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"Any time a person is in an associated, intense state, if at the peak of that experience, a specific stimulus is applied, then the two will be linked neurologically." - Tad James

When this happens, the state is 'anchored' to the stimulus.

Anchoring can assist you in gaining access to past resource states and linking those past resources to the present and the future. In the context of behavioral change work, anchoring refers to ‘a stimulus which triggers a specific physiological or emotional state or behavior’. It gives us the ability to access desired feelings at lightning speed which we can utilize to help us achieve the outcomes we desire.

Sometimes we create anchors involuntarily. For example, if you think of your favorite teacher’s name from school, or the smell of a certain food or perhaps a photo on holiday or a song you heard, you may find that you get a whole host of emotions instantly. These can empower or disempower, motivate or demotivate. Throughout our lives, we often spend a lot of time reacting unconsciously to the effects of anchors.

Anchors can be created in any rep system. When helping someone anchor a state, you can touch them in a unique and specific way which can be repeated i.e. by touching them on a shoulder or knuckle. You can also get the person to apply the anchor themselves when you give them a verbal indication to do so.

Anchoring (or focalism) is also a term used in psychology generally, it is a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or "anchor," on one trait or piece of information. For example, as a person looks to buy a used car, they may focus excessively on the odometer reading and model year of the car, and use those criteria as a basis for evaluating the value of the car, rather than considering how well the engine or the transmission is maintained.

The notion of “anchoring” emerged in NLP when Bandler and Grinder were first modeling the hypnotic techniques of Milton Erickson. Erickson often used or suggested particular cues as post hypnotic triggers to help a person change his or her internal state or re-access a hypnotic trance. Grinder and Bandler generalized the use of these cues and triggers to include other types of internal processes, without the need of initially establishing a hypnotic state. By 1976, the first NLP anchoring techniques (such as collapsing anchors) were developed.

Setting an anchor means consciously linking an external stimulus with an existing experience. All sensory channels can be used for anchoring (pictures, sounds, sensations, smells, tastes). Anchors can be set and released by oneself or by others (self-set, external anchor). Firing an anchor means triggering the stimulus, reactivating and experiencing the previously anchored experience. Recognising your anchors and replacing them with more positive ones if necessary is an important step on the way to good self-esteem.

Relation between Stimulus-Response Theory by Pavlov and Anchoring

In NLP, “anchoring” refers to the process of associating an internal response with some environmental or mental trigger, so that the response may be quickly, and sometimes covertly, reassessed.

Anchoring is based upon the concepts of the Conditioned Response and Stimulus/Response Theory, as made famous by the eminent Russian physiologist, psychologist and physician Ivan Petrovich Pavlov to create a link between the hearing of a bell and salivation in dogs.

Whilst feeding dogs that he was studying, Pavlov noted that they tended to salivate more just before the food was delivered to their mouths and arrived at the conclusion that the food was a stimulus which triggered a physiological response in the dogs in the form of the increased rate of salivation.

Fascinated by the concept Pavlov shifted the focus of his research and began to experiment by preceding the act of feeding with the introduction of various different stimuli including bells, whistles, metronomes and tuning forks.

As a result of these experiments Pavlov noted that for the dogs the conditioned stimulus (bells etc.) became neurologically linked with the unconditioned stimulus (the food) and began to produce the same response (increased salivation). Pavlov further noted that after a number of repetitions the Stimulus/Response link between the conditioned stimulus and the response became so strong that the dogs would salivate at the sound of a bell even when the food was not present.

Pavlov arrived at the conclusion that the food was a stimulus which triggered a physiological response in the dogs in the form of the increased rate of salivation.

How does this relate to Anchoring in NLP?

Anchoring uses the same principles of stimulus/response. By associating a desired response or state with a unique stimulus, a number of times the two become linked in such a way that when the same stimulus is applied later the associated response or state will occur naturally and automatically.

In NLP, this type of associative conditioning has been expanded to include links between aspects of experience other than purely environmental cues and behavioral responses. A remembered picture may become an anchor for a particular feeling, for instance. A touch on the leg may become an anchor for a visual fantasy or even a belief. A voice tone may become an anchor for a state of excitement or confidence. A person may consciously choose to establish and retrigger these associations for themselves. Rather than being a mindless knee-jerk reflex, an anchor becomes a tool for self empowerment.

