Anchors Away: Anchoring with NLP
by Rachel Hott, Ph.D. Source: Anchor Point Magazine
Welcome back to your Back to Basics article. This article will discuss anchors and the technique of anchoring. For those of you who have read Back to Basics before you know what to expect. All you have to do is see the title and boom, swish, bang you know whether you want to read a review of something you know or once knew. For you, the new comer to NLP, Anchor Point and now this Back to Basics column you only know that you don’t know. Another time when you see the word anchor, you can have the boom, swish, bang experience of knowing what it means.
So what are anchors and what does anchoring mean? The other evening I went to my first P.T.A. meeting. It was held in the local high school. As I entered the high school memories of my own high school came to mind and the same feelings of adolesence were revived. As I came to the table to sign in I found myself giggling like a fifteen year old and then zap I smelled Shalamar. Have you ever smelled Shalamar? It is a very deep, strong perfume and it is difficult to forget the Shalamar memory.
I have two Shalamar memories. One was Mrs. Cleary, a speech teacher from my elementary school. She had an office in the almost attic of the school. With her soft white hair and very powdered face her entire being was drenched with Shalamar. I don’t know why I visited her, I didn’t have a speech problem or was I so entranced by her perfume that the feelings remained pleasant no matter what. My mother also swam in this perfume and as a young girl I remember the warm feelings I had for her. So when the whif comes to me those same warm feelings for my mother are aroused. When I smelled the Shalamar in the high school I found myself saying internally, ” There’s that smell again,” and those fond memories of my mom were present.
These are examples of anchors. Seeing the high school and smelling the perfume caused me to have certain feelings that were outside of my conscious awareness. We can experience the world through our five senses: visual (sight), auditory (hearing) , kinesthetic (touch), gustatory (taste) and olfactory (smell). Anchors can exist in any or all of the senses. For example, Visual= high school, Olfactory= Shalamar perfume. Other examples for me are, Auditory= hearing our wedding song, Kinesthetic=being kissed on the top of my head or Gustatory= chicken soup. Each one of these examples is a specific personal anchor for me that gives me a specific feeling. I have lots more than just these five. Take a moment and identify five of your own anchors.
If you were able to identify your own personal anchors you identified them consciously. These are anchors that are already in your awareness. What about the anchors that are outside of your awareness but nevertheless effect you. There are lots of those around and we don’t always know they are there until we identify a feeling that suddenly appears. When it is a joyful, excited feeling we rarely analyze where it came from. What about when you were feeling perfectly fine and boom, swish, bang you are suddenly in a sad, annoyed and tense feeling state. Do you ever wonder how that feeling got there? This is when an anchor is outside of your conscious awareness. In identifying an individual’s present state one question that is asked is “What is the external trigger?” The external trigger is another way of saying what is the anchor that triggers your experience. Some common examples of anchors initially outside of conscious awareness are voice qualities; tone, tempo and volume and facial expressions. Others may be specific statements that when out of context still give you the heebie jeebies. The classic example is the Abbott and Costello routine, Niagra Falls. When ever Costello says the phrase, “Niagra Falls,” this other character goes out of control. Recently I discovered that when someone says in a low tone, slow tempo, “I’m not in the position to discuss that with you,” I feel less resourceful. Now that I have processed the feeling and determined at what point it occured the statement is no longer outside of my conscious awareness. I have more choices as to how to respond the next time the anchor occurs. Another powerful anchor is the way your name is said. Think back to those younger years when an authority figure called your name in a punitive voice. If you hear your name said in the present with that same punitive quality what kind of feeling do you have? A goal for many of my clients and seminar participants is to discover these “out of awareness anchors” (OOAA). When an OOAA is uncovered the individual can have more choice about their feelings. The anchor can become neutralized because it is now conscious. An OOAA may also be something compelling. Perhaps you discover that you are in a fantastic mood and you wonder how you suddenly arrived in that state. Review the moments starting just before you got into that fantastic mood and you may unearth a powerful anchor you did not know about.
Thus far I have discussed anchors and your responses to them. Another point for discussion is the anchoring technique, how to extablish anchors and when to use them. This will be discussed in the next Back To Basics article. Until then, I wish you many boom, swish, bang discoveries.
In the last Back To Basics column ( Anchor Point, October ’90), I basically discussed anchors. In this article I will continue with the Art of Anchoring: Self and Others. In a NLP practitioner and Master Practitoner training you will have many opportunities to learn and practice anchors. Some of the techniques that use anchoring are; Transfering a Resource, Collapse Anchors, Creating Resources, Change History, Reclaim Personal History and Phobia Technique. Rather than discuss each technique my goal in this article is to describe the well-formedness conditions for anchoring.
