In 1998, I was asked by my local Chamber of Commerce to explain how an NLP technique could make a difference in everyday life. There were a lot of Tony Robbins fans in attendance, so they were all familiar with the concept of Anchoring—he taught it to them in one of his tape courses. I saw this as a great opportunity to introduce them to the source, Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Here is how I did it, bringing one of my volunteer staff with me to assist.)

“Building upon our work with states—identifying them and choosing new ones, expanding the language of our behavioral choices—let’s now look at triggers that put us into states without our conscious choice. That’s the first step to reclaiming your choice in the matter!

“What do you immediately feel or say when you’re driving along, and you hear a siren behind you? A split second later, you’ve verified spinning red and blue lights in your rear-view mirror. Quick—what did you feel in your body?”

Random answers ring out: “Panic,” “shiver”, “oh-crap!”, et al

“Now who knows, in light of our last lesson on Accessing States, why I didn’t ask you what you thought?

“Right, thinking is a logical process, our conscious mind is engaged in making conscious decisions about what’s going on. But our unconscious already knows, doesn’t it? Now here’s the interesting part—though our unconscious minds are capable of having responses, states, anchored. An anchor is similar to a conditioned response in Behaviorism. During a powerful state, typically at its peak, a unique stimulus to any of the representational systems can become anchored to that state. This later presents as the anchor is triggered and we return to the state with no other explanation.

“This is not necessarily a bad thing, though it certainly can be. Think about how often you have a feeling you don’t prefer—you find yourself in a state you don’t like—and can find no logical explanation for it. That would be like my asking what you thought about when you saw the signs of the police car behind you, signaling to pull over. Logically, entering the state might seem like an overreaction. But to the less logical portion of us, the anchor simply triggered the state. Period. For an anchor that takes us to a less desired state, that is a candidate for collapsing it—and we’ll get to that, shortly. For now, it’s enough to understand it and to recognize it when it unconsciously directs us to a state we don’t like. Similarly, we may want to intentionally create anchors that lead us to states we do enjoy or find useful.

“I use this a lot in my own life, creating anchors to resourceful or enjoyable states, making my life easier and more fulfilling. I also notice when my wife looks at me that way and I instantly get a feeling that she’s upset with me—which is very similar to seeing the police car behind me—and rather than fall into an unconscious program of conflict with her, I can head that off and redirect it to a more enjoyable place.

“Now let’s do a demonstration. I noticed you in the back reacting with strong physiology to my question about the police car behind you…yes? Would you like to help me demonstrate something cool? I promise that this experience will empower you as you’ll get to anchor something you want so you can COME HERE more easily. Great, thanks! For anyone who hasn’t met you, I’m wondering whether you’ll state your name.”

As the volunteer says, “B.J.”, I put the steps to creating an anchor on the white board so the group can see them.

“Now, thank you, B.J., for volunteering! You saw what we did in the last section—how we identified a state that was very common to us, but we didn’t like, and created a conscious path to move from it to another state we preferred? This is somewhat similar in that I want you to come up with a resource or state you would like to access more easily—in fact, INSTANTLY. Common examples from your peers have included “confidence”, ‘curiosity,’ ‘compassion’…yes, my passion for alliteration, branching from my name, is completely clear!

“So what’s something you’d like to snap yourself into IMMEDIATELY?”

B.J. says “love for my wife—we fight sometimes and I wish I could just feel love for her instead of getting mad at her.”

“Good one, B.J.! Now you ‘at home’—in the group, please follow along with the steps on the board over there, note what I’m doing, as you’re learning to do this to yourself as well as for others in your life. Okay, now you want to instantly access ‘love for your wife’, which is beautiful. This from another human who understands the value of making your partner feel loved—even when we might be upset with her! I’m going to ask you to ‘go there’ in your mind and heart, love her, feel that love, and then I’m going to ask you to do something weird. No, I won’t touch you. But I will ask you to touch yourself…stop everyone! This is a family program, here!

So not like THAT! I’ve been watching your mannerisms and one of my favorite go-to’s, if you will, is anchoring a touch either to the ear lobe or to the web of skin between the fingers. Which fingers is a personal choice…I won’t touch that one! But which is LESS familiar to you—between the fingers or your ear lobe?”

When B.J. asks “When you say ‘between the fingers’, what do you mean?” I know that this is strange to him. The choice has been made!