Anchoring can be a very useful tool for helping to establish and reactivate the mental processes associated with creativity, learning, concentration and other important resources.

Why the term "Anchor" ?

It is significant that the metaphor of an “anchor ” is used in NLP terminology. The anchor of a ship or boat is attached by the members of the ship’s crew to some stable point in order to hold the ship in a certain area and keep it from floating away. The implication of this is that the cue which serves as a psychological “anchor ” is not so much a mechanical stimulus which “causes” a response as it is a reference point that helps to stabilize a particular internal state. To extend the analogy fully, a ship could be considered the focus of our consciousness on the ocean of experience. Anchors serve as reference points which help us to find a particular location on this experiential sea, and to hold our attention there and keep it from drifting.

Similar to the metaphor of a boat or ship, an anchor is a reference point that stabilizes a particular state. The process of establishing an anchor basically involves associating two experiences together in time. In behavioral conditioning models, associations become more strongly established through repetition. Repetition may also be used to strengthen anchors. For example, you could ask someone to vividly re-experience a time when she was very creative and pat her shoulder while she is thinking of the experience. If you repeat this once or twice, the pat on the shoulder will be linked to the creative state. Eventually a pat on the shoulder will automatically remind the person of the creative state.

States of Anchoring

Our behavior is critically dependent on our state and it is influenced by our internal representations as well as by our physiology, i.e., you can change your state by imagining something else or by changing your physiology.

The NLP distinguishes three important states:

  • Being in a Resource State means that all personal abilities and positive energies are accessible and available, which is usually accompanied by a powerful or joyful feeling. You feel rich in resources.

  • Stuck State means a condition that is perceived as blocked, stressed or uncomfortable. Resources are no longer perceived, or they are experienced as inaccessible.

  • Separator State refers to a neural or emotionally discrete state used to interrupt a current state.

Types of Anchors

Anchors, especially naturally occurring ones, carry an emotional charge, i.e. our emotional state changes in response to anchors.

We class our responses to anchors as either positive or negative and thus, we class some anchors as positive anchors and some anchors as negative anchors.

  • Positive Anchors

Positive anchors tend to induce positive and useful emotional states such as happiness, excitement, enthusiasm, focus, the feeling of power and energy and resourcefulness.

Examples of common positive anchors include:

A person you're close to places their hand on your shoulder and speaks to you with a loving tone of voice and you feel a positive emotion.

The smell of pine evokes fond memories of Christmas with friends and family.

A certain tune plays on the radio and you're instantly transported back to fun times you had with friends or the intense emotions you first had when you met that certain special person.

On a sunny day you apply sun lotion. The scent of the lotion instantly transports you back to your favorite beach.

  • Negative Anchors

Negative anchors tend to induce less useful emotional states like anger, frustration, fear, procrastination and apathy.

Examples of common negative anchors include:

A person speaks to you with that patronizing tone of voice that they've used several times before when they wished to show you how superior they are. You're aware that you've entered that negative emotional state before their first word has left their lips.

Sometimes, they don't even have to speak - their face says it all and you're left with that negative emotional state again.

The sound of a dentist's drill - ARGH!

The smell of a particular food which you ate last time and made you sick.

  • Natural Anchors

Natural anchors relate to the fact that not all stimuli are equally effective as anchors. We form associations with respect to some cues more readily than others. Clearly, the ability to make associations with respect to environmental cues in order to choose appropriate responses is vital to the survival of all higher living beings.

As a result, various species of animals develop more sensitivity to certain types of stimuli than others. Rats, for instance, who are given two water dishes containing safe or tainted drinking water, learn very quickly to distinguish the safe from the tainted water if the tainted water is a different color than the safe water. It takes them much longer to learn to distinguish the two if they are put in two containers of different shapes. Color is a more “natural ” associative anchor for rats than shape. Similarly, Pavlov found that his dogs could be conditioned to salivate much more quickly and easily with sound as a stimulus than if visual cues, such as colors and shapes, were used as a conditioning stimulus.

