Anchors and neuro linguistic programming

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

What is an anchor?

Anchoring is one of NLP's famous concepts. An anchor is the situation in which two separate events get tied together in the person's mind so that when one of the events occur the second event is remembered or recalled automatically by his subconscious mind.

A famous example of anchors is recalling certain emotions after listening to a certain song. In that case this song was anchored or tied to a certain time in your past and so you remembered that time when you listened to the song.

How does an anchor develop?

The anchor develops when both the events happen together on a regular basis for a certain number of times. For example if every time you watch television while eating you may find yourself getting hungry whenever you watch television.

An overly sensitive person is more likely to develop an anchor faster than anyone else. If two people experienced something while one of them was overly sensitive then the overly sensitive person may develop an anchor faster than the other person.

For example if two people work as field engineers in a mining company then the overwhelming work experience may be anchored to the work place in the overly sensitive person's mind and so he may find himself unable to continue work and he may even quit ,on the other hand, the other person who is not that sensitive to external conditions may find work tolerable.

Anchors are not a bad thing but they can be used to your side to enforce positive behaviour or to help you in quitting bad habits. For example you can create an anchor that generates bad feelings whenever you smoke. By doing so you can help yourself to quit smoking just by using an anchor.

Similar to classical conditioning

One of the smart things NLP founders did was packaging already existing concepts into new and more interesting packages. The Anchoring concept is probably derived from the classical conditioning concept in psychology where a scientist taught a dog how to salivate whenever it heard the ring of a bell.

According to that experiment the sound of the bell was associated with food in the dog's mind and this is why it salivated when it heard the bell.

The anchor was created by letting the dog hear the sound of the bell whenever food was presented. After sometime the dog learned how to connect the two unrelated events together.

Anchors and bad habits

Anchors play a very important role in the formation of bad habits. Let's suppose that you developed a certain bad habit such as smoking. In such a case whenever you smoke so many of the things taking place at the moment might get associated with smoking.

This is why after sometime certain events start making smokers feel like wanting to smoke. Because smoking was always done after the person eats he started feeling like smoking whenever he eats.

Breaking those anchors is one of the most important steps in breaking bad habits. See How to overcome bad habits.

how to remove an anchor

if you have some bad anchors that you want to get rid of then its still possible. For example if you feel bad whenever you workout you can easily remove that anchor.

Removing an anchor can simply be done by repeating one of the events alone without the other one. As time passes your subconscious mind will separate both events and so the anchor will be removed.

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