’: the Computer- which is actually many different parts of the brain. Both the Chimp and the Human can ‘programme’ the Computer, and most of us are carrying around programmes our Chimp set up in childhood, based on copying our care-givers, or possibly doing the opposite of what they were doing.
In Transactional Analysis these are known as ‘drivers’, and there are 5 key drivers which commonly cause problems because we unconsciously follow them, even when they are not really in our best interests. Most people have a combination of two, but sometimes more, drivers.
Are you, like me, the kind of person who prides themselves on rushing around and getting lots done? Do you rarely take time out just to relax, feeling guilty if you’re not accomplishing anything?
You probably have lots of friends and are known for being super kind and helpful. Underneath though, you may be getting fed up with no-one ever showing you the care and consideration you show others.
You have a lot of determination and persistence, but often are not really satisfied with what you achieve. You often feel anxious, and are very sensitive to criticism.
You achieve a lot, but are always worried about making a mistake, and may suffer from imposter syndrome.
You are always there to help others, but see it as a sign of weakness to ask for help yourself. You rarely show emotion. Under stress you tend to withdraw into yourself.
We are not always fully aware of our drivers, and if you would like to explore this more, I have created a quiz (see below), which also makes more specific suggestions to help overcome the negative impacts of these drivers on your life.
How to manage your drivers
Once you are aware of which of the 5 key drivers you tend towards, the next stage is to try and spot them in action. This is where developing a mindfulness practice can help, as when we are acting under a driver we are usually ‘unconscious’, or on automatic pilot.
Having noticed them, you can set up a deliberate counter-argument in your brain. For example, as I am aware of my tendency to ‘hurry up’, I will often stop and breathe and tell myself ‘I have all the time I need’. You can also create new habits, such as leaving 5-10 minutes cushion time between activities, so that you are not rushing from place to place. These new thoughts and habits will not come naturally, and you may feel some emotional unease, but just notice that too, and carry on.
The ‘Computer’ is simply a series of short cuts that your brain has created, and by deliberately going against the programming you can rewire it over time, so that it doesn’t drive you in the same way. This doesn’t mean completely changing your personality: if you have the ‘hurry up’ driver, you will probably always incline towards wanting to be super productive and fast, but it does mean that you can mitigate the negative impacts, so that you are not unconsciously driven to do this even when it would serve you better to be relaxing. And when you get frustrated about your drivers, remember that the Chimp programmed you that way in order to look after you, and keep you safe. It’s just that now, you, the Human part of the brain, knows better, and can take a more sophisticated view.