NLP anchoring uses a stimulus; it may be a sound, an image, a touch, smell or a taste to trigger a consistent response in you or someone else. We learn by making links and associations.
When something is anchored, we react without thinking. This can be beneficial or painful. Can you think of someone who, whenever you see them you cringe? Or maybe, when you visit your parents you feel like a child?
When we use NLP anchoring, we make or break those associations deliberately.
Anchors are built by repetition and association
You may have heard of Pavlovian conditioning or maybe Pavlov’s dogs. Ivan Pavlov’s work found that you could associate a stimulus such as a bell to a response such as salivation in dogs. By presenting food and at the same time ringing the bell they anchored the ringing to eating. My dog Hoochie gets excited when the microwave dings.
You can link desirable states like fun and excitement to just about anything. Advertising tries to create anchors associating their products with feel good states. That’s why car ads feature semi clothed pretty girls.
The downside is that just about anything can link to yucky states like anxiety and irritation. For instance, you have “one of those days” and become really grouchy. You are wearing a particular pair of shoes. Then a week later when you are wearing the same shoes, you start to feel grouchy for no apparent reason. Your mind has anchored or linked your grouchy state to the shoes.
Unconscious minds can link unusual things to states or moods. Like a particular date or a time of year. My sister gets unhappy on her birthday.
NLP Anchors can occur in all Representational Systems
- Visual anchors — stopping at the red light, colors that affect our mood.
- Auditory anchors — songs that take you back to a given time and place, a police siren, a loved one’s voice
- Kinesthetic anchors — a comforting hug, the feel of velvet that reminds you of grandma
- Olfactory anchors — fresh apple pie that reminds you of home, smell of coffee
- Gustatory anchors — oranges that remind you of a special summer, licorice
Most are developed accidentally when something in the environment is associated with a given state. A horse rears up and frightens us, and we feel frightened every time we see a horse even on TV. The sound of a helicopter can be associated with the terror of Vietnam or the relief of a rescue flight.
What can you use NLP anchoring for?
The most common use of anchoring is to access resources, feelings and states when you want them. Replacing unwanted feelings and thoughts with desirable ones is freedom indeed.
Other uses are gaining control over emotions, accessing memories and creativity and influencing responses in other people. Anchoring is the basis for a number of NLP Techniques, such as the Circle of Excellence and the Visual squash – a powerful way to collapse an anchor.
Basic NLP anchoring steps
- Create a strong state using state elicitation – for instance by remembering a time when you were very much in that state.
- Recalling what you saw, heard and felt in that situation can intensify the state.
- Make sure you experience it out of your own eyes – associated.
- Associate an anchor with the state – a word, some part of the experience or some external action when the state is at its strongest. For example rubbing your/their earlobe.
- Break the state by stepping into another location, shaking yourself, thinking of something neutral etc.
- Repeat accessing the state and associating the anchor a few times
- Test the association by “firing the anchor”. That is saying the word or rubbing your earlobe. You should re-experience the state. If not, repeat step 6.
- “Fire the anchor” when you want to experience the desired state, for instance when you are feeling unresourceful
What you are doing is transferring positive resources from past experiences.
The keys to anchoring successfully are
- The intensity of the state
- Repetition of the anchor – anchors will fade over time unless very strong (usually bad ones)
- The type of state you want to anchor or overcome – primary states work well. Meta states do not (states about states or feelings about feelings for example being embarrassed about being angry).
An example of an anchoring technique that can be used with all representational systems is the Visual Squash.