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NLP technique “Anchoring”. Anchor your happiness

Updated: Apr 10

To understand how anchoring works, imagine Pavlov’s dog. There’s a trigger-there’s a reaction. Cause and effect. There are three steps to create an anchor, a connection between a trigger and a reaction it causes. I’ll tell you about those a little later.


And now-here's an example of an anchor.


There was a coffee shop not far from the place where you used to live. It was small and cozy, and had nice little flower decorations on the tables. For several months you would go to "your temporary office" and work there every day. You know every single barista by their name, they recognize you and would always engage in a small talk with you. You'd always sit on that comfy chair in the corner as if it was reserved just for you.


Then you move to a different part of town. Business started growing, you rented out a real office. 6 months later you end up near that coffee shop you used to go to so you decide to stop by for a nice cup of americano, sit in your corner and look back at the good old days. You come up to the door, pull it open, step inside… and instead of enjoying that sweet nostalgia you get overwhelmed by thoughts about your work.


And this, ladies and gentlemen, is an anchor!


Ok now let me introduce you to some terminology before we proceed.


Anchor-in psychology and NLP it’s a trigger for a particular reaction. It can occur accidentally or can be installed purposefully in ourselves or others. It can be constructive-causing a resourceful state, or destructive-causing an unresourceful state.


Anchoring-creating an intended or accidental connection between an emotional state (a reaction) and a particular action or occasion (trigger).


Trigger(stimulus)-an action or an occasion causing a reaction.


Anchor collapse-using equally powerfully charged negative and positive anchors that leads to destruction of both. This NLP technique is used to get rid of painful and unresourceful anchors using the positive ones, thus creating a cognitive dissonance.


Reanchoring-replacing the reaction to the same trigger.


Anchoring helps you be in control of your emotional state. You can create any kind of anchor depending on your goals and change your reaction to certain people and situations. It works with any state:joy, anger, disgust, contempt, calm.


You can see, hear and smell anchors. Traditionally there are three types of anchors recognized in NLP.


1. Visual anchors: colors, pictures, gestures, clothes, objects.


That’s what “judging the book by it’s cover” is about. Here’s an example. What do you visually associate Elton John with? You walk into a party and see a middle aged man with red hair, wearing unusually shaped glasses and a bright colored suit - and all of a sudden you smile, thinking of the concert you’ve been to 8 years ago. Then the songs he sang start playing in your head, and now you’re feeling just as happy as you did that night. Stimulus caused a reaction.

Clothes, color, style, gestures connect us to our own feelings, associations and memories, don’t you agree? “That white fluffy sweater reminds me of you”, “you always use so many gestures when you speak as if you were Italian”-those are all visual anchors. Photos, cards, gifts-one glance at those and the way you feel and think changes.

That’s why branding is always stylish, trendy and…powerful. Nike, McDonalds, iPhone-they have unique visual characteristics that you can recognize in your sleep. If you see something similar to those, you’ll immediately remember those big companies, which will probably make you sympathize with them even more.


2. Auditory: sounds, volume, tone etc.


Turning a song on, we turn particular states and associations on with it. Hearing the name of a loved one, we can start experiencing the same feeling as we do when we’re next to them. How about Christmas songs? How many images do they bring? It’s “Home alone”, red Coca-Cola truck, pine tree scent. Even when you lay on a beach in the middle of July.


That’s why having “our song” is not silly, it’s strategically important. Pick “your song” when you’re in a relationship! The best time to do it is during a very emotional moment, sweet and romantic.


3. Kinesthetic: touch, taste, smell.


“Second half of October smells like a warm pie” Alice Hoffman


Imagine this situation: a man comes home from work tired and irritated. His girlfriend sees that he’s upset-staring at the floor, head down, shoulders hunched forward-comes up and gives him a big warm hug.


What just happened? What happened was anchoring his state at the early stages. It can get neutralized or keep getting stronger. It all depends on the girlfriend’s actions: if she keeps repeating that behavior over and over again, that man can get an unpleasant conditioned reflex “hugs=irritation”. If that anchor doesn’t get replaced by a different one, then hugging his girlfriend (or even any other person) will cause that feeling in the future. (Frankly speaking, the chances that this scenario plays out like that are pretty slim, and was only used as an example. Anchoring a state takes a more original action than just a hug.)


Different smells and tastes fall under this category as well. And these anchors are powerful, they can either put a smile on our faces or torture us for decades.


One thing I can say for sure: the more anchors are let down, the harder it is for a ship to sail away from the coast. The more positive thoughts and emotions you associate with your, let’s say, relationship-the more you’ll want to keep them. The more “significant other=happiness” reflexes, the less you want to take off.


Anchors are also great tools for people struggling with anxiety, fear and sadness. You can create a “psychological crisis kit” for yourself, a secret bunker you go to when you feel getting overwhelmed with stress, anxiety and discomfort. There you keep all kinds of resourceful anchors, positive stimuli that you know will make you feel better. It can be anything: favorite songs, beautiful pictures, “happy” clothes, delicious food and movies and books that always make you feel good-anything pleasant that you can get access to.


Anchoring technique.

There are 3 important conditions that have to be met to successfully anchor a desired state:


1. Peak intensity of desired state.


You create an anchor when the state you’re experiencing (positive or negative) is at it’s maximum intensity. How can you tell when it happens? By the intensity of the expressed emotions. It can be very articulative gestures, loud laugh, facial expressions of joy or sadness, tears, scream etc.


2. Pick a unique anchor.


Unique meaning somewhat unusual for a particular situation. For instance is the person is super happy and you decide to anchor it with shaking his/her hand, do it in a special way. Remember: you’ll have to repeat it multiple times, so don’t go crazy with the “special” part. If you want to anchor someone you don’t know too well, keep in mind the natural sequence of perception: first we see a person, then we hear them, and only then touch (if applicable). So maybe touching your acquaintance’s leg to anchor them is not the best idea. Try some gesture first, use sounds and voice tones.


3. Make sure that you repeat the anchor regularly.


You have to replicate the anchor exactly the way you did it the first time. If you do or say something differently-it won’t stay. And don’t forget to repeat it over and over again. Why? Because, well, you already know-otherwise it won’t stay!


It’s a great technique to work with unpleasant memories too! The memories stay the same, but emotional reaction will be different.


Here’s how to change your emotional response to a situation:


1. Think of a situation you want to feel differently about;

2. Decide what emotion you’d like to have instead;

3. Feel it, intensify that emotion to the max;

4. Anchor this state by some action: look at some picture, play a certain song, pinch yourself, clench your hand into a fist etc.;

5. Let it settle in, then shake it off, clear your mind for a second;

6. Repeat steps 3,4 and 5 at least 7 times;

7. Think of the situation from step 1 and fire the new anchor replacing the old reaction to the new, resourceful, desired one.


Now you see how it’s done? If you have any questions-don’t hesitate and ask me.



Photo by Snapwire


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