What is Anchor in NLP?


Anchor is a reaction to a certain stimulus that has been programmed in our minds to behave in a certain way. When we hear, see, or taste something it may remind us of something in our past which is there in our subconscious and then we respond to that stimulus conscious or subconsciously.


For example: You see an advert of a latest television of a particular brand and you start visualizing yourself in possession of it. That feeling has been so good that everytime you see that brands logo you have that good feeling. That’s Anchoring.


You get Anchored to negative emotions too. For example: At a certain location, you met with an accident, you will trigger those feelings whenever you go to that place.


An anchor is an automatic hot button that signals you to get into a certain state, without you being able to do anything about it. Once you are anchored to certain state you are forvever hooked on to it without you knowing what is causing it until you diffuse it consciously or unconsciously.


The two aspects of Anchoring are:


  1. The trigger or stimulus
  2. The automatic or unconscious mood response to the trigger or stimulus


Examples of some pleasant Anchors:


  • The smell of freshly cooked home-made bread evokes instant childhood memories.
  • Hearing a tune when you first fell in love – instantly brings back wonderful memories of your love life.
  • After years, you visiting a hill station or some place with your loved one evoke good feelings in you.


Examples of some unpleasant Anchors:

  • A dog walking towards you and you feel agitated because you have had an unpleasant experience in the past.
  • You ate a dish at a restaurant and got food poison. So whenever you got to that restaurant you will not order that dish in that restaurant or stop visiting that restaurant or you will quit having that dish forever.
  • As some of you were told to do this or that from your childhood, and sometimes more strongly; so a comment like; do it like this…blah blah… can evoke a rebel in you. Because now certainly you do not want to be dictated.


Anchors are learned programmes. Your Anchored responses are not inherited; they are learned. A good example of an anchor is phobia. If you are phobic of something, you aware that the situation or a person or an animal you are phobic to is your response to your perceived reality. Each time you encounter the stimulus you have the response. You had to learn to have this response.


Similarly, a parent with the fiery temper has (unconsciously) developed his/her automatic programme to explode with rage at their child’s behaviour.


The impolite salesperson has developed her/his programme to lose her/his nerve at the first sign of rejection in the prospect’s behaviour.


The nervous public speaker has learned to lose her/his confidence at the first sign of a huge glaring audience.


Why Anchors can make us feel out of control?


Anchors work almost instantly and usually in less than 60 seconds. They are triggered unconsciously, bypassing rational thought. Positive thinking and positive intentions has little impact on Anchors unless it is continued over a long time.


So what can you do, other than give up and remain a victim of the myriad of negative anchors that you already have?


You can neutralize a negative Anchor by collapsing it (read about collapsing anchors here) or using Swish, a NLP technique (read about Swish here).


You can begin discovering the unconscious Anchors that catapult you into unpleasant emotional states. Bringing awareness to those subconscious Anchors will significantly weaken its impact.


Uncovering them will not, in itself, get rid of them. It does take you in that direction and, more importantly, it will enable you to recognise the triggers that provoke the unwelcome moods!


We may not have had much say in how we acquired our negative Anchors but we can decide whether or not they continue to influence our moods.


How is a negative Anchor different from a negative thought?


Some thoughts are Anchors. An ordinary everyday negative thought can result in a negative mood if we dwell on it for long. But with a ‘proper’ negative Anchor there is no wait – the mood change is instant!


For example; after a day’s work you are resting at home and you begin thinking about how your colleague, Jack, spoke to you in a disrespectful tone that morning. Continue dwelling on this, replaying the incident in your mind, and talking to yourself about it – and, yes, your mood will crash dive. This is not a ‘real’ negative Anchor because it did not relate with your past unpleasant experience to trigger you into the bad mood instantly!


However, let’s say things occurred differently and the moment Jack spoke to you in a manner and you felt upset or angry. Why this mood change could have happened? Unconsciously, Jacks tone could have triggered a negative emotion you felt while talking to your previous rude neighbor. Here there was no need to dwell upon it and think about it – your mood changed instantly.


The effect such episodes in life is like, you’re at the mercy of anyone and everyone who can be driving your mood!


Just positive thinking doesn’t work.


Too many powerful negative anchors can be quite demoralising. We know we “shouldn’t” be so easily affected by circumstances and by people. We want to feel more in charge of our moods. We try bringing positive thoughts, read books about how easily other people seem to be able to achieve these results – yet we can’t seem to get to grips with our own mood-shifts. Why?


The reason is; positive thinking methods do not work with negative Anchors, because the mood change is too quick and intense. There’s no gap between the trigger and our emotional response to it in which to insert some positive thinking.


What’s the solution?


There are two stages to dealing with negative anchors:


  1. Discover your frequent triggers
  2. Defuse these mentally before you encounter them again


Discover your frequent triggers:

Once you recognise your mood has taken a dive, think back from the present moment until the time you were feeling fine. The gap between your 2 emotions could be few minutes or hours. Try to discover the juncture of the two emotions. What thought, person or situation switched your mood? That’s where you’ll find the trigger.


Recognising that it’s ‘just an anchor’ will take away some of the power out of the Anchor and out of the mood. You may still be feeling wound up or put down. And, yes, you’ll likely get triggered again. Revisiting these negative Anchors in your mind and being conscious of your behaviour will pull down the intensity of your mood change because the process is now no longer occurring outside your awareness.


Defuse these mentally before you encounter them again:

The best technique for this is collapsing the Anchors (read about collapsing anchors here) and/or NLP Swish technique (read about Swish here).

The results will not be as powerful as if you could learn live with an experienced trainer. However, if you go through the steps a few times and on successive days you will almost certainly take quite a bit of the sting out of the trigger.