NLP Triggering and Anchoring – Firing Together
Today the words and experience of triggering are all over the media. It’s almost always reported as a negative experience. There are calls to forbid certain behaviors because they ‘trigger’ some people. Triggering is just one part of a stimulus-response loop that was modeled in the early days of NLP and is called NLP anchoring.
Anchoring and trigger descriptions in the media are entirely inadequate. They are like all frosting and no cake.
The Problem with Triggers
Here’s the deal: describing only the trigger leaves one helpless to do much but complain. Anchors are accidentally created throughout our lives. Like all behaviors, they can be and are useful, in some context. Using this human ability to connect a stimulus with a response makes learning possible and keeps us alive.
Anchoring is simple to learn and practice, and powerfully useful. Anchoring is a stimulus-response loop that usually operates without our awareness, that is unconscious. Some of these loops are created intentionally, most are accidental.
Intentional Anchoring and Triggering
In NLP we learn how to create them consciously, and how to defuse triggered responses we don’t want. Your life is pretty much infused with anchored loops that were created quite out of your awareness. Those old videos that keep playing? That song that takes you back to high school? The scent of freshly cut grass? Yes.
It’s especially obvious when you hear the opening few bars of a song and feel an emotion before you ever hear a lyric or associate a conscious memory. It may be pleasant, or not. Some long time ago I did something that embarrassed me. Years later while opening a loaf of bread I looked at the little plastic tag on it and felt annoyed. This happened several times until the silliness of being annoyed by a little plastic tag struck me. So I looked at the tag and let the feelings it called up lead me to a memory.
The emotional state came back strongly, associated with that little white tag. Finally, the memory came to me that those tags were part of an argument I had had with a good friend. The anchor didn’t exist until I happened to associate the trigger with the memory and lock it in with strong emotion.
What did I do about that? Any anchor that can be created can also be defused or repurposed. In short, I thought of a few strongly positive experiences bread offers. I chose a strong and simple trigger experience that included sight and smell and kinesthetically anchored that to the bread tag. I used a visual cue and a touch to anchor that chain. So see a tag, remember avocado toast, feel good!
How to Create a Personal Anchor
Here’s a detail of how you can create just such an anchor to learn and experience this for yourself. Touch is a very direct and reliable way to create an anchor. I’m going to suppose that you’re sitting at a desk and let’s say that you want to anchor a certain resourceful state so that it’s available to you at will.
Let’s use curiosity as our target state because it is an almost universally resourceful state thus good to have handy. Here’s how to create such an anchor. Think of a time when you were curious. Whatever example just came to your mind is fine to work with.
As you think of that intense ‘feeling curious’ notice the physical sensations as you remember them. Now reach down with your left hand and touch your left thigh with your index finger. And as you let that memory of curiosity be more and more deeply and intensely felt, gradually move your finger up your thigh as the intensity of that feeling curious deepens.
Now take your hand off your leg and silently recite your phone number backward to yourself. This is called a separator state and we use those because we want to stop the previous action so that we can clear our sensorium for the next step.
Okay, so that’s been long enough. Now just touch your thigh again with your left index finger and notice what happens. Interesting isn’t it?
That’s a very simple example of anchoring. Because we used a touch, the movement of your finger, to associate an emotional state and to increase the intensity of the sensations, this form of anchoring is called a kinesthetic sliding anchor. Anchoring can also be done using visual, auditory, olfactory, or even gustatory triggers.
So enjoy playing around with anchors. Explore anchoring different positive emotional states. After you’ve successfully explored creating several such anchors, here’s a way to make it useful here and now.
Break the Distraction with an Intentional Anchor
We are all experiencing greater distraction due to our fast-moving world. So a very useful anchor is an interruption anchor. Here’s how to establish one. I’m sitting at my desk working away and I hear a text. Okay, I’m interrupted, but before I go and pick up my phone, I touch a certain spot on my desk while still focused on my work. I look again at what I am working on while I’m touching that spot on my desk. Then I remove my touch from that spot and pick up the phone. I respond to the text and when I’m done, I can touch that spot on the desk again and mentally go back to what I was working on before. This will increase in effectiveness with use.
This use of an anchor was first mentioned by John Grinder one of the developers of NLP. He found it pretty useful and I suspect you would too especially in this day of manifold multiple distractions.