“Okay, now for those of you following along at home, lol, note the steps to creating an anchor on the board—and match them to what I do—so if I do something wrong, you can keep me honest. Now to B.J.: Think of a time when you noticed seriously loving your wife. You were so filled with love for her that you almost couldn’t contain yourself!”

B.J. flushes, having a strong kinesthetic reaction, following his eyes indicating a Visual Remembered experience.

“Nice! Take that feeling, amplify it. By that I mean take the image you see and make it brighter. Make the picture bigger…how far away from you is it? Ten feet? A hundred? Miles?”

B.J. says, “only a couple feet in front of me,” and indicates a kinesthetic response, again.

“Awesome. I want you to step INSIDE the picture now, feel it fully, experience that love for her!”

B.J. indicates a kinesthetic response again and grins widely. “Wow!”

“Great. Hold that feeling, no wait…don’t let me interfere…make it bigger! Feel it more fully! Good! Now—softly pinch your left earlobe. Just feeling this love for her connecting to that touch…goooooood!

“And—quick question—have you and your wife ever gone fishing together? No? Not her thing? Okay, you’re ready—please do that soft pinch to your earlobe again… Wow, feeling much?!

I turn to group and say, “Do you see anything familiar about his physiology right then? Yeah?

“And you, B.J., what are you feeling right now? Just PG-13, please, nothing too wild, as this is a family show!”

B.J. says that he immediately felt that intense love for his wife he’d felt a short while ago. And then, after considering fishing with her, lost. “But now it’s back!” he says.

“Hmm, that sounds interesting. Let’s allow that to settle into your mind, to find its own comfortable spot in your brain and—there! It’s now set for you! And since we’re giving fishing a bad rap, please consider a future fishing trip where everything is just perfect…great!

“One last part to this before everyone here gets to do it. I want you now to consider a future situation, no, hands off the ear, please! Aren’t you glad it’s only love for your wife that you anchored, and not something more socially awkward! Just now let’s do a future pace…consider a time in the future, being aware of this resource—which is now very easily accessed! And notice how that resource—feeling that love for your wife—is now more available to you! Mmm, isn’t that nice? Yes!”

Then we broke into groups and repeated the exercise, verifying that everyone could do this effectively for themselves. Before moving to the next phase, we had Q & A so everyone was satisfied that they were comfortable with the anchoring process and how it works.

“Awesome work, everyone. Anchoring in itself is pretty useful, wouldn’t you agree? Now we’re going to learn and do one more process so this amazing tool can be truly your own. We spoke earlier about anchors that got installed without our awareness. We stumble into them, and by now, we can recognize them. But what can we do about them once we do? Sure, just being aware of them is powerful. But there’s another piece we can do. Think of a negative anchor as our house being cluttered. It’s valuable to notice—and in most cases, we will take steps to correct for this. But at some point, Spring Cleaning might become not only useful, but necessary. Within that metaphor, what is “Spring Cleaning”? Collapsing the negative anchor. Let’s all think of an unresourceful state we suspect is anchored—remember, your clue is that you aren’t sure why you go there, you just DO! If the clue pans out, it is an anchor, we just need to identify that trigger.

“I’m sure we have one handy as I’ve been so negative, lately! Wonderful. Okay, as you consider it, recognize that you’re going to go through this process, though not yet! We have a volunteer over there who wants to show us how…”

I point at an attendee and urge her to come to the front.

“Thank you for volunteering, Marjorie…when asked to do so! I’m not mind-reading, after all, I caution all of us against that all the time, don’t I? No, this is different. I observed your physiology and it told me that you had a great example of such an anchored response and are comfortable having it collapsed, making your life infinitely better. Am I right? Great!

“First I want you to tell us what the anchor is, unless it’s too personal.”

Marjorie shares: “No, it’s fine. It’s my mother-in-law.”

“That’s weird. Most times, it’s a touch, a sound, something we see, a word, something SENSE-able. But your entire mother-in-law? Wow…”

Marjorie laughs. “No, it’s not HER, herself. It’s something she does. Whenever my husband complains about anything in front of her, ANYTHING, she shakes her head and looks at me, saying, ‘Oh, I wish your mother was still with us so I could take this up with her…’ Years ago, I stopped taking that bait and I no longer ask her. But she acts as though I did ask. She’ll say, ‘When my Richard suffers from that, it tells me he’s FRUSTRATED. Honey, do you know what I mean when I say ‘FRUSTRATED’? He’s got all that male energy pent up. It’s—” she dropped her tone to a whisper and said, ‘–SEXUAL.’ So she’s accusing me of neglecting her son’s sexual needs! I mean, that’s just hitting me where it really hurts! If makes me so mad, but there’s a tiny bit of guilt, also.”