Natural anchors are probably related to basic neurological capabilities. Words, for instance, are able to form powerful anchors for humans, but not for other species. Other mammals (provided they can hear) respond to tone of voice more than the specific words being used. This is presumably because they lack the neural apparatus to be able to recognize verbal distinctions to the same degree of detail that humans do. Even in humans, some organs and parts of the body have more discriminative capacity than others. A person’s back or forearm, for example, has fewer tactile nerve endings than the fingers or palm of the hand. Thus, a person is able to make finer discriminations with the fingers and hands than with their back or arms.

The awareness of “natural anchors” is important in selecting types of stimuli to be used for anchoring. Different types of media can be used to help make certain types of associations more easily. With people, individuals may have certain natural tendencies toward certain types of anchors because of their natural or learned representational abilities. A visually oriented person will be more sensitive to visual cues; kinesthetically oriented people may make associations more easily with tactile cues; individuals who are auditorily oriented will be responsive to subtle sounds, and so on. Smells often form powerful anchors for people. This is partially because the sense of smell is wired directly to the association areas of the brain.

  • Covert Anchors

Sometimes the most powerful anchors for people are those in which the stimulus is outside of awareness. These are called “covert ” anchors. The power of covert anchors comes from the fact that they bypass conscious filtering and interference. This can be useful if a person (or group) is struggling to make a change because their conscious mind keeps getting in the way. It also makes covert anchors a powerful form of influence.

Examples of common anchors:

Visual: Logos, celebrities, religious symbols, typefaces, facial expressions, the weather, stop signs, gestures

Auditory: Words, names, voice tonality, jingles, accents, ringtones, music, sound of familiar voices, engines, yawns

Kinesthetic: Clothing, exercise, a certain kind of touch, warmth

Taste: Vinegar, garlic, lemon, chocolate, peppermint, cough medicine

Smell: Chip shop, new mown grass, curry, baking bread, coffee, smoke, school, hospitals

Setting an Anchor

You may find that different NLP manuals offer different ways to anchor, with different mnemonics. These processes are all very similar. Use whichever one works best for you.

Here we’re going to cover a further method of anchoring called R.A.C.E. - Recall, Anchor, Change, Evoke.

R – Recall

The first step is to identify a vivid past experience which includes the positive resource state that we'd like to have available to us whenever we use the anchor we're going to set. Examples might include a time when you were very happy, a time when you were incredibly relaxed and focused or a time when you felt like you couldn't lose.

It's important to associate fully into the experience i.e. recall it as vividly as possible and there's a simple script for guiding a person in doing so: 'As you recall that specific time when you were completely X, and as you go back to that time now, step into your body in that experience, see what you saw at the time, hear the sounds around you and feel the feelings of being right there feeling those feelings of being completely X', where X is the desired powerful, positive resource state.

A - Anchor

Once you've identified the specific past vivid experience containing the desired positive resources and associated fully into that experience the next step is to anchor it with a specific, unique stimulus.

The stimulus for the anchor can be in any of the modalities - Visual, Kinesthetic, Auditory etc. and particularly strong anchors can be set by anchoring in all modalities simultaneously.

A simple example of a stimulus which can be used easily for anchoring is to pinch the thumb and ring finger of the hand together, or to hold a fist with the thumb tucked inside.

C - Change

As soon as the anchor is set, the next step is to release the anchor and change state. If you're anchoring with another person, a simple way to get them to break state is to ask them a total non-sequitur such as 'Do you smell popcorn?' or 'Are those your shoes?'

If you're setting an anchor for yourself you could ask yourself a question like 'When I got out of bed this morning, which foot did I put on the floor first?' or 'What will I have for breakfast tomorrow?'.

It's important, once the anchor is set, to release the anchor and change state so that the link between the stimulus and the resource state is as clean as possible.

E - Evoke

The final step is to test the anchor by evoking it i.e. trigger the chosen unique stimulus (squeeze thumb and finger together or whatever stimulus you've chosen for yourself) and check that your response is to experience the desired resource state.

If it doesn't work the first time simply repeat the process- Recall, Anchor, Change, Evoke, until it does work. The more times you repeat the process (known as stacking the anchor), the better the results.

