Throughout our lives we have been creating numerous anchors. That is, we have created associations between certain stimuli and an emotional reaction. For example, when we hear a special song we can feel nostalgic and when we hear a dog barking we can feel nervous if one has bitten us. When we see a red light we stop immediately, without thinking too much. In reality, our life is full of these anchors, although we are not fully aware of their existence and the power they exert on our behavior.
What is emotional anchoring?
Emotional anchoring is one of the most famous and effective techniques of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), thanks to which we can generate certain emotional states when we want to better manage situations that normally overwhelm us, generating negative emotions such as anger, frustration , sadness or anxiety.
Thanks to the anchoring technique we manage to activate a certain affective state. Just like a song, a smell or a memory, it helps us move to certain emotional states that give us the peace, serenity or motivation we need at that moment. Therefore, anchoring is an automatic association between an external stimulus and an emotional response. In fact, anchoring is simply linking certain stimuli to certain affective states.
To achieve this, this NLP technique works with anchors – sensory stimuli that give us access to a specific emotional state, from a word to an image, a phrase, a sound, a movement, a gesture or even an object. The anchor allows us to activate the state of tranquility or empowerment that is within us in the current situation.
In fact, it is important to be aware that there are also negative anchors. A negative anchor is a stimulus that generates a bad feeling or activates bad habits, such as the desire to smoke after drinking coffee. There are also unconscious anchors, many of which are at the base of disorders such as anxiety and depression.
On the other hand, when an anchor generates internal states such as joy, dynamism, self-confidence, security and concentration, it is considered positive. The anchoring technique focuses precisely on creating those positive associations to help us deal with stressful situations.
How to make an emotional anchoring in 3 steps?
1. Determine the emotional state you want to achieve
The best thing to do is to choose a state of tranquility, serenity and peace since this way you can combat negative emotions more easily. However, you can also choose a state in which you feel particularly empowered, resilient, or motivated.
The important thing is that you focus on what you want to get and not on what you want to avoid. Remember that the more you try to avoid a thought or emotion, the more it will be reinforced due to the rebound effect. Therefore, simply focus on that emotional state that you want to experience and do not worry about anything else.
2. Identify a moment in your past when you felt this way
It is important that you choose a moment when you felt really calm and happy. It can be that ultra-relaxing moment soaking up the sun on your last vacation or when you were little and snuggling in your mom’s arms. If you want to activate a state that makes you feel confident and empowered, you can imagine your greatest achievement, for example.
As a general rule, it is recommended to use a more recent memory as it is generally more vivid, but a distant memory is fine as well, as long as you are able to transport yourself to that experience and relive the emotion of the moment, a process known as associated mental visualization.
The key is to relive that experience as accurately as possible, to remember the details and the sensations it produced. As you begin to experience it, focus on it and amplify it by activating the sights and sounds.
3. Choose the anchoring movement
When you notice the feeling you had that day, anchor it with a gesture. Gestures are often more viable anchors than objects because you can do them anywhere and even go unnoticed. You can squeeze the nail of your left little finger with the thumb and index finger of your right hand, tap your chest with the palm of your hand, or press your earlobe in a peculiar way.
Thanks to this self-anchoring, your mind will associate that movement with the memory and the emotional state it generates. Of course, you will have to repeat this exercise several times to strengthen the bond. The more you repeat the process, the more automatic the response will become and the more effective it will be in any circumstance.
To confirm that the emotional anchoring has worked, you simply have to perform the movement you have chosen and verify that it activates the affective state that you want.
5 keys to realice an effective emotional anchoring
1. Intensity of memory. Anchors work best in this NLP technique when they are associated with strong emotions or states of mind, be it great happiness, deep inner peace, or very strong motivation. That is why it is important that the chosen memory is particularly vivid.
2. Synchronization of the anchoring. The instant at which an anchor is set also influences the results. As a general rule, the effectiveness of anchoring depends on precise timing. The ideal time to set the anchor is just before your experience reaches its peak of intensity.
3. Singularity of the stimulus. To reinforce the anchor, it is convenient to use a single stimulus. Making common movements or gestures, such as making a fist or touching the face is not usually effective because when repeated over time, the anchor will be diluted. That is why it is important that you choose a special movement that you will hardly repeat automatically.
4. Replicator power of the stimulus. To make sure the anchor sticks, you need to be able to accurately replicate the stimulus each time you practice it, so it’s also critical that you don’t choose an overly complicated move that prevents you from replicating it properly, simply because you’ve forgotten how to do it. And you should not only consider the movement itself, but also its intensity, the specific area where you apply it, and its frequency or duration while performing the anchoring technique.
5. Purity of the anchoring. The most effective anchors are those that do not have competitive experiences. This means that before anchoring you must make sure that there are no other thoughts or emotions that could “contaminate” or compete with the affective state that you want to activate. There is no room for internal conflicts or conflicting feelings and emotions because they will take power away from the anchor. Therefore, try to relive the memory of your choice in its simplest and purest form.
Emotional anchoring is particularly powerful, once it is mastered. You can use it in a thousand possible ways, to fill yourself with energy when you have to face a challenge or to calm down in situations that overwhelm you. In fact, studies show that the anchoring technique is particularly useful for calming anxiety and stress, as well as for dealing with phobias. The power of the mind is immense, with a little practice it will help you better manage your emotions and achieve your goals.
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