So exactly is an anchor anyway? Well, we’re not talking about a ship’s anchor, although that is a similar concept when it comes right down to it. In the same way that an anchor is meant to hold a ship in place, we can create a positive anchor to help us in virtually any situation that comes up in our journey to overcome anxiety and trauma recovery.
An anchor is simply an automatic reaction to something and becoming intentional about that automatic reaction based on the stimulus that brought it on. In other words, a stimulated response that has been developed, or conditioned over time.
Once you understand that, you can literally think of countless examples in your everyday life that are anchors. Things that you do every day but maybe never realized were indeed some sort of anchor, or again a conditioned response. Let’s outline just a few examples to get the idea and then we’ll discuss how this can work in the world of overcoming anxiety.
What’s the first thing that you think of, or do, when you see this image?
If the first thing that you thought of ” stop” or “put on the brakes”, that’s an anchor. Even before you are able to get a driver’s license, you’ve probably spent time in a vehicle and you know that when you see that light turn red, you slow down and stop. Then when you take your driver’s test, you learn this same information. Over time it becomes automatic, you don’t even have to think about it, you just know that you need to stop and wait for it to turn green so you can proceed safely.
That’s the basis of an anchor, plain and simple. Now take a minute and think about other things in your life that are automatic, based on repeated exposure to a particular event or circumstance…
Perhaps it’s seeing a puppy, and you immediately want to go over and pet it. Or an image of the ocean, and the first thing you envision is a feeling of peace, calm, and relaxation. What about the smell of Thanksgiving dinner (or your favorite meal), you immediately get hungry and think about how good that food tastes. There are thousands of things in everyday life that are anchors, developed over time.
So how does that translate into overcoming anxiety you might ask? Well it’s very similar.
Based on any number of events that have transpired in your life, you may immediately go to a feeling of being anxious in certain situations. It’s not that the specific event, person, place, or circumstance is necessarily negative in general (although they can be), but because something happened, repeatedly, we automatically jump to anxiety as the default response.
Think about a family get together – if your family is toxic, or even if there is just one person who you don’t get along with, you can become anxious at the very thought of a family dinner when that person is present. Repeated exposure to that person has ingrained an automatic response of anxiety, worry, or fear. If you have to attend that event, you are constantly on edge and hypervigilant at the prospect of having to see that person, much less actually interact with them. (You can establish healthy boundaries to avoid toxic people, yes, but for the purposes of this information we are focusing on what causes the anxiety; the anchor that causes it.)
Just by that one example alone, you might already be feeling anxiety rearing its ugly head…so how can we use positive anchoring to help in these types of situations?
Setting a positive anchor means that we create, and develop, a particular feeling based on stimulus that we can create on our own. It’s a great way of taking your power back any time you need it, and one of the foundations of what NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) is all about.
For example, I have a client who recently contacted me about some anxiety she was feeling surrounding a particular family function that she felt obligated to attend, even though she didn’t really want to, and she was worried about some situations that may arise with a family member. She was understandably worried based on events that has surfaced previously with these individuals. After understanding exactly what was going on, I showed her how to create a positive anchor to help herself invoke a sense of peace, and counteract the lie that anxiety was trying to make her believe at the time. Making sure that she understood that she has the power, and nobody else, to affect how she feels, and she has the right to decide for herself not only how she feels, but also how long she wants to stay.
Remember my friend, anxiety uses lies and tricks in an attempt to keep you stuck, isolated, and feeling alone; robbing you of the peace you deserve and the power that you have to overcome it.
If you can be conditioned over time to feel, or do something, then it stands to reason that you can retrain yourself as well. Basically, “if you can learn it, you can un-learn it” as I like to say. Anxiety is a conditioned response based on past events; and if that’s the case, then you can certainly counteract that by empowering yourself with a tool like setting a positive anchor to retrain yourself to feel and react differently.
Creating this tool and adding it to your daily toolbox of skills is easier than you might think…and I truly believe that you can do it, virtually anyone can. In a nutshell, creating an anchor is a matter of consciously invoking the feeling that you want to have, and then creating an anchor on your own body that you can access anytime, anywhere, which will automatically trigger that positive feeling whenever and wherever you need it.
If you’d like to learn more about setting a Positive Anchor (and other helpful techniques), to help you with overcoming anxiety in your life, then I’d love to talk with you. Contact me any time, and get your Free 1 hr. coaching session, where we’ll explore more about where you are now, where you’d like to be, and how working with a coach might be a great decision for you in your journey of overcoming anxiety or trauma recovery.
Matthew Pappas, CLC
This post is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, mental health counseling, diagnosis, or treatment.