Five Keys to Anchoring:

The steps of anchoring provide us with a clear, step-by-step process that we can follow in order to set the anchors that will enable us to access resourceful states whenever we choose.

In addition to the steps there are certain key behaviors which should be included in the anchoring process to ensure that the resulting anchors are maximally powerful, automatic and effective.

In NLP, these key behaviors are known as the Keys to Anchoring and we can remember them easily using the following mnemonic device I.T.U.R.N - Intensity and Purity, Timing, Uniqueness, Replication and Number of times.

  1. The Intensity and Purity of the Experience

  2. The Timing of the Anchor

  3. The Uniqueness of the Anchor

  4. The Replication of the Stimulus

Number of times (repetition can substitute for intensity)

Let's open this up by examining each key in turn:

  • I - Intensity

Intensity has to do with how fully a particular state or response has been accessed. Even from Aristotle’s time it was observed that the more vivid and intense a particular response was, the more easily it was remembered, and the more quickly it became associated with other stimuli. It was easier for Pavlov to “condition ” hungry dogs to salivate, for example, than satiated dogs. If a person has accessed only a small amount of the state or experience you are anchoring, then the anchor can only be associated with that particular amount. Incidentally, “intensity ” does not simply have to do with a person’s degree of emotional arousal. A person may be in a very strong disassociated state, in which they feel no emotional reaction at all.

“Purity” of response has to do with whether or not the response or experience you are attempting to anchor has been “contaminated” by other irrelevant or conflicting thoughts, feelings or reactions. It is possible that a person may very intensely experience the state to be anchored, but also mix it with other states and experiences. Another way to state this condition is that you will get back exactly what you anchor. As they say in the parlance of computer programming, “Garbage in, garbage out.” If reaching out to anchor someone with a touch makes them suspicious, then that suspicion becomes part of the state that is anchored. If you ask a person to think of something positive, but that person is recalling a disassociated memory of the event, and judging whether or not they have chosen the right event, then you will be anchoring disassociation and judgment.

Anchors set better and work better when they are linked to intense emotional states i.e. delirious happiness, wanton motivation, intense relaxation or razor-sharp focus. The best types of states to anchor are naturally occurring states, as you're able to anchor the state right when it's happening. The next best types of states to anchor are recalled or remembered states where a vivid memory acts as the reference structure.

If a person's experience does not include either a naturally occurring or recalled state i.e. they cannot remember a time where they had the experience of being deliriously happy or of intense relaxation then a constructed state can serve as a reference structure. A person can be assisted in constructing such a state by asking them to:

Think of a person they know who has had this experience. If they can't think of a person they know who has had this experience ask them to think of anybody who has had this experience - a TV personality, a famous person from history or even a fictional character in a book or film.

Imagine stepping into the body of that person and living through that experience as them - what feelings do you experience? What do you say to yourself in your own mind? What can you see through their eyes or hear through their ears? Once the state is being experienced fully then it can be anchored.

  • T – Timing

The relationship in time between stimulus and response is one of the key conditions of effective association. According to the basic ‘laws ’ of association, when two experiences occur close enough together a sufficient number of times, the two experiences become associated with one another.

Studies involving classical conditioning have shown that this association proceeds only forward in time; that is, the stimulus (the bell) must precede the response (salivating when eating food). There also seems to be an optimal interval at which various types of associations are most easily made. For quick reflexes such as an eyeblink, this interval is about one-half second; longer or shorter intervals are less effective. For slower reactions such as salivation the interval is longer, perhaps two seconds or so. In learning verbal associations, timing is much less critical than in classical conditioning. Verbal pairs are learned with almost equal ease whether presented simultaneously or separated by several seconds.

In NLP, the optimal anchoring period is determined in relation to the peak of the intensity of the response or state one is anchoring. It is generally taught that the stimulus should be initiated when the response to be anchored had reached about two-thirds of its peak. If possible, the anchoring stimulus should be held until just after the state has stabilized or begins to diminish. In this way, the association is created between the stimulus and the crest of the response. To do this, the response must be “calibrated” so that the behavioral characteristics of the response are known before the anchoring is attempted.