In order to establish a self-anchor or anchor for someone else follow these well-formedness conditions: 1. Uniqueness of Stimulus. 2. Intensity of Response. 3. Purity of Response and 4. Timing of Anchor. Self-Anchoring and Anchors for Others When you self-anchor or create an anchor for someone else a decision is made about what inner feeling you want and where and when you want it. Examples of inner feelings are, relaxation, confidence and patience. For example; Patience when you are in a traffic jam. O.K. picture this you are hot, your air conditioning is broken and you will be late for an important meeting. How can we establish a self-anchor or anchor for that scenario.
Uniqueness of Stimulus: In order to establish a strong anchor you need to identify a stimuli that is unique for you. One that is within your control. When you are stuck in that traffic jam or where ever you are you always have your self. That is something within your control. When self-anchoring create a stimulus that you can do comfortably and is not something that you typically do. Placing your hands together in a clap or praying position is too common. Try placing your thumb and pinky together or sueeze your ear lobe to create a unique stimulus. The main point is to identify an area that is not commonly touched. If you are anchoring someone else also identify a unique place Clapping someone on the shoulder is fairly common but pressing on their knuckle or on a particular “beauty mark” (mole) is not.
Intensity of Response: In this instance you need to identify a time when you actually experienced patience. It does not have to be when you were stuck in a traffic jam. The remembered experience should be a strong intense one. When you are recalling the experience you or the client should be associated. Associated means being in the experience, seeing things you saw then, hearing what you heard and feeling the feelings of that experience. This is the same for the person who you are anchoring.
Purity of Response: In order to have a pure anchor you want to be careful that the memory is fully remembered without contamination. For example you want to be free of any extraneous internal dialogue. If you were anchoring someone else you would be observing their response to make sure that it was the same response you observed prior. You can observe a person in their remembered state several times before anchoring.
Timing of Anchor: Timing is everything. Firstly you have to establish the anchor. Once you have recalled the patient memory you create the unique stimulus and bring your thumb and pinky together. It is at that moment that you are pair associating the two. Hold the anchor for at least twenty-five seconds. Do you have an anchor? The only way to know is to test it. Bring your thumb and pinky together again and notice the feeling you get. If you are anchoring someone else you apply the anchor, hold for a while and then release. Allow the person to reorient themselves and establish a neutral position. Then apply the anchor again. Watch their responses. It is at that point that you have an anchor.
In this overview of the well-formedness conditions the anchoring approach was in the kinesthetic sense. Some other factors to be aware of when you are anchoring kinesthetically. Some people are touchy about touch. Be attuned to the location and pressure that you are using. Touching near the hands, or shoulders tend to be acceptable locations for people. The only pressure suggested is the one preferred by your inidividual clients. Be careful that you don’t apply pressure as though the person is key board or that you are pushing buttons. (Unless they prefer it). Also make sure you touch the exact spot with the same pressure.
The same well-formedness conditions apply to visual and auditory anchors. In my region when you see someone gesturing thumbs up it means that you did a good job or things are going well. I say my region because in other parts of the world thumbs up may be considered obscene. So of course before you use visual anchors research whether they could be offensive. Often times in an office people are passing each other quickly without time to socialize. Using a motivational visual anchor like thumbs up can give someone a positive feeling without time being wasted.
The way to use an auditory anchor is to either use a word, i.e. confidence, relax, patience etc. or a particular sound, i.e. snap of fingers, cough, clap etc. In one of my business trainings I led the group in a large group exercise where I asked them to recall a time when they experienced confidence in their lives. I said the word confidence with a particular, tone, volume and tempo to establish the anchor. It is important when using an auditory anchor that you repeat the word or sound exactly the same each time you use it. In this same exercise I led the group to establish their own auditory self-anchor for that confident memory. I asked them to find one word, as though it were a title to a movie or a book, that would describe the confident experience. After they chose the word I asked them to say it to themselves with the appropriate form. As with all anchors the only way the participants knew if they had an anchor was to test it. So each one said their word to themselves and verified the confident feeling. Someday when they are in a situation when they want to feel confident they will say this one word and boom, swish, bang they will feel confident.
Perhaps you are wondering how long does an anchor last. It depends. Sometimes anchors need reinforcements, sometimes they don’t, sometimes you don’t need the anchors anymore and sometimes you discover an anchor outside of your awareness and you decide to change the way you respond to it.
I expect that many of you can now feel confident about what anchors are how you go about practicing the technique. The only way you will know if you have an anchor is to test it. So go ahead and practice, practice, practice. (Is that word an anchor for any of you? If so use this as an opportunity to practice in whatever way you choose).
Originally appeared in Anchor Point Magazine. Used by permission.