“I respect what you’re sharing, Marjorie. And I promise that, because you’ve entrusted us with this, you will get the change you’re seeking. My word as a guy who loves both dogs and cats, okay? But I’m not clear as to what the anchor is. Can you help us understand?”

One of the really great things about doing workshops with several people is that, despite the fact that you may be teaching, leading the training, each participant has unique life experiences, and has therefore the capacity to teach us all something at the right moment.

I was about to experience such a moment as Scott spoke up.

“I get what you’re saying, Chris—she said a whole lot. But if you watched her physiology, she completely shifted when she said the word “frustrated”. She was pissed that her mother-in-law was blaming her, but what she blamed her for was the son being sexually frustrated.”

I thanked him then addressed the group: “Does that sound right to you guys? Is that what you saw, as well?”

Nods all around: In a moment of distraction, I missed it.

“By the way, what time do you guys want to break for lunch?” (I wasn’t concerned, this was simply a Break State.)

“Okay, noon it is. And my apologies to those of you who were fully into the flow of our work. I can see what looks like impatience on some of your faces. Okay, you win, we’ll now continue!

“Would you be willing to do the next step, please? Fire off the anchor so we can verify that’s what it was?

The commenter, Loretta, stood, smiling, and looked at Marjorie, saying, “My son is FRUSTRATED and—” she stopped, pointing at a visibly angry Marjorie.

Looking at Marjorie, I said, “We’re seeing a strong response to that word…did we read you correctly?”

Marjorie said, “Oh yes, I wanted to just attack Loretta, there, when all she did was help. I didn’t see her, I saw my mother-in-law, and I felt her attacking me femininity—my ability to keep my husband—her son—satisfied.”

“Thanks for clarifying. That doesn’t sound like it made you happy,” and Marjorie nods, scowling.

“Now speaking of satisfaction, just curious—what’s everyone’s favorite musical artist? I see you in the fourth row—Darren, is it?—with the Rolling Stones t-shirt. Hence, satisfaction…what about the rest of you? Loretta?”

“Garth Brooks.”

“Okay. You, Steve?”

“The Eagles.”

“Awesome. Anyone else particularly proud of your answer?”

We spent another minute or two so that everyone who wanted to name their favorite could do so. I then nodded to one of the staff who approached Loretta and led her to the back of the room for a moment. I directed everyone’s attention back to Marjorie while Loretta was indoctrinated as a helper.

“One more question, Marjorie, I notice that you seem to have a mannerism, you tug at your earring.” Marjorie confirms this nervous habit. I continue, “Okay, I want you now to splay out your fingers in your left hand…perfect. Notice the delicate web of skin between your index and middle fingers…good. In a few minutes, I’m going to ask you to very gently pinch that skin between your thumb and index finger of your other hand. Like this.” I demonstrate with my own hands. “Makes sense? Good. But not yet. I’ll tell you when.

“Now Marjorie, I want you to choose a highly resourceful state, something that you love feeling. Something that makes you happy. Do that now. And I’m going to ask the observers to ensure that you see the physiological shifts—if this is as great a feeling as we’re looking for, it will be unmistakable. Got it? Awesome!

“Next, without telling us what that is for you, I want you to make that picture bigger! And brighter!” I used her eye accessing cues to determine she had a picture, then her physiology confirmed it when I made it overt. “Good, now I see you watching it in front of you…I’m guessing only a few feet?”

Marjorie rapidly nods.

“Nice. Okay, take a moment to prepare yourself, Marjorie. You already appear to be having a wonderful time, feeling exquisite, and—get ready with your hands–“

I hold up my left hand, splay out my fingers, then make a pinching motion with my other hand’s index finger and thumb. “Not yet, and not hard. But soon—I’m going to ask you to step into the picture, associate fully into it, become a part of it…no, not yet, but you can imagine what that’s going to look like, then feel like, can’t you? Good. And…ready…now. Boom! Look at that! Now, with your fingers! Now! Good! Feel that! Notice the subtle pressure as you gently pinch the skin…and look around, seeing how wonderful this image is—and how it’s even better now that you’re inside the image, your view is panoramic! Look all around you and see a full 360 degrees! Feel that! Wow, it’s great, isn’t it?! Now hear, in whatever voice is most pleasant and supportive to you, one word: SATISFIED!