Anchors set best and work best when they are precisely timed. The keys to anchoring are a Quality Control mechanism that assists us in ensuring that the anchors we set are as effective and powerful as possible. The first two keys to anchoring are Intensity and Timing. Let's understand the remaining three keys:

  • U – Uniqueness

The condition of “uniqueness of stimulus” relates to the fact that we are always making associations between cues in the world around us and our internal states and reactions. Some stimuli are so common that they make ineffective anchors, largely because they have already been associated with so many other contexts and responses. Shaking hands or touching a person’s shoulder are much less unique stimuli than a touch on the middle digit of the little finger. Unique stimuli make better and longer lasting anchors.

It is important to note that “uniqueness” is not the same as “intensity”. A more intense stimulus is not necessarily a more effective anchor. A more intense stimulus may be unique, but very subtle, even unconscious stimuli (such as the subtle smells and sensations that trigger allergic reactions), may be unique and thus very strong anchors.

The stimulus for an anchor must be unique for the anchor to work effectively. Non-unique stimuli i.e. shaking hands with a person or nodding the head, or other behaviors that we engage in as a matter of course and often without specific intention, are not good stimuli for anchoring as they result in the anchor being fired randomly. Anchors which are fired randomly become diluted over time and thus, become less effective.

A unique stimulus can be used with precision i.e. to trigger the associated emotional state when, and only when, we intentionally choose to fire that anchor. This controlled, intentional use serves in turn to reinforce the anchor.

  • R – Replication

The meaning of replication here actually relates to our ability to replicate the chosen stimulus with precision. When you choose the stimulus you're going to use to fire your anchor, make sure it's something that you can do in exactly the same way every time you use it. For example, if your chosen stimulus is to be touched (kinesthetic), you must be able to touch in precisely the same location, at the same speed, frequency, duration and pressure every time.

  • N - Number of times

Repetition of the stimulus, the number of times the stimulus is applied. In simple terms, the more times you set an anchor the more powerful and automatic it will become. Setting an anchor multiple times is known in NLP as stacking the anchor.

Stacking Anchors

Stacking anchors allows you to access a variety of states from launching a single anchor. To do so, simply determine the states at first and then use the same process as for a single anchor, however, repeat as necessary for each emotion.

Anchors can be stacked to increase their intensity. To stack anchors, elicit several instances of states and anchor them in the same place. The state chosen for a particular stacked anchor can be the same or different. When stacking states, choose complementary states. If the client wants an ‘upbeat’ anchor and a ‘chill-out’ anchor, it is probably best to stack two different sets of anchors.

Always stack your anchor when you first set it to make it as powerful and effective as possible, adding multiple positive resource states if you wish. Once you have your anchor set up just how you want it you can keep it that way by repeating the anchoring process every once in a while to refresh and re-stack those positive resource states, in much the same way that regular servicing keeps your car running at its optimum performance.

Often this is done to create a ‘Resource’ anchor, which allows you to instantly move to a powerful, resourceful state. Some examples are:

• Can you think of a time when you were totally motivated?

• Can you think of a time when you felt completely confident?

• Can you think of a time when you felt whole-heartedly loved?

• Can you remember a time when you were totally resourceful?

Stacking anchors summary

1.Rapport/Resourceful states/Outcome.

2. Recall experiences of desired positive states.

3. Associate the client.

4. Anchor first state.

5. Break state.

6. Repeat Steps #4 and #5 until all states stacked.

7. Final Test.

The Circle of Excellence

This is a great method for accessing resources such as confidence when

you need them.

1. Identify an upcoming situation that you really want to go well, but you don't feel as confident about it as you would like to. Also identify how you would like to feel in that situation - your state of excellence that will enable you to perform better.

2. Let go of that upcoming situation. Set up a 'circle of excellence' on the floor. What color is it? How big? You'll need it big enough to step into, so hula-hoop size is good.

