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Pavlov...Remember Him?

You may remember Pavlov from high school. Probably psychology classes. Remember the dogs? And steak? And the bell? And dog saliva? Just in case, here is a short interesting article that will set you up nicely for understanding this blog: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ivan-Pavlo


A quick refresher, Pavlov was a Russian psychologist who wanted to see if he could conditionally train dogs. When he rang a bell, he would give the dogs steak. And every time he rang the bell he gave the steak center jobs, so that eventually when the bell rang the dogs would salivate. Kind of like we do when we know our steak is coming.



Let’s try this example on for size. Remember the look your mom would give you when you were misbehaving? Or do you recall a teacher having a look? At some point, the process started. Something like this:


  1. You misbehaved.

  2. Your mom told you to stop.

  3. Your mom gave you the look.

  4. You probably stopped the behavior.


After several opportunities to practice conditioning, or what I would call anchoring the process, it would go like this:


  1. You misbehaved.

  2. Your mom told you to stop and gave you the look at the same time.

  3. You stopped the behavior.


And eventually, it went something like this:


  1. You thought about misbehaving.

  2. Your mom knew you were thinking of misbehaving and gave you the look.

  3. You decided life would be simpler if you didn’t do what you had been thinking of doing, and you moved on.


In one of these examples, a positive behavior is being anchored, a dog salivating. In the other, a negative behavior was being extinguished.


In NLP, what I just described is called anchoring. We use anchoring to change behaviors as well as to create an anchor to remind us of a state or emotion we experienced and want to remember.




Initially, when I worked with clients we would anchor using a knuckle. With the shift to virtual coaching, it can be done by bringing the pointer finger to the thumb with some precision. You can also create visual anchors. I have a couple up in my office, pictures someone took of me accomplishing some big goals that actually scared the crap out of me. When I look at those photos, I can still feel the feelings that I associate with the events.


We also use anchors in our daily lives. Someone does something nice and we thank them. The light turns green, we go. I’m sure you can think of many others that happen daily in your life.


Anchoring and the variations of anchoring in NLP are powerful strategies that can be created quickly. To use anchors to help you achieve a goal or to change a state you are in (an example of the latter might be that you are scared and you want to be confident) there are some specific actions that are important.


How it works (let’s use the knuckle for the anchor for the fun of it):


  1. Enter the state you want to make stronger. For example: Think of a time when you were really motivated, when you really laughed, when you were really excited. Then feel the feelings, see what you saw, and hear what you heard.

  2. As you remember that. apply pressure to your knuckly until the feeling begins to fade.

  3. Break the pattern. Think of something else, talk about something else.

  4. Test the anchor by applying pressure and see what happens!


Here’s the fun part… when you experience something positive throughout your day, you can stack that feeling on your knuckle as well, creating an even stronger positive anchor. We call this your resource anchor.


I have an anchor that I’ve created when I know I’m going to be in a stressful situation. I have anchored the state of calm, openness, confidence using my hand on my heart. It works for me every time.


So there you have it. Another powerful and effective NLP technique that can support you as you move forward toward your goals and dreams. If you’d like to talk about how NLP and NLP strategies can support you, feel free to fill out your information on the Contact me portion of the website or simply text “NLP” to 206-309-6580.


Here’s to you and creating the life you say you want!


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