The Making of an Effective NLP Anchor

An anchor is an NLP tool used to create a positive state. We respond to anchors all the time, certain foods will get you licking your lips, or a smell of a particular perfume will remind you of your first date, or did you ever get drunk on whiskey and now every time you catch the smell of Whiskey your stomach somersaults. Our memories are stored as associations with our senses.

The concept of anchoring comes from Pavlov. You remember Pavlov’s dogs? In NLP we call what Pavlov did anchoring.

What Pavlov did with his dogs, was that he rang a bell, and showed the dogs food. Rang the bell and showed them food. Then he rang the bell, and the dogs salivated just as if they’d just seen food. The bell (the sound) was actually an anchor. What he had done is to set up an anchor for the dogs. The brain is very good with associating feelings with situations. The brain can attach feelings of terror within a second we know that!

Anchoring is also used by skillful film makers to induce suspense in the audience. Think of your own psychological changes that occurred when you heard the soundtrack’s, pounding heartbeat rhythm in the moments leading up to each of the appearances of the huge killer shark in the film ‘Jaws.’ Did your heartbeat increase? Did you have to see the shark, or was the thumping music enough to start your slide to the edge of your seat?

Sports men and women will frequently use anchors to stimulate a desired state (of confidence, control, calm, etc.) that will help their game. The anchors can be images, sounds or cue words, or touch/pressure applied to part of your body – they can be internal or external.

The Making of an Effective Anchor

o Making sure the state (emotion) is accessed fully and intensely.
o Getting the client to associate into the state.
o Getting the client to see what they were seeing, when recalling the memory that triggered the state, for this they have to be fully associated into the memory.
o Hearing what they were hearing, again they have to be fully associated into the memory.
o Feeling what they were feeling.
Timing of the anchor
o Start the anchor just before you reach the peak of the experience.
o The most vital portion of the process is to detect where and when the state is at its peak. The anchor needs to be set just prior to the peak of this state. Make sure that you set the anchor here or you will anchor a state of decline. Time it correctly; you will have anchored a state that is still on an incline.

To create an effective anchor the client has to be fully associated into the state required.


Try this exercise on yourself to create instant self confidence:

Think of a time when you were totally confident, you felt powerful. As those feelings come back to you they will peak and subside. Say the word confidence with a particular, tone, volume and tempo to establish the anchor and start clenching your fist. Repeat this and then test it by saying in the same tone and tempo the word confidence and clench your fist. If you’ve done it right you should feel a welling up of those same emotions. Simple isn’t it?
Timing is crucial, fire the anchors before the peak and release before the peak declines.

Anchors can be visual, auditory or Kinesthetic.

You can use visual anchors to anchor the resourceful state. You can use external or internal anchors. For example, you could use a item of jewellery to anchor being calm and relaxed. The external anchor always has to be there for you to use. You may find it relaxing and calming to view a certain photograph, but unless you can carry it around with you, it is of limited use. You can however use an internal image of the photograph or picture to anchor your resourceful feeling.

Visual Anchors

Most visual anchors are internal. Some examples of visual anchors are:

o Symbols. For example, you could use a circle as a symbol for being calm and relaxed and anchor this to your state.
o People, such as a trusted friend or family member.
o Various objects and landscapes can be used as anchors for being calm and relaxed. For example, you could imagine:

-A waterfall
-A flower

Auditory Anchors

You can use a sound as an anchor. Like the visual anchors, sounds can be internal or external. You can use an internal voice as an anchor. For example, you could anchor the phrase ‘calm and relaxed’ or you could hum.
Remember how you felt as a child when you heard the sound of the ice-cream van?

Kinesthetic Anchors.

o Imagining a comforting hand on your shoulder
o Imagine being comforted as a child, a loving embrace by a parent
o Squeezing the second finger and the thumb together
o Touching yourself on the back of your hand

Visual, Kinesthetic and Auditor

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