Anchoring – Introduction

Anchoring: The NLP Way

By IntellTeacher

Although not unique to NLP, anchoring is among the most powerful of techniques employed in NLP. Anchoring operates on an other than conscious level and can be used to solicit the responses desired by the astute and skilled NLP practitioner.

In general terms, the “short answer” to the question of what is anchoring is as follows:  Anchoring is a process in which stimulus input of whatever nature is associated with some pre-existing thought, feeling, or belief. The easiest and perhaps best known example of anchoring, albeit in very crude form, is to found in Pavlov’s experiment wherein a bell sounded and a dog salivated. The sound of the bell had been effectively “anchored” to the event of food being made available.

With regard to NLP, anchoring is a process that occurs outside of normal conscious awareness and is regarded as very much naturally occurring. The process of anchoring is natural in that we do it all the time. A snippet of a song from our past, the smell of fresh cut grass, a cool breeze that gently wafts across our skin, any and all of these things that trigger a memory are examples of everyday anchoring.

As with much of NLP, the key to anchoring is to found in developing a heightened, and more refined, sense of awareness. Win Wenger, Ph.D., makes frequent reference to “awarenesses” which might be defined as acuity of perception in multiple awareness modalities. “Awarenesses” is a set piece in developing skills in accelerated learning protocols as well as creative problem solving methodology. With regard to NLP, a highly developed sense of awareness is part of the foundation that allows the adept to move more effectively and efficiently through this World.

In spite of anchoring being a natural and common occurrence what in one sense defines NLP is that the practitioner consciously engages in anchoring for one of two purposes. The first is to form an association with some response in another person that can be repeatedly accessed at will. The second is to remove or install anchors in the Self in order to move with lessened internal resistance toward a goal or desire.

With regard to interacting with another person the “best practice” of NLP dictates that we maintain an awareness of what anchors are being created – activated (for pre-existing anchors) and the response(s) we are getting. This awareness and internal tracking of anchors and responses allows us to move forward in pursuit of productive outcomes. It needs to be stated that the process of anchoring carries the implicit understanding that the outcomes sought are devoid of “bad” intent and mutually beneficial.

What follows is a simple and straight forward example of proper anchoring in a hypothetical classroom setting from the perspective of a teacher. A student has just experienced a break through moment in which a chunk of newly presented material has integrated … an “Aha” experience ensues. The teacher goes to the student, congratulates the student … and as the words of praise registers with the student the teacher reaches out and gently, yet firmly, touches the student on the left shoulder with their hand. The teacher has just anchored a sense of accomplishment in the student and can obtain this same response by repeating the shoulder touch.

It is noteworthy that NLP frequently anchors a desired response by way of sensory input different from the experience itself. In the example above, the student was experiencing personal satisfaction at grasping newly presented material, a mental activity, and the teacher anchored this sensation by way of touch.

The main value in becoming effective at anchoring is to elicit favourable and productive responses as part of being an effective communicator. One of the primary and unseen barriers to effective communication is the mental – emotional – psychological state of the person being addressed. Anchoring is a way of “clearing the way” when speaking with another person so that your idea(s) or presentation is received rather than resisted or outright ignored. Dr. Wenger has created several accelerated learning techniques, which can be found in his seminal work “Dynamic Teaching” which has an element he refers to as “clearing the channels”. Clearing the channels is analogous to what we do in NLP when we anchor a desired positive outcome … we clear away negativity and  install something useful.

In the near future an article dealing with some drills which will assist readers in becoming skilled in anchoring will be posted up.

©2009 IntellTeacher





  1. Stephan said,

    February 14, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Couple comments about the blog. First, you don’t (yet) have an about page. Great place to put some purposes, links to things that are sources and background, extra places to go, credentials, etc.

    Second, and it’s minor, the blog isn’t reachable from China (and probably other countries as well that block sites. I was able to access it because I pay for a VPN solution while I’m traveling.