3. Access the excellent state and associate it with the circle:

  1. What does it feel like when you are in that state?

  2. Relive a time when you were in that state.

  3. As soon as you start to feel that state, step into the circle.

  4. Turn the state up even more.

4. Step back out of the circle and break state.

5. Test by stepping back into the circle. The excellent state should return.

6. Think of your future situation (dissociated) where you want to have that excellent state.

7. Future pacing:

  1. In that situation, what signs will let you know it's time to have these resources available?

  2. Step into the circle as soon as you start to access the "problem" state again.

  3. Notice what happens – the problem state should only appear briefly and lead directly to the excellent state.

Note: you can stack more than one resource state in the circle if necessary.

Collapsing of Anchors

Collapse Anchors is another technique which gives your client new neurological choices. It is used to neutralize a negative anchor by absorbing it into a positive anchor. It is based on the assumption that, given the option, human beings will normally select an outcome which is pleasurable/positive over one which is painful/negative. The time when you collapse anchors is when your client repetitively goes into a state that they wish they didn’t go into and don’t seem to know how to get out of it. For example, every time my Mother asks me what I’m doing I feel like acting like a rebellious teenager!

Ask the client to come up with between one and three positive, powerful states they would like to experience instead. Stack the anchor a number of times in the same location to increase its power – a knuckle is good for this.

Can you remember a time when you were totally (state) ? Once you have a really powerful anchor stacked, then you ask the client only one time to recall the negative state. Can you remember the last time your Mother asked you what you were doing and you acted like a rebellious teenager?You then anchor that experience in a different location (eg an adjacent knuckle). Anchor the negative experience only one time.

You now have both a positive and a negative anchor set up in two different locations. The positive anchor should be powerful since you anchored it many times, and the negative anchor fairly weak since you only anchored it once. The way you collapse the negative anchor is that you fire both anchors at the same time. While firing off both anchors, you watch the integration take place. Once you notice that the client’s visible experience becomes steady, take your hand off the negative anchor and hold the positive for about five more seconds. This technique doesn’t necessarily take away the feeling of being annoyed and wanting to behave like a teenager whenever Mum asks what you’re doing, but it does link the positive feelings with the one of annoyance and gives the client new choices of behaviour. This Technique is good for collapsing any “Away From” anchors with a “Towards” anchor. It does not work well with beliefs.


1. Get in rapport and decide on which negative state is to be blown out

2. Set the frame (i.e. explain what you’re going to do, get client’s permission to touch them if you're going to use kinesthetic anchors)

3. Decide on which positive/resource state is needed to blow out the negative state. You can ask the client!

4. Get into the specific positive state you’re eliciting.

5. Make sure that the client is fully and intensely in the state to be anchored.

6. Anchor the positive state (go on to stack more positive states if you need to). You can ask the client “Is that strong enough to get rid of <negative state>?”

7. Break state before you elicit the negative state.

8. Elicit and anchor the negative state (only elicit the negative state as far as you need to anchor it).

9. Fire both anchors at the same time until they peak - the client will probably show various physiological changes (e.g. flushing, breathing changes, asymmetry of posture).

10. When the integration is complete (client returns to a more symmetrical and composed posture) release the negative anchor.

11. Hold the positive anchor for 5 more seconds and then release

12. Test (fire the negative anchor, ask them how they feel about that old state) and future-pace: "What will happen next time you're in that situation?"

Chaining of Anchors

Collapsing anchors works well when you are working with small changes between the present state and the desired state. When a client has a significant difference between their present state and the desired state, or too much of a transition for a two-step process, or the anchor will not fire through because the present state is a ‘stuck’ state, Chaining Anchors can be an effective technique. It's useful to set up a way of 'automatically' getting out of, for example, a 'stuck' state. This technique is a sequential process of moving to a significantly different state. It chains states from the present state by“leading up” to the desired state through several intermediate states. Each state builds on the one before until the final desired state is reached.

The method for chaining the intermediate anchors together with the present state and the desired state is to set up all the states in the chain and then chain them together, one right after the other.

In selecting the intermediate states, you want to ensure that there is movement from the preceding state to the next state. “What would it take to get you off of (state) ?” Or, “What would it take to get you off of (state) to (next state)?"


