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A is for Anchor

Most people know the story of Pavlov and his dogs and I’m sure you’ve experienced much the same thing. You hear particular music, smell things like freshly baked bread or perfume or see photographs and suddenly you feel all the emotions connected to that stimulus. This is an anchor.

Whenever I smell the perfume ‘Je Reviens’, I am taken to a memory of my mother and I in a car. I’m about 10 years old. We are returning home from an event and it’s late and I’m tired. I’m lying across the back seat of the car with my head on my mother’s lap and she is stroking my head. It’s a very strong memory.

Perhaps you have a song which when you hear takes you back to a particular time?  Or a food that makes your mouth water even if you only see a picture of it? Or a photo album which makes you laugh and cry in equal measure.

In fact, we experience many anchors every day. Think about driving along a road and seeing a red traffic light so you stop and only start driving when you see the green light. They can be based in rituals like the top sportsmen that have to get dressed in a certain order, or children needing a story before bedtime.

So far, all the anchors I have written about have been positive ones (or at the very least neutral) but anchors can just as easily be negative and these are the ones we need to deal with because when triggered they can change your mood instantly.  It’s like having a button which when pressed makes our mood take a dive and no amount of positive thinking will help.

So, how do you deal with these unwanted negative anchors?  The first step is identifying them.  What happened immediately before your mood changed?  Simply identifying an anchor can be incredibly empowering.  It isn’t because you are weak, or ‘hormonal’ or it’s just your personality, it is because you have developed a negative anchor.  The good news is that you can deal with it!

I spent years unable to stand in front of a camera and the worst thing, the negative anchor wasn’t even mine.  I can recall deciding to do some short videos to promote the work I was doing, as soon as I stepped in front of the camera, I froze.  I had to say 2 simple sentences and I could not manage even that.  I was so embarrassed, I wanted the ground to swallow me up.  They coached me about how to say it, what to say and the more I tried, the bigger that camera seemed to grow and the less I could string a sentence together.  

There is a wonderful technique called Swish which is perfect for dealing with negative thoughts and anchors.  It works best when a coach leads you through the process but you can definitely use the following steps on your own and you will notice a difference.

Taking my fear of speaking on camera I would use the technique as follows:

  1. Feeling – not being able to speak on camera, nervous
  2. Anchor – seeing a camera pointing at me
  3. Replacement – what feeling do I want instead? Calm, confident, enthusiastic. I find a memory of an event where I felt those feelings.

Continuing to use my anchor as an example, but you can use whatever negative trigger you want to deal with:

  1. I start off by thinking about standing in front of a camera, this immediately triggers that feeling of fear, nervousness and uncertainty.  
  2. I place a small picture of the memory where I felt confident and in control in the bottom left corner, just like a picture in picture.  
  3. Count 1-2-3 SWISH, as I say SWISH I picture the replacement image suddenly increasing in size covering the trigger image. The replacement picture is big, bright and clear.
  4. Then I open my eyes and look around me or check the time.

You run this at least 5 times and you need to do it quickly.  You are looking for the first image to lessen or even disappear completely.  If you find that the first image doesn’t lessen, you may need to find a stronger replacement image.  The first time I did it, it didn’t fully disappear so I found a stronger memory to use as a replacement.

After I had been taken through this technique by another coach, I was able to stand in front of a camera and talk without hesitation for 5 minutes.  

What sights, sound or smells take you back to fond memories? If you find that your triggers are less than pleasant and you want to do something about them, then send me a message.