Have you ever been unfocused before an exam, when you really needed to concentrate instead?
Or have you ever been really nervous before giving a lecture, when instead you needed to be confident?
Or perhaps you’ve been down in the dumps when you needed to be ‘on’ and positive at a social event?
We’ve all had the experience of wanting or needing, for one reason or another, to be in a different mood that the one we were actually in. Most of us just give in, accept our moods, and do the best we can. But there is a quick, easy way to shift your mood when you must, or even just when you choose to. No drugs, no pills, no cost, no side effects!
It’s really simple. It’s easy, too. It’s called ‘anchoring’ a positive emotional state.
In his wonderful online Encyclopedia of NLP ( http://nlpuniversitypress.com/indexA.html)”, Robert Dilts says:
“...“anchoring” refers to the process of associating an internal response with some environmental or mental trigger, so that the response may be quickly, and sometimes covertly, reaccessed.”
If you’re American and have ever heard the first notes of The Star Spangled Banner, and noticed that your right hand flew to cover your heart, even before you were aware of what it was doing, you have experienced a powerful anchor. (If you’re not American, perhaps you’ve seen this and puzzled over it.) If you smell a particular cooking smell and are instantly back in, say, your grandmother’s kitchen, you’ve experienced an anchor. If your partner has ever said, “We need to talk” and you’ve felt icy fingers of fear crawl up your back, you’ve experienced an anchor.
In a famous experiment, Pavlov used this stimulus-response conditioning to get dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. He rang a bell and then gave them food so often that they associated the food with the sound of the bell, anticipating the food so well that they began to salivate just from the sound, even when no food was present.
All of these examples show that a trigger, a stimulus, can instantly and automatically result in a response. Most of these anchors, that is, trigger-response pairs, were set unconsciously (at least, unconsciously by us!). But what if you could set one intentionally?
You can! You can set an anchor to stimulate a positive emotion whenever you need it. Now, with a little advance preparation, you can turn lack of focus into concentration, or a case of nerves into confidence, or feeling low into feeling good. It just takes a little advance preparation.
Before you need the anchor, in a quiet place at any convenient time, do the following:
1) Pick an anchor. I generally recommend hand positions that you don’t normally use (like touching the thumb and pinkie of your non-dominant hand), for a couple of reasons:
- you can do them anywhere, any time
- they’re unobtrusive
- they take a minimum of effort
- they’re uncontaminated by other feelings
2) Think of a specific time and place when you really felt the way you’re choosing to feel. Make it really real for yourself by graphically imagining the scene:
- seeing what you saw around you at the time, looking out through your own eyes at the time
- hearing what you heard, no matter how faint
smelling any smells that were associated with the time and place that you left how you choose to feel now
- touching something in the scene
- feeling all the feelings that go with the flood of emotion. Really notice where those feelings are in your body.
3) When you are completely associated into the positive state that you’re choosing, especially feeling the internal feelings strongly, then set your anchor (touch your thumb to your pinkie).
4) Relax for a minute or so, distracting yourself with something else.
5) Repeat steps 2 – 4 several times.
6) Test the anchor by using it (touching your thumb to your pinkie). The feelings that you intentionally associated with the anchor should flood your body. If not, repeat steps 2 – 4 again until the using the anchor creates your chosen feelings/emotional state.
Then you have “anchored the resource state” so it’s available to you whenever you need it, say before an exam, a lecture or a social event. Just touch your anchor and go!