Friday, January 11, 2019

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 11th January 2019: "The Silent Guides / My Hidden Chimp" by Prof Steve Peters (Lagom Publishing)

This week's pair of thought-provoking books take a step away from the usual 'mindfulness' model of books we've seen quite a lot on the blog recently, instead providing an utterly compelling and fascinating deep dive into why we are the way we are.

"The Silent Guides" and its companion book for younger readers "My Hidden Chimp" by Professor Steve Peters are mind-mapping manuals for folk who, like us, are completely fascinated by human (and for that matter simian) behaviour.

Neuroscience is, of course, a subject very close to home for us - and we're particularly interested not only in how the brain works, but what can define someone's character based on their daily actions or behaviour.

The main reason neuroscience is particularly fascinating to us is because of my wife's epilepsy. Helping us to understand how the brain functions at its most basic level, but also at some of its more complex behavioural and higher functional levels really does help us to also understand what epilepsy is, and how it's like a broadcast storm across the brain that can lead to the seizures and lapses my wife suffers from.

In "The Silent Guides" Steve explores some neuroscience and psychological aspects of the developing mind, unconscious thinking, behaviours, habit formation and related topics in an easy to understand way. The book offers practical ideas and thoughts for the reader to reflect on using 10 helpful habits as examples. Mostly though the theory is that our "inner chimp" isn't something that we can control, but we can choose to be dominated by it, or perhaps make friends with it so that it can be useful to us. 

"My Hidden Chimp" which is the companion book, does a similar thing for children, listing ten helpful habits that kids can adopt in order to understand why they sometimes feel happy, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, excited or fearful. As my daughter described her inner chimp (which she named Abigail), we completed most of the exercises designed to heighten awareness of when "Abigail" was doing the talking, and perhaps when C could wrestle back a bit of that control and that voice back for herself. It was a hugely addictive exercise, and one we've thought about so many times since working through the books.

If you, like us, have a child with anxiety or perhaps a child that is prone to outbursts of frustration or anger, this book deftly explains where the roots of those behavioural traits lie, and the answers will actually surprise you as much as they did us. It's not purely passed on to our kids through our genes, but there may be many underlying causes - and this book offers ways to tackle those behaviours head on.

It was great to hear Prof Steve on Radio 2 just before Christmas on the Chris Evans Show, stating quite clearly that he's reluctant to be in the spotlight because of his books, but they're compelling and make so much sense that we'd love to see him do a tour off the back of these. 

You'll be utterly gripped by both of these, and it's also worth letting your kids loose on "The Silent Guides" if they're up to it and fancy seeing the other side of the coin, and perhaps seeing how adults feel and what they sometimes have to deal with. 

Absolutely fascinating stuff.

Sum these books up in a sentence: Give yourself a brain boost with a whole way of thinking about your behaviour, your self confidence, emotions and mental well being with some truly thought provoking ways of upping your mental game. 

"The Silent Guides" and the accompanying "My Hidden Chimp" by Professor Steve Peters are both out now, published by Lagom Publishing (kindly supplied for review).