    Lastly, I use an RSS reader (which, strangely, is NOT affected by China’s blocks). However, you’ve set up your defaults to only give the last 10 posts, so as a newcomer, I cannot get those old posts into my reader (where I can access them whenever I want to refer back, search, etc. while offline). So, perhaps while you’re striving to grow readership, you might consider expanding to all your posts, or at least 25 or so.

    I came here from the Yahoo Imagestreaming group, BTW.

    • intellteacher said,

      February 14, 2009 at 12:22 pm

      Hello Stephan, and thank you for the informed “eyes on” critique. I’ll get to work on the issues you noted. Thanks again for the helpful guidance.

  2. Bruce said,

    February 15, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Dear intell,
    Having studied NLP in NYC from 95-98′ I came away with a heightened sense of awareness in myself and others. I had read numerous books on NLP but there was no substitute for hands on training. So much is left out otherwise.Anchoring
    (in my map) likens itself to a mnemonic that aids in recall, which is a wonderful thing when a resource is badly needed, especially when someone communicates to another the language of limitation (can’t,never,always been this way, just no talent,etc.) It’s a way of surprising an individual who has written him or herself out of the script when standing at the crossroads of learning a new skill. One memory (an experience of contrast)
    on a person’s timeline thru recall, then elegantly anchored,acts as a counterbalance to the cascade of negative self talk that so overtakes an individual and prevents them from moving forward.
    When a student is ready, a teacher will appear.

    • intellteacher said,

      February 17, 2009 at 1:58 am

      Hello Bruce and thank you for a greatly expanded post on this topic. People tend to think and act as if they are resource impovershed when the truth of the matter is they possess a rich and deep reservoir of resources. I “think” a lot of the problem is to be found in “Monkey Mind” … the steady barrage of negative inner talk that follows many people around. IME, the majority of people are unaware that they are carrying around self sabotage, that it is their own creation, and they are in fact the very vessel transporting it from moment to moment. “Where ever I go … there I am.” applies.

      In Dr. Wenger’s writings on Accelerated Learning and Creative Problem Solving techniques we frequently find the word “awarenesses”. I think this intentional emphasis on awareness is key and pivotal on several levels. For instance, causing mere recognition of the richness of the World in which we live and operate from just a purely sensory perspective results in a much expanded World view to emerge. For whatever reason(s) it seems that many, if not most, people have created a tiny little box of a World and become comfortable living there. Startling them out of their self-induced lethargy and complacency often times appears to be the logical start point for real improvement in all parameters. Introducing “deep sleepers” to a World far greater than that to which they have become accustomed via multi-level awareness (awarenesses) is an excellent startle effect mechanism.

      Your thoughts on this?

  3. February 18, 2009 at 5:42 pm


    As a practioner of Tantric meditation/visualization (who’s also interested in NLP as well as Win Wenger’s Imagestreaming/Accelerated Learning), could you please enlighten how Anchoring can be systematically used to access what Robert Dilts calls the Spiritual Level? (I think your own NLP mentor, Dr. Richard Hugh, has been teaching people that kind of thing).

    • intellteacher said,

      February 19, 2009 at 4:34 am

      Hello Dr. Saran and thank you for the thoughtful question. I seriously doubt that I have anything even remotely enlightening to offer a person of your intellect and formal education … but I will try. I have no idea how Dr. McHugh does it as this is not something I’ve discussed with him or heard him speak on at length. As you may know, he favors a form of Prayer known as Vipassana which puts a premium on self observation with an emphasis on the Mind – Body connection. In order to observe this connection as it is made manifest in the moment one of the requirements is an awareness of physical sensations. I think this form of Prayer ties in perfectly with Dr. McHugh’s rather unique synthesis of NLP – Spirituality and very much doubt any thing exists in Western organized religion that would meet the needs of achieving what he does and you have expressed an interest in.

