Whenever I hear the song One More Night by Phil Collins it takes me right back to April 1985 and my Junior Prom. I had been asked to the Prom by a really sweet guy on our football team. He planned the whole thing and we had a ball with some other couples on a group date. For my goodnight kiss at the door after the Prom, he gave me a basket of Hershey’s kisses. So cute! My sister had made my formal dress. It was simple and beautiful, making a lovely rustling sound when I moved. My mother had done my hair in a really classy up-do and I can still smell the hairspray. It was a super fun night with great friends and it warms my heart every time I remember it. My Prom song is what’s called an “anchor.” It instantly accesses some very strong emotions and memories.
An anchor can be anything. It can be something we hear, see, feel, taste or smell and can immediately evoke powerful states of being. An anchor is a trigger that sets off a conditioned response. The conditions are made of sensory input that occurs around a certain thing. Anchors are all around us and are nothing new. In fact, advertisers rely on them for effective recall of their specific product. The intent is to produce a programmed response in us to want what they’re selling. A general awareness of anchors originated with Pavlov’s experiments involving a stimulus which would invoke a certain response. In Pavlov’s experiments, the desired response required time and repeated stimulus. Now, with the work of Neuro Linguistic Programming, a specific response can be created by one connection with a stimulus, more along the lines of the song and my Junior Prom memories.
We now know that we can use a one-time stimulus input to create a lasting and meaningful response that can be called upon at our most urgent times of need. I love that idea! For instance, if we are in the process of changing an old thought pattern for a new, more healthy one, we can anchor the new thought pattern and call on it when needed. If we want to anchor a new understanding, or remember a piece of information at a certain time, we can create an anchor that will recall it at will. Here’s how it’s done:
- Think of a positive state you want to be able to access at will. (We will refer to this state as a resourceful state.)
- Remember a time when you were in that state. Go back into that time; see what you saw then, feel what you felt then, hear what you heard then. Relive the experience and let that feeling grow as strong as it can.
- Come back to the present.
- Choose an association or anchor you want to use that will act as a trigger to bring back that resourceful feeling. It may be a sound, a word or an action. (Some people squeeze a thumb and a specific finger together.)
- Now go back and fully experience the resourceful state you accessed just now. Go back into that time again; see what you saw then, feel what you felt then, hear what you heard then. Relive the experience and let that feeling grow as strong as it can. When the feeling is at its height, use the anchor you chose.
- Come back to the present and think of something else, unrelated to the anchored state.
- Now test the anchor. Does this bring back the resourceful feeling? If not, or not strongly enough, go back in time, relive the experience and set the anchor again. Do this as many times as you need to set a strong resourceful feeling. (Usually it happens pretty well with the first try.)
- Now, imagine yourself in a situation where you would like to be able to use that resourceful state. Visualize the experience and imagine yourself triggering the anchor.
Anchors are putting themselves in place in our thought processes all the time. Sometimes it’s innocently done by circumstances and other times it’s intentionally done by others in an effort to exercise a portion of control over us. These types of triggers are often experienced negatively. Why not put anchors in place to our advantage, triggering the experiences and understandings we want to recall at will, and then enjoy their benefits when needed and desired? Good luck!