Marjorie lit up, her physiology demonstrating very strong signs of kinesthetic pleasure. Several people in the group clap and cheer for her. “You feel that, Marjorie? Mmm! Look at the remote control in your hand and see that there’s one big, green button that says, “Satisfaction” with an up-pointing arrow beside it. You’re surprised to find that there’s one just like it beneath that button, in red, though its arrow points downward. Which will you press next to give yourself even more pleasure and satisfaction? He wonders aloud…hit that button, Marjorie! Hit it and gently squeeze that spot between your fingers! Ohhhh! And hear: SATSIFIED! Can you begin now to feel that satisfaction…? Mmmm, yes!

Marjorie is flushed and beginning to perspire, and no one has missed the clear indications of her happiness.

“Okay, quickly, we need to…stop…and interrupt for a moment! Stop! In your home, who takes the trash out? Quickly! Don’t think about it! Marjorie has her answer…and though she knows how to get back to that amazing state, she’s not there any longer, are you?”

Marjorie frowns, saying, “No.”

Don’t worry, this is about to get really, really good! Marjorie, do you know how to walk and chew gum at the same time? Of course, right? Now I want you to take your left hand as before, look at it, but that’s it for this second…you’re going to, IN A MOMENT, touch that spot, gently pinch that spot between those two fingers—but not yet! I’ll tell you when—”

I nod at Loretta who says, “My son is frustrated”.

“Now, Marjorie!”

She begins firing off her anchor while I and the assistants all say together: “SATISFIED!”

Like a conductor, I wave my arms to get us all to repeat that word as Marjorie continues firing off her chosen anchor. A look of confusion on her face is unmistakable and several people laugh and cheer, recognizing what’s taking place. We continue until her brow unfurrows and her frown relaxes, taking on a neutral, if exhausted, expression.

“Marjorie, I think you led us through so much profound satisfaction that the entire group just wants to hug and have a tender moment! How are you feeling?”

“Honestly,” she says, “a little weird. I felt, well my mother-in-law was in my mind, judging me—I was so frustrated and angry—and then, then—it just went away…for a moment there, I actually was happy, feeling a lot of, well, pleasure…and then just calm. Like—well, you know…”)

I looked at her and smiled. She appeared to be talking with herself as the same staff member whispered to Loretta. Who then said, “Frustrated.” Marjorie looked across the room at her and offered a slight smile.

“Anyone convinced Marjorie just made a pretty strong shift? As in, she collapsed an old, unpleasant anchor? Have we all seen the change in her posture, her facial expression? Great. Now, Marjorie, I want you to do one last thing before you take this empowering change with you and enjoy it for the rest of your life…Just one more thing…I want you to picture a future situation where this change will have made a tremendous difference. Where it will have already helped you to have done this back here today with this room full of people who believe in you. Go ahead and take a look around you as you experience that future situation, feel it in the present, full 360, associate into it, and notice how powerful this change has been for you! Anyone not believe? Yep, I’m convinced as well!”

Marjorie’s eyes darted around, finding a spot up and far off to her right, at first grimacing as though she didn’t like what she saw, and soon that neutral expression returned. Finally she nodded with a wide grin.

“You appear pleased with the difference this change has made for you, no?”

Marjorie laughs and says, “Yes, that’s making a huge difference for me already!” She pauses, looks down and when she looks back up, her lip is quivering and a tear forms in her eye. “You don’t know what it’s like. For years, that’s been a really painful thing for me.”

“One last word on what we’ve learned here today. We are no longer powerless when environmental or external events ‘trigger’ us. We can make conscious decisions about how they will affect us and we can make changes as we like. We can also use this natural process to impact us in ways we do want. Take this capability with you, picture future situations in which this capability will empower you to take charge of your states, your happiness, your success…now!

And yes, I began several professional and personal coaching relationships that day! It also led to my conducting my first NLP Practitioner certification class.

Copyright © 2013 Chris Gingolph

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