      In order to use anchors as assistive devices to achieve a state specific condition several requirements need to be met. Staying within the context of your question and painting with a broad brush the requirements – systemic approach would be as follows: 1) The ability to enter into an approximation of the desired state. If you can’t “get there” then you cannot anchor to it. This doesn’t reduce to “You need to be skilled in doing something in order to do something skillfully.” The word “approximation” is open ended and for our purposes we can define it as being receptive to taking the first step, to making a good faith effort, or being willing to be willing. “Baby steps” are still representative of progress and in many Spiritual matters it seems that a person’s best is good enough. 2) An awareness of when immersed in the desired state. In this instance, Mushin (No Mind) means No Progress. It is a matter of awareness rather than a directing of attention and there is a major distinction both in intent, application, and outcome. 3) A series of pre-determined anchors that can be accessed with near “other than conscious” effort. If the anchor design is complicated, although it may represent “best practice”, it will not work. The requirements of setting a complex anchor scheme will invariably “shock” a person out of the desired state. A readily grasped example of this is when a person first takes up a meditative practice. If we visualize the goal or proper outcome as a straight line then they are always in a state of flux sharply angling above and below the line. The few times a neophyte “gets it” the conscious realization of “I’m there.” results in the state immediately terminating. So it goes with anchor design. Thinking “I’m there and now I do this and then I do this and …” will cause the Mind to shift to a state that terminates or over-rides the intended state.

      This is a very general and hopefully not all together unsatisfactory response to your question. I use a method that has 5 Major Concerns and 5 Minor Concerns and it is far too detailed to discuss in a single post.

    • intellteacher said,

      March 2, 2009 at 12:02 am

      Hello Dr. Saran:

      Would you mind posting up a bit regarding your practice of Tantra? Many years ago I lived on a Commune and Tantra was one of the regular house activities. One of the members had lived for a few years in an Ashram in India and served as the teacher. I found the breath work and breathing patterns to be excellent compliments to the Hakka internal energy practices I employ.

      • intellteacher said,

        March 2, 2009 at 6:24 am

        From Dr. Saran below as he is having some technical difficulties with posting at the moment:

        Hi intell,

        Kundalini-visualization is basic to Hindu/Buddhist Tantric meditation. The idea is to use pleasurable sensations to bypass the ratiocinating part of the mind. And the ultimate aim is to thereby access the mytical state, in which the empirical ego is temporarily disengaged.

        One way of experimenting is to imagine such scenarios at each chakra, and thus to segue into such altered states, within which one can then program oneself to achive what one wants to. Also, one uses the ‘inner’ sensory modalities to anchor prior experiences of ecstasy….

        I have been researching these issues academically, and have published two scholarly books on my work. These are “Tantra: Hedonism in Indian Culture” [4th reprint, 2006], and “Yoga, Bhoga & Ardhanariswara” [Routledge, 2008].

        Warm regards,


  4. February 20, 2009 at 5:52 am

    Dear intell,

    Thank you very much for your kind and detailed response, which is also most cogent and sensible….

    I myself use Hindu-/Buddhist-Tantric visualization as a pleasurable focus that helps bypass the normal ratiocinating tendencies of the mind, such that one can (with practice) segue with increasing ease into the mystical experience, which is the ultimate aim of Indic meditation systems.

    Further, since quite a few Indic religious philosophies can be viewed as puerely bpsychological interpretations of such states–as in non-theistic Buddhism–these states can be fitted into NLP’s apical “Spiritual Level”.


    • intellteacher said,

      February 27, 2009 at 5:37 pm

      Hello Dr. Saran,

      Your post contains many excellent points. Much like you, I employ several methods of practice on a daily basis and eschew the potential pitfalls associated with “religion” per se. The shift in state is something that evades understanding by many as there is a pervasive trend in the modern World that I regard as becoming overly dependent upon dogma. I regard the shift into a Mystical or Spiritual experience to be part of the Human Condition and available to all. Certainly NLP is a multi-purpose tool of sorts. Your use of it in moving into your desired state of being is very much valid and in IMO novel as well.

      I would enjoy learning more about how you employ NLP in Spiritual practices.

