NLP Anchors


  • Author David Green
  • Published September 21, 2010
  • Word count 1,234

Who is pulling your strings?

Is there a piece of music that, when you hear it, takes you back years to another time and place, one which brings back floods of memories about an event or person that you once knew? Is there a smell that, when you smell it, reminds you of your childhood or some other time in your life?

Whenever I see someone looking at me over the top of their glasses, I am instantly transported, almost as if by some mystical power, back over 35 years to my primary school days and a rather large lady teacher who placed the fear of God into us when she looked across the room over those bi-focal lenses, her eye brows somehow turning into horns as those deep, dark, piercing eyes penetrated deep into our souls. In addition to the nauseating swell in the pit of my stomach, I can recall feeling the intense desire to slip down in my chair and hide under the table, just wishing that the ground could swallow me up and protect me from this witch who’s power over the whole class was dauntingly absolute. Now that’s an anchor!!!

Anchors are basically conditioned responses. They occur when an emotion is associated with something else. In itself this would seem quite a logical and natural process, which of course it is, but anchors, as well as being negative and positive can be debilitating and disempowering. Whilst anchors can also be empowering and may remind us of happy events in our lives, generally speaking these conditions do not generally dis-empower us. As with all NLP processes, what matters is the extent to which anchors are desirable, empowering and supportive of the process of life. Because the process of creating an anchor usually occurs when we are unaware of it, it does not take much imagination to see how the potential for disempowering associations can be unlimited in our every day life.

Anchors are such a powerful force in our lives because, not only do they take place all around us every day, but they are invisible, almost undetectable, silent and, potentially, for the development of a resourceful mental process, quite deadly.

A very dear friend of mine is an actor, and we have discussed many times how one can recreate a variety of emotions through anchors. What is interesting is that a sad story in itself, or a sad memory, doesn’t tend to work in creating tears, for example. What actually creates the tears is usually something unusual or unexpected within the story itself, but not the actual story or outcome. To give you an example, when I was twenty, actually during the night of my twentieth birthday, may father died of lung cancer. He died under somewhat unusual circumstances, which in them could be a separate and equally sad tale. Over the years I have relayed the events of that night to many of my friends and only on a few occasions have I actually cried. I often used to wonder why that was and had assumed that my reaction to telling the story was somehow dependent upon the relationship that I had with the person to whom I was telling it. It was some twenty years later, however, that I discovered that that was not the case, and that there were certain elements of the story that made me cry. Depending upon my state of mind or the reason for telling the story, I would include or exclude those aspects. What were they? Surprisingly enough they were the inclusion of a piece of torn off tissue box card, torn into two with each piece folded in half, a raised fist and muffled groans of frustration. All a very important part of the emotional context of the story, but not necessary in providing a brief summary of the content of the tale.

Amazing thought it is, in writing this down I felt some sadness, but when I re-read this paragraph out loud, to proof read it, tears came to my eyes and a ‘lump’ came into in my throat . Here is proof of the power of anchors. You might like to try this for yourself. Think of a sad story and tell it to a friend. Then tell it by including everything else that you can remember like the colour of walls, weather, music playing in the background, smells in the air, the texture of furniture, drapes, curtains and carpets etc. Somewhere in the tale is an anchor—something that will trigger tears in your eyes.

Who is Pulling Your Strings?

Take some time out to look around at all the ways that other people use anchors to manipulate you, your emotions AND the decisions that you make. It can be quite obvious and it can be brilliantly subtle. Advertisers, film makers, top salespeople, politicians and top trainers, to mention a few, have known about this principle for years, and many of them use it ruthlessly to their own commercial advantage. There is nothing like anchoring people to your product, company, political cause and especially to YOU, to get them to come back time after time for more of what it is that you made them feel, have or experience. In a moment that you hit a person’s emotional and sensory hot button, you have the power, consciously or otherwise, to manipulate their mental processes.

The principle of less subtle anchors is used to obvious effect when advertisers incorporate the association of sex, fear, greed, power, wealth, control, love, passion etc. to their product or service. But more powerful and subtle are the adverts, speeches and films that give hidden, embedded messages in their text or narration.

Whilst there are the clear benefits of positive, empowering anchors, one of their most unfortunate and undesirable characteristics is the way in which they can slowly and parasitically burrow their way into personal relationships, creating, over time, conditioned responses that have attached themselves to painful events within the relationship. These are usually associated with sex, in-laws, money, and children - the most common things attributed to arguments in marriage. Over time, and through repetition, one or both partners may be subjected to negative associations of the other through the attaching of any one or more of their personal characteristics with negative situations like shouting, arguments, debt, feelings of rejection etc. These anchors can become re-enforced with each repeating of the event.

Anchors provide a challenge for therapists and councillors, especially where couples are counselled together, because, in developing discussion about feelings, there is a danger of reinforcing some or all of the negative anchors that toe has created within them and associated with each other. It is, therefore, especially important that professionals in this field have a good grounding in their knowledge of what anchors are and how they can be changed into positive ones that empower relationships.

NLP is the science of excellence that provides an amazing range of sensory-based tools that can help almost anyone to transform their thinking and their way of perceiving themselves and the world around them. You can learn how to use the power of anchors in your life at You will find a range of opportunities including FREE mini-courses and NLP resources that work in the real world.

Copyright © and David Green 2010. All rights reserved.

David Green is an author, presenter and specialist in personal and professional development. For over 25 years he has trained, lectured and presented a wide range of mind science programmes including NLP courses and workshops. A popular success specialist David has worked with a host of government, corporate and institutional clients, including well known celebrities and thousands of private individuals on both sides of the Atlantic

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