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NLP Anchors

By Roger Ellerton Phd, ISP, CMC, Renewal Technologies Inc.

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Pavlov developed the notion of stimulus response by giving food to his dogs and simultaneously ringing a bell. In time, the dogs came to associate the sound of the bell with food and would salivate when they heard the bell even if no food was present. Here the stimulus is the bell and the response is salivating.

In NLP, anchoring refers to a stimulus response, similar to the link that Pavlov established. The stimulus (anchor or trigger) may come from your external environment (someone touching your shoulder or seeing a red light) or be an internal representation. In either case, it triggers a conscious or unconscious internal response/feeling which may result in a behavioral response.

We all have lots of different anchors. When I was a teenager, a friend and I spent a week together in Bermuda. While on the trip, I regularly used Coppertone suntan lotion. Many years later, when I smell this suntan lotion, no matter where I am or what I am doing, I immediately remember the good time that I had. This is an example of an external olfactory (smell) anchor that generates an internal response.

The following are other examples of anchors, can you add to this list?

  • Red traffic light – external visual.
  • Police siren – external auditory.
  • A gentle touch by a loved one – external kinesthetic.
  • The taste of a favourite food – external gustatory.
  • You are taking a course and the instructor says the word ‘test’ – external auditory digital (word).
  • An internal visual representation (picture) of your children – internal visual.
  • Your mother says your full name in a certain tone of voice – an external auditory and auditory digital.

The Swish Pattern started with a cue picture (trigger) and linked this to a new self-image with certain behaviours. This is an example of changing an anchor by changing a response to an existing trigger.

Anchors can be very useful and they can also be counterproductive. Most anchors operate outside of your conscious awareness and have an impact on your mental state or behaviour whether or not you are aware of them. Useful anchors are those that generate pleasant memories or put you into an empowered state (e.g. motivated or confident), or that result in a useful behaviour (red light, you stop the car). Examples of counterproductive anchors are:

  • You are a fully functioning adult until you step across the threshold of your parent’s house, at which time you may take on certain less than resourceful behaviours.
  • You are told that your boss wants to see you in her office in five minutes.
  • Someone says something that results in you remembering an unpleasant memory that leads to an emotional response.
  • Your spouse says something to you in a certain tone of voice and body language and you react in a less than resourceful manner.
  • Someone touches you unexpectantly and this brings up past memories of an unpleasant event.
  • A coworker, who continually brings up problems without solutions, begins to speak and you say something to yourself such as “Oh no, not again.” and begin to tune him out.

These anchors if undesired can be changed or eliminated by various NLP techniques.

And NLP is Much more than that!

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Author: Roger Ellerton is a certified NLP trainer, coach, certified management consultant and the founder and managing partner of Renewal Technologies. The above article is based on his book Live Your Dreams Let Reality Catch Up: NLP and Common Sense for Coaches, Managers and You.

Copyright © 2005, Renewal Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.


NLP Books and ebooks by Roger Ellerton

NLP book - Live Your Dreams NLP book - Live Your Dreams NLP book - Parents' Handbook NLP Techniques Win-Win Influence NLP and Personal Growth Thoughts Volume 1 NLP and Personal Growth Thoughts Volume 1


Renewal Technologies Inc.

Ottawa - Kingston - Gananoque, Canada
Serving Eastern Ontario and Beyond