      Journey well,


  5. bruce said,

    February 27, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    … it seems that many, if not most, people have created a tiny little box of a World and become comfortable living there. Startling them out of their self-induced lethargy and complacency often times appears to be the logical start point for real improvement in all parameters. Introducing “deep sleepers” to a World far greater than that to which they have become accustomed via multi-level awareness (awarenesses) is an excellent startle effect mechanism.

    The above reminds me of Korzybski’s dictum “the map is not the territory”. You are quite right. Just as we are” specialists” in our occupations, so are we specialists in the intelligences employed in those occupations, and also (contextually speaking) specialists in the sensory based language we use when communicating to others.
    In my NLP training we did exercises involving self-other-observer. That NLP has overlaps with some of Project Rennaisances techniques is not lost on me. I had wished that more emphasis under the umbrella of NLP had gone in the direction
    of education rather than therapy, but…. therapy can also be looked at as an education in one’s self. That is, therapy is good education, education is good therapy, and the function of therapy is to re-pair an individual with the resources necessary to operate more effectively in life. peace

    Your thoughts on this?

    • intellteacher said,

      February 27, 2009 at 7:41 pm

      Hello Bruce:

      Some very deep insights and thoughtful considerations contained in your post. Thank you most kindly for the positive contribution. I am presently collaborating with Dr. Wenger in order to create a Creative Problem Solving, Accelerated Learning and NLP synthesis. It is, as you mentioned, a natural fit in many areas. I am not disappointed in NLP remaining in a therapy setting as I think the target population has a very pressing and immediate need for all the help they can get. I am extremely disappointed in NLP being co-opted by corporate wonks and marketing mind benders as their tendency is to play strictly to the “dark side” of the system and manipulate people for nothing more than financial gain.

      Education as a profession, is a tough nut to crack so to speak. There is a great deal of heavily entrenched dogma and a peculiar twist wherein failed past practices continue to be carried forward. For some strange reason, the fact that many formal instructional approaches of the past have a track record of repeated failure, the practices are still held out as being valid. To me, the validity is restricted to the assertion the practices fail to produce as advertised which really doesn’t rise to the level of a ringing endorsement of same in my mind. Just because something has been around for considerable time does not necessarily make it a good thing.

      Within the realm of psychological therapy there has been a gradual paradigm shift and IMO not for the better. Clinical Psychologists have been lobbying for the authority to prescribe medications on equal footing with Psychiatrist. There are a whole host of dicey, if not outright bad, factors associated with altering a person’s brain chemistry and the literature is full of examples. Paxil has been around for many years and yet it is well documented and widely known within the profession that the lifting of depression via drugs creates a window of opportunity for committing suicide. There comes a time when the depression lifts enough for the sufferer to experience sufficient energy to take action on their suicidal ideation. Dangerous way to go.

      Talk Therapy is going the way of the dinosaur and to me that is going to produce many negative – unintended outcomes … it’s like creating a Time Bomb with no idea when it will go off. Your equating therapy with education is a well articulated insight. I invite you to write a piece on this perspective and I would be delighted to host your article on this Blog.

      Journey well,


  6. Noel Lackey said,

    March 1, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Hi folks, thanks for all of the great articles and comments, as a total newbie to NLP this is awesome stuff, please keep this dialog going , I am learnin so much from you all, I have come from a “no you don’t world”, if fact, at age 50 I have finally gotten the courage to start learning the piano, my school teacher told me I could,nt play an instrument because I was left handed and I believed him, so have been using Dr., Wengers techniques for a long time and it just keeps getting better and better, I was just wondering with regard to learning the piano and gearing up for a grade one exam, what can I learn from NLP to help and give me the advantage?

  7. bruce said,

    March 1, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Your equating therapy with education is a well articulated insight. I invite you to write a piece on this perspective and I would be delighted to host your article on this Blog.

    I’d like that, and once I can organize my thoughts, will be happy to submit some writing on the above. You might want to contact me off the list at the above e-mail if there are any parameters, length, etc. I need to be aware of. Thanks, Bruce.

    • intellteacher said,

      March 1, 2009 at 9:31 pm

      Hello Bruce, reads like a plan to me and you’ve got mail 🙂

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