There was some sunshine this weekend while I was writing this! At least here on the sunny south coast of England there was. I went out walking along the sea front with my partner Sara on Saturday morning and it was wonderful; the feeling of sunshine on my face, the smell of the air, the sites of other people out and about and happy, the local land train was shuttling people and their excited children back and forth from Bournemouth pier to Boscombe Pier and my senses were filled ? a major event for human neurophysiology (mine anyway!)
The funny thing is, later on that evening when my friends were joking about my pink coloured forehead, I told them that I was really looking forward to summer and as I spoke, I felt the sun on me, imagined the fun I was going to have on the beach, remembered the smell, the amazing feeling of joy that I get from being there, just by anticipating it all.
A natural phenomenon we can replicate with NLP techniques. NLP stands for neuro-linguistic programming, which is just a methodology for helping make changes. We shorten it to NLP for easy understanding.
Without realising it, the time I had spent on the sea front earlier that day had acted as an anchor for the wonderful experience which immediately followed it. The next time I saw & heard the experience, albeit in my mind, my neurology went "I know what happens now" and started to produce the intense physical responses that it 'knew' were coming next.
In the field of NLP, an anchor is any representation in the human nervous system that triggers any other representation. For instance, the word 'sex' will immediately trigger images, sounds etc associated with that word. The word 'chocolate' will trigger different associations. I am not too sure which of those will create the most intense feelings though! These words are anchors. Anchors do not have to be words, they can be a wide range of things.
With NLP, we identify that anchors can operate in any representational system (ie. sight, sound, feeling, smell, taste.) Let me give you some examples;
Tonal: By that, I mean for example, the special way a certain person has of saying your name, like when a friend or family member says it. My mother shouting my name from the depths of my home when I was a child often signalled the fact that she had discovered something that I had done that meant trouble for me! "Adam!" often made me feel what I was in store for.
Tactile: The effect of a certain type of handshake for example, or the sensation of a reassuring hug compared to a loving cuddle. Rekindles all kinds of wonderful feelings.
Visual: The way people respond to certain items of clothing. I recently had lunch with a group of my friends from the town where I grew up and several of them commented on the jacket I was wearing. Now, whenever they see it, it reminds them of those comments and makes them smile.
Olfactory: Like when you smell a certain kind of food being cooked can suddenly have you remembering a time when you were in the school cafeteria.
Gustatory: The taste of your favourite food or the way certain foods can make you remember how you felt when you had it before. Maybe like when you were given soup and a big helping of love and sympathy when you were young and off school because you were poorly. I know every time I eat Heinz Tomato soup it reminds me of just that.
Once again, in the field of NLP, an anchor is any representation in the human nervous system that triggers any other representation. It is conceptually similar to Pavlovian conditioning (ie. bells and salivating dogs; some of Pavlovs findings feature in the field of NLP.
While the anchor I created for the sea front was unintentional, it is possible for you to use this NLP tecnique to anchor yourself intentionally. Have a go at this and learn this NLP technique for yourself??
Fistly, think of an occasion when you had a highly pleasurable, positive or enjoyable experience. See what you saw then (looking out through your own eyes), hear what you heard and feel what you felt. As you feel the sensations increase in intensity, squeeze the thumb & forefinger of your left hand gently together for a few moments, then release them. Now 'break your state' (Eg. by remembering what you had for lunch yesterday.) Squeeze your thumb & forefinger together again, gently pulsing them. The state will return.
To make the most of anchoring with NLP, it is important to really engage in the experience and make it wonderfully vivid in your mind and to then also put effort into recalling it when you first activate your NLP anchor for a few times. Imagine how powerful this can be when you want to feel wonderful if you are home, feeling gloomy. Instead of reaching for the chocolate, you can start to activate your "feel good" anchor.
Every time you want to get motivated to exercise, just activate your enthusiasm anchor. It is a really simple technique of NLP.
This is a simple but powerful NLP technique that can enable you to have access to the states and resources you want, when you want them. The use of thumb & forefinger is an example of a tactile anchor, but you can use any representation to anchor something for yourself or someone else.
