Anchoring is a technique used in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). It is based on the idea that an external stimulus, triggers an internal emotional response. The external stimulus could be something that we see, hear, feel, taste or smell. Your response is how you feel and act to the external stimulus.
For example, when a person smiles, you feel good and will probably smile back. This is an example of a positive stimulus response or Anchor. The stimulus is the person smiling and your response is feeling good and smiling back. If you were walking along the street and you heard the screeching of car brakes, you would immediately feel alarmed, fearful and ready to run away from possible danger. This is a negative stimulus response or Anchor. Other external stimuli that create emotional responses (good or bad) include a red traffic light, phone ringing, someone touching you on your shoulder, dog barking or the smell of food.
So we react to external stimuli all day and every day. It is something that we do naturally. However, it is also something that we can control. We can purposely create anchors to help create positive feelings when we need them.
1. Start by thinking of a positive emotional state that you would like to have more of. Examples include confidence, relaxation, playfulness, courage, motivation or focus.
2. Now think of a time when you had the positive emotion that you identified in step 1.
3. Now go back to that time and relive the experience in your imagination. Think about where you were, who you were with, how you were talking, how people were responding and how that felt at the time. As you relive this experience, you will notice that you feel more of this state now. Keep reliving this experience until you feel a powerful emotional state right now.
4. When you are reliving this experience fully, touch your thumb and index finger together for a couple of seconds. Congratulations! – You have just created an Anchor!
5. Now get up, have a walk around and return to the present.
6. Let’s test this new Anchor. When you are ready, touch your thumb and index finger on the same hand together for a couple of seconds. You will notice those positive feelings returning as you do this. If you don’t, then repeat the above steps several times.
As you practice, you will get better and each attempt will create a stronger association between the anchor and the emotional state you want to recreate.
Taking Anchoring Further
To create an anchor for a different emotional state, choose a different finger to touch your thumb and then repeat the above steps. You can potentially have 8 different anchors using finger and thumb combinations on both hands. To create further anchors, you can touch a finger or your hand on another part of your body, such as your other hand or hip. In NLP, these are known as Kinesthetic Anchors, because they involve using touch.
You can also create anchors by saying a word out loud or to yourself such as “Yes”, “confident”, “relaxed” etc. When you are reliving the experience fully (see step 4 above), say the word out loud or silently to yourself. When you say this word in the future, you will notice those positive feelings return. This is known as an Auditory Anchor in NLP.
Some people combine Auditory and Kinesthetic anchors. In step 4, they will touch their finger and thumb and say a word at the same time. This can create a more powerful anchor.
This process involves anchoring several emotional states one after the other. It can be used to create a very powerful emotional state. For example, to combine the emotional states of confidence, courage and motivation, you would start by reliving a time when you felt very confident and anchor that feeling. You would then relive a time you felt courage and anchor that feeling in the same way (e.g. by touching the same finger with the thumb). Finally, you would relive the feeling of motivation and anchor that with the same finger and thumb.
When you are experiencing a positive state in your life right now (e.g .confidence, motivation, fun, laughter etc, anchor it, so that you can recreate that state in the future. This can be more powerful than reliving the experience after it has happened.