Our minds naturally links associations. For example, hearing again a favourite piece of music might bring back a pleasant memory. That piece of music is linked to that memory and that experience and hearing it again, re-evokes that same emotional state. In NLP terms, the music is the anchor for that piece of memory, which comes with an emotional state.
An anchor is a stimulus that is linked to and triggers a physiological and emotional state.
An anchor can be:
- any kind of sensory input [VAKOG] like a sight, a sound, a touch, a smell, or a certain taste that we have associated to a particular state or
- a person or place.
VAKOG = Visual Auditory Kinesthetic Olfactory Gustatory representations.
How are anchors created?
Oftentimes, one is not even conscious of when an anchor is created in ourselves.
There are 2 main means of anchor creation:
- via repetition: repeated instances of seeing red being associated with danger will create the association that red means danger. Repetition is needed most when there is no initial emotional involvement.
- single instance, with high emotional content: seeing a police car in your rear view mirror just before you are stopped and fined/arrested for something. Each time thereafter when you see a police car in the rear view mirror, you will experience a definite change in state. It is the intense emotion that causes the mind to link the anchor (police car in rear view mirror) to an emotional state.
A phobia is an extreme example where an external stimulus triggers a powerful negative state.
Using Anchors to access Resourceful States of Being
You often see sports people doing certain rituals over and over again before they are about to play ball or run or engage in their specific sporting moves. Those little rituals that they have developed are their anchors - it triggers a specific resourceful state they desire.
You can create positive and powerful anchors for yourself that you can trigger and access when you need.
In very general terms, you identify a resourceful state of being that you would like to be able to access at will (e.g. feeling calm and in control). You call that to mind and fully associated into that state of being calm and in control - and while at the peak of that experience, you establish an anchor. (Could be a sound, a touch, a mantra, etc.) So that when you need to access that same resourceful state, for example when going to a very important meeting or sitting for an examination your are nervous about, you set off your anchor to be able to easily get into the state of being calm and in control. Being able to get into an appropriate and resourceful state can make a huge difference to how you perform and hence, to the outcome.