The keys in chain design are as follows:

1. Choose two widely separate steps, involving a “stuck,” present state and a desired state. ‘How would you like to feel instead

2. No more than five steps (ideally four).

3. The first intermediate step is probably an “away from,” to take the person out of the stuck state.

4. The next intermediate step should take the client “towards” the end state.

5. The states should have movement. (e.g. Satisfaction, Understanding has no movement)

6. The states should be sufficiently strong to move the client onto the next state

7. Steps not too far apart.

8. Should be ecological, (no strongly negative emotions such as anger, sadness, fear/ panic, guilt,resentment, jealousy)

9. Then states should be self-initiated and available NOW. (eg ‘waiting for feedback’ is neither self-initiated nor available now.

10. Should not be the strategy currently run.

11. Try the chain on yourself – would it/could it work?


1.Rapport/Resourceful states/Outcome.

2. Identify the undesirable Present State.

3. Decide on the positive/resourceful Desired End State.

4. Set the frame by explaining the process and what the client can expect. Get permission to touch.

5. Determine the Intermediate States to lead the client to the Desired End State.

6. Design the chain. Elicit the states and determine the order to put them in. (This is the “Art & Science” part of NLP.)

7. Elicit and anchor each state separately, beginning with the Present State through to the EndState (you may have to stack all of the states (typically 3 times) to get a high enough intensity). Make sure that the client is out of previous state prior to anchoring the next one. Use a break state between anchoring each state. Calibrate each state.

8. Test each state as you go.

9. Chain each state together firing #1, and when #1 is at its peak (calibrate) fire #2 and release #1.Then when #2 is at its peak immediately fire #3 and release #2. Then when #3 is at its peak immediately fire #4 and release #3. When #4 (End state) is at its peak, release #4. (This is NOT a collapse because no two states peak at the same time.)

10. Test #1. Fire Present State anchor. Client should end up in the final state. Calibrate. Test #2. Now how do you feel about it? eg: How do you feel about procrastination? Pay attention to their non-verbal reactions rather than what they say.

11. Future pace: "What's going to happen next time you're in that kind of situation?" Again, pay attention to the non-verbal response, and you're also looking for a congruent verbal response.


All intermediate states should be ‘dynamic’ high-energy states - especially the first one.

The first intermediate state can be mildly ‘negative’ - e.g. impatience.

Extinguishing an Anchor:

A common question that people have is, “How long does an anchor last? ” The answer to that question relates to how many of the “well-formedness conditions ” for anchoring it meets. An anchor made of an intense response, a unique stimulus, a well-timed association, and which has been appropriately contextualized, can last a very long time. According to Pavlov, some of the conditioned reflexes of his dogs were only extinguished with the death of the animal.

This holds true with negative anchors (such as phobias) as well as positive anchors, however. Sometimes it is useful to have a way of changing or “extinguishing ” an anchor. NLP provides a number of ways to have more choices about automatic anchors.

One of the most common methods of extinguishing an anchor is through the process of “systematic desensitization. ” This involves first entering a neutral or dis-associated state, and then introducing the “problem anchor ” in small ‘doses ’. If someone experiences anxiety at seeing algebraic equations, for example, he or she would first be instructed to close his or her eyes and get into a very relaxed or confident state. Then, the person would open his or her eyes very slowly and look at the equations for only a brief period and see if he or she were able to stay in the relaxed or confident state. If not, the person simply closes his or her eyes again, re - enters and strengthens the relaxed or confident state, and tries again until he or she is able to look at the equations and maintain the positive state.

Another strategy to “reprogram ” an anchor is to “collapse ” the anchor with some other anchor or experience by simultaneously firing off two anchors together. In this case it is important to be sure that the state experience associated with the other anchor is of at least equal intensity and strength to the one you are changing (see Collapsing Anchors). Anchors which trigger beliefs, for instance, will need to be paired with other beliefs in order to have an effect.

Anchors may also be “reframed ” by placing them in contexts which shift the way they are interpreted or experienced. The NLP techniques of VK Disassociation, Chaining and Change Personal History provide other ways of “extinguishing ” or transforming problematic anchors.

People as Anchors

Do you think of people as 'making' you feel good or bad? Here's how that works.

You have a friend whose company you always enjoy. She listens to you when you need to discuss a problem, compliments you on your handling of difficult situations and basically sees you as worthwhile, talented and a wonderful person. You light up when you see her. Why? Because those good feelings she elicits in you are anchored to the sight of her face and the sound of her voice.

