NLP Anchoring refers to the creation of an association between a feeling and a sensory experience such as a touch or a sound. NLP Anchoring works because we form natural associations between feelings and external things every day. And every day our anchors remind us of those feelings. For example a smell may instantly transport you back to a particular time, a song may bring back memories of a person long gone, and entering a school room may trigger feelings of fear or happiness. Everyone creates links like these, and you create them whether you intend to or not. Very often we are totally unaware of the 'trigger', and we are baffled as to why we suddenly feel sad, or scared, or even turned on. An NLP anchor is something an NLP practitioner deliberately creates to link a feeling to something else. Anchoring can be done in or out of hypnosis.
The NLP Anchoring technique is based on unintentional anchoring, a natural subconscious learning experience. For example, suppose you go on holiday, have a great time and the same song is playing everywhere you go. In years to come, hearing that song brings back the experience of that holiday. You didn't do anything to create the link, and you can't stop it happening - that is a natural anchor. However, anchors normally get overwritten. If you hear that same song in many different places later, then the automatic anchor between the song and that holiday experience is broken. The NLP anchoring technique uses this natural ability to create and break associations.
Unintentional anchoring usually occurs when you are in a particular emotional state. Then something occurs during that state and your mind forms an instant association between the two. For example phobias such as fear of spiders can be caused by a young person without a phobia picking up on fear from people around them, even before they see the spider. The young person goes into a state of fear, and then sees the spider and the mind forms the association: spider = fear. The fear state is then permanently anchored onto the sight of a spider. Equally, people who were unhappy as children often got comforted by their mothers giving them food. They then anchor the idea food = love.
Anchors are everywhere in our lives. The more times an anchor gets reinforced, the more often it get repeated, the stronger that anchor becomes. Pleasure can get associated with all sorts of irrelevant things. Smokers have a coffee and a cigarette for a break. Soon they cannot enjoy a coffee without the cigarette, and thinking of a coffee automatically triggers the need for a cigarette. People who got their first intense sexual feeling in a certain situation may find themselves anchored on to shoes, or wearing tight clothing, or almost anything else and then develop a sexual fetish about it.
Ask the person to recall a time when they felt 'in control', or 'powerful' or 'in charge' or some other positive state of mind. Ask the person to really associate into the feeling that they felt at that time, to not just think about it, but to experience it, to 'be there' and notice the feeling in their body, how they felt, how they stood, how they experienced it physically.
Then ask them to intensify that feeling, to double it and double it again. Get them to become immersed in the emotion, in the feeling. When a person goes into an emotional state you should be able to see a physical change in them, either in how their face looks, or how they hold themselves or in changed breathing patterns.
When they appear to be experiencing the state you want, attach the anchor. This can be be something you do, or something they do. A common anchor is to press firmly on the person's shoulder or knee for at least five seconds. This gives their body time to associate the peak emotional experience and the physical stimulus. Alternatively you can tell the person to create their own anchor, by pressing their own hand on a part of their body, or squeezing some fingers together. Whatever the anchor is, it should be something not normally encountered. Familiar things like a handshake already have thousands of associations so it is better to create a unique anchor, such as pressing a fingernail against the thin skin at the top of the thumbnail on the same hand. This is not something people normally do, so the next time it is encountered the mind will associate it with the feeling that the person had at the time.
It is often necessary to reinforce an anchor before it is strong enough to be used. The process as described would be used, and then the client would be asked to clear their mind, or asked to describe some other non-emotional event like how they got to the office. The procedure of establishing the original anchor would then be repeated in exactly the same way, anchoring the same feeling to exactly the same spot.
When the therapist is happy that this has been done sufficiently, the client will again be asked to talk about some non-emotional event such as a favorite shop and the therapist will unexpectedly apply the anchor or tell the client to apply it instantly. The client will then be able to tell whether or not the anchor successfully brings back the feeling it is supposed to.
NOTE: Not everyone can actually recall and physicalize past emotions, particularly people with depression. It is therefore usually not possible to create NLP anchors with that type of person. This does not mean that they cannot form anchors, only that they cannot create physical anchors to past feelings just by wanting it to happen. There are other NLP techniques for helping this type of personality.
Anchoring is the NLP technique used to 'wipe out' negative emotional states. For example suppose a person is dreading an upcoming speech they have to deliver. The therapist would create an anchor for a feeling of positive competence by getting the person to re-experience the emotion of some time when they felt outstandingly confident. The person would then be asked to think about the upcoming speech, to imagine what it will be like, to feel the feelings they are dreading. When the client is clearly in the state, usually observable by signs of distress, the therapist applies the positive anchor or instructs the client to do so. The positive anchor will neutralize the negative feelings by causing the client to experience positive feelings while thinking about the feared situation. The anchor can be strengthened and reapplied as many times as needed. Eventually the person will report that only positive feelings are generated when thinking about delivering the speech.
