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NLP FAQ's / Help Center

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What is anchoring?

Anchoring is a neuro-linguistic programming term for the process by which memory recall, state change or other responses become associated with (anchored to) some stimulus, in such a way that perception of the stimulus (the anchor) leads by reflex to the anchored response occurring. The stimulus may be quite neutral or even out of conscious awareness, and the response may be either positive or negative. They are capable of being formed and reinforced by repeated stimuli, and thus are analogous to classical conditioning.

Basic NLP anchoring involves in essence, the elicitation of a strong congruent experience of a desired state, whilst using some notable stimulus (touch, word, sight) at the time this is most fully realized. In many cases, repetition of the stimulus will re associate and restore the experience of the state.

There are refinements and sophistications in setting anchors this way, and subtleties involved in order to both set them with precision, and to avoid accidentally neutralizing them in the process of setting them up.

An anchor is a stimulus (stimulus, trigger) that causes a certain reaction in a person that is always the same. Unlike a reflex, however, this particular reaction has been learned and is not innate. Thus, an external stimulus, such as a certain song, can be linked to an inner state, e.g. a feeling of being in love.

Further examples: Ringing of the telephone or memorable pieces of music, traffic signs or holiday photos, a hot cooker, certain smells like freshly baked bread or taste memories, logos, slogan ("Just do it!", "simply good" - McDonalds"), distinctive voices, certain items of clothing.

Anchors influence our emotional states almost non-stop. However, special importance should only be given to anchors that are associated with intense emotional states.

Recognising your anchors and replacing them with more positive ones if necessary is an important step on the way to good self-esteem.

Conscious anchoring represents an extension of the concept of classical conditioning according to Pawlow. Pavlov first noticed, rather by chance, that the dogs he was researching with salivated as soon as they heard the footsteps of the guard, who would give them their food shortly afterwards. Curious, Pavlov would ring a bell before the dogs were fed and after a while the mere ringing of the bell would cause the dogs' mouths to water. We can now use this phenomenon to intentionally anchor desired emotional states with a trigger. In this way the desired emotional state can be called up practically on command by the trigger - the anchor. In principle, any sensory impression can be used as an anchor, whether it is a gesture, touch, image, sound, word or smell.

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