Guidelines for setting anchors with NLP;
In order to get a 'strong' anchor for an experience, it is important to
a) Ensure that you have a powerful example of the experience to work with.
b) Anchor in as many representational systems as possible (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, etc).
c) Set the anchor just before the experience peaks.
d) When you activate the anchor, do it accurately. Be precise!
e) With tactile (kinaesthetic) anchors, pulsing the anchor can help to maintain the experience
One of the people who came on one of my NLP training courses was particularly taken with the idea of anchoring. Shortly after the NLP training, one morning his wife offered to make him a cup of tea, and as she did so, he gently tapped the side of his cup with his ring. He repeated this the next few times she made him a cup of tea. After a while, all he had to do was tap the side of his cup subtly with his ring & she would spontaneously offer to get him a cup of tea!! Very Naughty use of NLP, Eh?! Just by creating a sensory representation (tapping the cup) that coincided with her making tea, he was soon able to use that representation as a trigger for what he wanted. He did eventually share his NLP anchoring experience with his wife and you can be sure he makes a lot more tea than she does now!
Now I know that by now some of you may be thinking "But isn't that manipulative?!?" One answer is "Yes, so use it for doing good stuff!"
Another answer is "no." It is no more manipulative than making yourself look good and smell nice when you go out. In those situations you are trying to get people to think the best of you and have a good response to you, a response that you are attempting to anchor through your choice of clothing, grooming and smelly perfume.
Here are some of the sorts of things that I go out of my way to use NLP to anchor whenever I see them or experience them:
- Good feelings
- Good performance (especially by waiters & waitresses!)
- Anything that looks good, useful or fun; Achievement and success are especially useful for stopping smoking, reducing weight or growing in confidence.
It's happening all the time anyway:
As I said at the beginning, anchoring with NLP is a naturally occurring phenomenon anyway. You are exposed to it all the time in everything you do. Everyone is doing this stuff all the time, often without really knowing it. All I am inviting you to do is to become conscious of the anchors that you and others are setting (maybe using NLP), and to start using them purposefully to get good results, rather than randomly to get whatever you get. Use NLP with mindfulness.
Taking this a step further;
Recently, I was working with a team of related staff members with regards to doing some NLP consulting with them. I asked them how they would know that the two days had been a great success. One of them said it would have a 'feel good factor' and simultaneously made a gesture with both hands towards his tummy. When I repeated the words 'feel good factor' to him, he nodded in confirmation. Later on, I referred to the feel good factor, and simultaneously used his gesture. Instead of a nod of confirmation, I got a full physiological response, including skin colour changes, posture and energy changes?the full works. His words had been a good anchor, but the words plus the gesture were far more complete. When I used both, I got a full response. I continued to use the anchor throughout the consultation. At no time was he aware that I was using NLP & his anchors ? he just had the experience of being really well understood.
You can use NLP anchors to capture and re-use positive experiences for yourself & others. Now have a go at doing this NLP exercise too?
1) Think of an occasion when you had a highly pleasurable, positive or enjoyable experience. See what you saw then (looking out through your own eyes), hear what you heard and feel what you felt. As you feel the sensations increase in intensity, squeeze the thumb & forefinger of your left hand gently together for a few moments, then release them. Now 'break your state' (Eg. by remembering what shoe you put on first today.) Squeeze your thumb & forefinger together again, gently pulsing them. The state will return.
2) Identify something that someone you know already does, and create a subtle anchor. Set the anchor while they are doing the activity. Later, fire your NLP anchor and see what happens. If they do the thing you anchored, then it worked!
3) When you (or someone you are with) are experiencing something you want to have more of, anchor it.
As usual, remember that this stuff is powerful so use your NLP skills wisely. As well, allow yourself to start becoming aware of when it is being used on you. Advertisers, politicians and stand-up comedians all know the power of NLP anchors and use them with great cunning (and to great effect.) Awareness with NLP is the key ? have fun.
Copyright 2005 Adam Eason. All Rights Reserved.
Adam Eason is an author, consultant, trainer and motivational speaker in the fields of hypnosis, NLP, personal development and human potential. His website is filled with information, stimulating articles, resources and uniques products.
Visit to also receive a free, unique hypnosis session, instantly downloadable, to enjoy in the comfort of your own home.