An anchor in NLP, is a term we use to set a state, an action or memory, that can be triggered or fired as required, so that state, action or memory will be recalled and used. It is a mood or state that can be recalled in response to a stimulus.
The earliest form of anchors can be attributed the work of the Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov who in the late 1800’s, experimented in what he called, “conditional reflex” (“условный рефлекс”).
Pavlov was experimenting with dogs, and their digestive systems, and whilst undergoing this research, found that the dogs had involuntary automatic reflexes due to certain conditioning, that is to say, that when conditioned with various stimulus, including the ringing of a bell, and that food would be given, then every time that stimulus was fired there would be an involuntary reflex, that is to say the dogs would saliva, even if no food was given.
After Pavlov’s work, Carl Jung, Bertrand Russell, William Sargant and John B. Watson among others, continued furthering more research into conditioning.
In NLP the “P” stands for Programming. It is how the mind is programmed to do certain actions in response to triggers or some stimulus, often involuntary and unconsciously. The stimulus that fires the response is called an anchor.
Anchors are learned, and often takes a number of conditioning actions to make them strong, and when working with clients I will normally run the anchors, three (3) times.
A stimulus can be in any of the five (5) modalities, VAKOG, or rep systems, being Visual (seeing), Auditory (hearing and speech), Kinesthetic (touch, feelings, both internal and external), Olfactory (smell), and Gustatory (taste).
Examples of Anchors.
You are walking down the main street in any major town, and you see a big red plastic shop sign, with one letter in yellow on it, what would it mean?
MacDonald’s? This is a visual anchor, which will even, depending on your likes or dislikes or preferences towards their food, make your mouth saliva or make you feel sick.
Your national flag or other’s national flags. You instantly recognise your own flag, and know the countries of some of the others.
As you are listening to the radio and you hear a certain sound being played, (click to play), what does it remind you of? Perhaps a trip to London, or that it is time to listen to the news?
If you hear your name calling, like your mother’s, you will respond to it. When my mother called my name, depending on the tonality, would depend on my response, run to her if it was a happy high voice, or run away if it was a low, stern voice.
Have you ever been touched by someone, a friend, a loved one, a baby, an enemy, and had a certain feeling, may-be butterflies in the tummy? Or perhaps you have cuddled up to your duvet and felt so comfortable?
Walking down the main shopping street, in the shopping mall or supermarket, and you smell fresh baked bread? What do you feel? Hunger? Perhaps the urge to buy a loaf of bread?
Perhaps it is the smell of a hospital or dentist which can spread fear in some people
You eat a certain food or meal that you have not eaten for a long time, a meal that perhaps you eat on holiday, where does your mind, your memories go too?
The taste of a chocolate cake brings happiness to many people, like me.
These are all examples of how our representation systems use anchors to do certain actions or bring back memories, in response to triggers or some stimulus.
Not everyone will have the same anchors. A certain restaurant, a favourite restaurant, will bring happy romantic memories to some, because they have been their with a loved one. Yet, the same restaurant will be disliked by others, as they have had a bad experience, may be the waiters did not give good service, or the food was bad on that one occasion, or they argued with their loved one.
Phobias and fears are set by anchors, perhaps by one intense emotional experience, or a conditioned or by repeating, reoccuring exposure (3 times) can set-up a lifetime problem.
Anchors are around us all day, every day, through music, advertising, objects, people, sight, sounds, tastes, and we do not pay attention to them, but respond to each and everyone.
We can set-up anchors with intention in ourselves and others, to change fears and phobias, to give confidence or relaxation.
See how to set anchors with NLP.