Conversely, you have a relative who is always negative. He belittles your efforts, sees you as a loser and you find yourself feeling that way whenever he's around. Your self-esteem takes a nosedive the minute you see his car pull into your driveway. His presence, or even just the mental image of him, has become an anchor for feelings of inadequacy.

Anchoring Practice

1. Make a list of the visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and olfactory and gustatory anchors in your life. Use associated recall for resource anchors, dissociated review for unpleasant anchors.

2. Notice anchors used by other people. Include anchors they are using deliberately, and ones they are setting off without realizing it.

3. Set a relaxation anchor for yourself in multiple modalities. Go into a relaxed state, and as you feel yourself relaxing, say the word 'relax' to yourself in a calm intonation, use a special touch or gesture, and see an image that you associate with relaxation. When you're ready, come back to full alertness, and test it. When could you use this anchor?

4. Set an 'uptime anchor'. Remember, uptime is when you are paying attention to what is going on around you - so this state is essential to getting results in NLP. Go into full attention and set your uptime anchor for each sensory channel separately. Then engage with all the channels simultaneously and set your anchor again. Keep on doing this until you are satisfied that it works. What situations could you use that in?

5. Covertly set a visual anchor. When you're engaged in conversation with someone, and they get into a very positive or resourceful state -either spontaneously or because you've conversationally amplified it for them - anchor that state with a covert visual anchor. This would be some natural seeming gesture like adopting a particular body position, a gesture, or a facial expression. Test it when they are back in a neutral state. When could you use that?

You can also experiment with voice tone anchoring, with using a particular word or phrase, and with appropriate kinesthetic anchors like a mock punch on the arm or a hand on the shoulder - whatever is appropriate to your relationship with that person. Notice the results you get, and think about the possibilities for using these anchors.


By understanding the Neuro-linguistic process of anchoring, we can realize that the first impression usually becomes the last impression, once the l anchor is set. By being aware of how we set anchors in others and in ourselves, we can take control of the process. We can then set positive anchors in ourselves and in others, so that we can achieve an outcome or create an environment of excellence and candor.

Anchoring is derived from Pavlov’s theory of stimulus response, but there lies a key difference between the two. Stimulus-response usually needs further reinforcement, whereas anchoring can be created at the first attempt itself. Using the stimulus-response model, a positive behavior can be integrated into consciousness only after repeating it several times. As a contrast, a properly set anchor can get an immediate response thereby demonstrating the one-trial learning theory of Neuro-linguistic programming. This technique can be mastered using Neuro-linguistic training.

The process of anchoring can be used to create a certain state within a person. Anchors should also be reinforced to enhance their effectiveness. This can be done by stacking anchors, by putting extra resourceful states over an anchored resourceful state. The anchor becomes stronger, and generates a more positive state. Anchors can also be refreshed periodically to reinforce the resourceful state

We create an anchor representation every time we communicate with another person. We use sounds and visual symbols to represent an experience, or to trigger past memories, feelings, ideas, thoughts and representations. Fictional novels use verbal anchoring to create images, sounds, smells, feelings and sensations for the reader. Good communicators always use the anchoring techniques taught by Neuro-linguistic training to attach states, representations and experiences.

This article on 'Anchoring' has been contributed by Priya Pandey who is a student of Art's in Psychology, from St.Mira's College. and peer reviewed by Ishita Vashisht who is a psychology student from Keshav Mahavidyalaya, Delhi University

Priya and Ishita are both part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP), which is mentored by Anil Thomas.

Priya's future plan is to practice as a professional Counseling Psychologist and work in mental health sector

Ishita hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology and understand human behaviour, their attachment styles and clinical disorders through her own lens.

GIRP is an initiative by (International Journal of Neurolinguistics & Gestalt Psychology) IJNGP and Umang Foundation Trust to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.

Anil is an internationally certified NLP Master Practitioner and Gestalt Therapist. He has conducted NLP Training in Mumbai, and across 6 other countries. The NLP practitioner course is conducted twice every year. To get your NLP certification

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