What is a psychological anchor?
If you recall the famous experiment by Pavlov, with dogs, whereby he conditioned the dogs to salivate whenever he rang a bell, the anchor was the state of mind the dogs were in when salivating, and the trigger for that conditioned response, was the bell.
Humans display conditioned responses to triggers as well, which are the psychological anchors that we’ll be discussing today.
An anchor is a stimuli, which calls forth a state of mind, thoughts and emotions. We have been creating anchors for conditioned responses our entire lives, most are involuntary. For example, the smell of fresh baked bread may take you back to your childhood, or a tune on the radio may remind you of a certain person, place, time or event.
Anchors can trigger positive and negative emotional states. For example, someone afraid of flying, has anchored a state of anxiety to sitting on a plan, so that each time they take a seat on an airplane (the trigger) they bring forth feelings of fear and anxiety (the anchored state). The same process is at work, when you see a friend that you haven’t met in a long time, the moment you see them, you revert back to the same state of mind that you were in the last time you saw them, including the same conversations, jokes, and mannerisms.
We can establish anchors using all of the primary senses visual, auditory, kinesthetic, gustatory and olfactory, however as hypnotists we will usually rely on visual, auditory and kinesthetic anchors for the most part.
Establishing an Anchor
Establishing an anchor is actually very simple. You work with your subject to revivify or imagine the desired state, then while they are experiencing that state, you introduce a stimuli, like a sound, image or physical sensation. You repeat this activity several times, creating the state, and introducing the stimuli while they are in state. Then you can test the anchor, by firing off the stimuli (the trigger) and observe how the subject recreates the state. You probably know someone that you can look at a certain way and elicit an emotional response. Perhaps they laugh whenever you make a certain facial expression. They have anchored laughter to that visual trigger, so that every time you contort your face in that way, they laugh.
Using Anchors in Therapy
In therapy or doing change work with our clients, we should always create an anchor to positive and powerful resource states, which our clients can fire off and utilize, whenever they need them, even when we are not around. Failure to do so could result in short lived results, or results that only manifest themselves when the client is in your office. I like to give my clients a physical anchor, which they can fire off themselves, in order to access and recreate power states as a way to re-enforce the work we have done.
If you would like to discuss anchors in more detail, then join me at a meeting and bring it up.
That’s all I have for now.
Michael C. White, C.Ht.