The principle of applying an anchor can be made more powerful by applying more than one positive anchor. The client can be asked to recall several good experiences of different kinds, and to create a different anchor for each one. Then, when the feared event is imagined, the therapist applies each anchor one after the other, almost simultaneously, flooding the client with positive memories while thinking about the event.
Suggestions can be anchored verbally in various ways. There is no right or wrong way to do it, as long as the anchoring is consistent and non-obvious. This is known as analogical marking. The basic idea is to get your words to trigger the creation of some state or feeling in the listener.
Voice tone is the most useful way to anchor specific words. Humans recognize that the tone of voice implies something over and above the actual words used. Saying a word with a descending, deepening tone of voice turns it into a command, or at least something you should be paying attention to. On the other hand, saying a word with the voice rising at the end turns it into a question.
When talking to a client, the hypnotist can speak the command words more loudly, or with a particular stress, or in a different accent, or by turning their head either towards or away from the client. All of these anchoring techniques are easy to do and many people already do it naturally and unconsciously. The listener will unconsciously notice that some words and phrases are different from others and will focus on them in order to categories them.
Another way of anchoring with the voice is to mispronounce, stutter or hesitate over particular words or phrases. If the speaker says something like "There's no smoke without um... and I can tell you...." The listener will try to fill in the missing word, and will say the word 'fire' in their head, will think about it, be aware of it, all without any instruction from the speaker.
If the object is simply to put ideas in to the other person's mind without them being aware of it, then the speaker can use other ways of anchoring the 'key' words. If you are in sales then the 'anchor phrases' will consist of the same few 'key' words repeated at different points in the conversation, possibly separated by long intervals of time. The speaker can anchor the key words by touching the listener gently on the hand or arm. On television you regularly see politicians smiling broadly and leaning toward the interviewer every time the key word or phrase is said. They are anchoring the phrase to a positive friendly body movement.
The speaker can subtly mark their conversation with consistent gestures. For example, in a job evaluation interview, the employee might be describing job performance over the past year. In describing those targets that were not met the employee would gesture only with the left hand, and use a motion implying backwards. The employee would preface every positive achievement with a gesture by the right hand, and use a subtle movement that implies 'forwards'. The employee would finish by anchoring all points supporting promotion or salary increase by first making gestures with the right hand, and then stating the point. The boss would have unconsciously associated movements of the right hand with positive future events and be more receptive to the idea.
Another related way of influencing people unconsciously is to use 'priming'. This is a very powerful but subtle technique used often in NLP therapy. Before the session even begins, as the client is being led into the office, the first words they hear can contain concepts and ideas that the therapist wants to anchor. Specific ideas and concepts can be delivered in a casual off-hand way and will register in the client's unconscious mind totally unnoticed, but will influence their actions and behavior later on. If you say to the departing client 'Email me and let me know well you are getting on'. This anchors the suggestion of 'doing well' in the future.
Anchoring is sometimes indistinguishable from shaping. Shaping is a behavioral technique used in training animals. No dolphin in the wild ever jumps through hoops. Trainers get them to do that in gradual steps, by rewarding any behavior that leads in the right direction. In a sales situation, shaping and anchoring can be used to 'train' the customer in how to behave. Big ticket items like furniture are usually bought after a lengthy inspection process. The astute salesperson can use this time to look for anything that might lead to a firm order and reward that by a smile and verbal and body language approval, and punish any non-buying behavior by not smiling or looking disappointed. The customer will quickly learn what generates a smile, and do more of it.
The principle behind NLP post hypnotic anchors is simple: you suggest that the client will enter a particular state whenever a particular event occurs. To do that you have to use hypnotic words or hypnotic phrases. In hypnosis you get the client to experience the state of 'confidence' or 'non-smoking' or whatever it is by suggesting it directly or getting them to re-experience a past event that included that state. Then you use hypnotic words and phrases to suggest that that same state will automatically be recalled whenever the trigger event or situation occurs. The trigger needs to be something that the client will definitely encounter. It can be some situation that the client normally has problems with or it can be something that inevitably happens to everyone.
Whenever you see the color red, you will immediately recall your goal and think about what you can do today to achieve it.
Any time the idea of a cigarette comes into your mind you will feel that feeling of supreme confidence arise in you, and how determined you are to be a non-smoker.
Every time you look in the mirror you will see a tiny change, a change that lets you know that it is working the way you want it to.
The trigger itself is not important, as long as it is something that the client will definitely notice at different times of the day. What matters is that the hypnotist uses the right hypnotic words to anchor the client so the events trigger the post hypnotic phrases to make them to re-experience the state and so reinforces it many times.