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Archive for December, 2012

Anchoring – The Power of Association

Monday, December 24th, 2012


What is an Anchor?


In the 1920’s an experiment was carried out by John .B. Watson and Rosalie Raynor called the little Albert experiment. The experiment involved taking an 11 month child (named Albert) and putting him through a series of emotional tests.


The experiment began by sitting Albert in a chair while one of them secretly snuck behind him and struck a suspended steel bar with a hammer. Right at the point that Albert started to cry (with shock from the loud noise) the other one flashed a white rabbit into his field of vision.


The experiment was then repeated at regular intervals until all the psychologists had to do was flash the white rat in front of Albert and he would instantly start to cry.


What they had succeeded in doing was to transfer the feelings of shock and fear associated with loud noises to the sight of a white rat.


Now aside from the fact this has to be one of the most unethical experiments I’ve heard of, it does demonstrate an important and useful phenomena…the power of association. 


Probably the most famous example of this ‘conditioning process’ is an experiment carried out by the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov.

Pavlov was interested in how these ‘conditioned responses’ were acquired and he made the breakthrough while carrying out different experiments on dogs. (The now famous ‘Pavlov’s dog’ experiment).

As we know dogs tend to salivate quite a bit when a plate of food is placed in front of them so every time Pavlov fed his dogs he would ring a bell in the background. He then repeated the process over and over again until all he had to do was ring the bell (without the food) and the dog would salivate.

Pavlov had created a link, an association a ‘conditioned emotional response’ in the dog. He had linked the sound of a bell with a feeling of hunger in the dog.

Many years later NLP drew from this research and developed the process now known as anchoring.


Anchoring is the process of associating an internal response with some kind of external trigger so that this response can be quickly re-accessed when needed.
Anchors come in many shapes and forms. For example, many people feel strong feelings of patriotism when they look at their national flag. The sight of can act as an anchor for those strong feelings.

Another common everyday anchor can be found with married couples. Most couples have what they describe as ‘Their own song’. When they hear it they’re catapulted back to when they first met and feel the feelings they felt back then.

For me every time I smell candy floss I’m instantly taken back to when I was 10 years old going to the fare.

Anchors are a tremendously powerful part of our life. Its how the brain makes connections and they really can literally make or break your day.
Whether you realise it or not you’ve been involved in the anchoring process all your life.


By learning NLP you start to become consciously aware of this process so that you can use it to more to your advantage.



Different Types of Anchors


Generally speaking there are five different types of anchors. You can find these five types with examples below:


Visual Anchors


A flag, traffic lights, friendly face, a smile, certain colours, symbols,


Auditory Anchors


Music, an alarm clock, scraping nails down a blackboard, the sound of your parents voice, an ambulance/police siren.


Feeling/touch Anchors


Slipping into a warm bath, a hug from someone, feeling of soft sheets, comfort of a chair, warm fresh clothes against your skin.


Smell & Taste Anchors


Candy Floss, the smell of a favourite food, perfume, aftershave, Mum’s home cooking, the taste of our favourite food, chocolate, sucking on a lemon.


Creating an Anchor


There are three main aspects when it comes to creating an anchor:


  • Intensity
  • Timing
  • Uniqueness

  1. Intensity: In order for the anchor to be effective you must produce a powerful emotional response in the person you are influencing. The more powerful the response the more likely the anchor will work later on.
  2. Timing - When a person experiences a strong emotion they do not experience it in a linear fashion. The intensity of the emotion tends to operate in a wave-like form. It is therefore important that the anchor is applied when the person is experiencing the emotion at its peak. If it is applied before or after the peak the anchor may still work but it will not be as powerful.
  3. Uniqueness - Once you have produced a significant emotional response in someone and the intensity is at its peak, it is time to create your anchor. In order to achieve this you must apply some form of external stimulus that is unique. This may be a gesture, a unique sound or touch. Whatever it is it must also be easily identifiable and reproducible. Examples of unique stimuli are as follows


  • Raising an eyebrow.
  • Biting your bottom lip.
  • Making a hand gesture.
  • Whistling.
  • Tapping a pen on the desk.
  • Saying a word in a unique tone of voice.
  • Touching someone on the shoulder.
  • Standing in a particular place on the floor.


So how do we use anchoring?


Well the simplest way is to link pleasurable feelings to you and your message.


If you have happen to notice a time when a person is feeling a particular emotion strongly, then you can anchor it and then use it to get them to feel that emotion at a future time.


This is particularly effective when you are motivating someone. Imagine you had a friend, work colleague or member of your team who, from time to time, is completely motivated, driven and excited with life.


However the rest of the time they feel sluggish, de-motivated and lethargic. If you catch them when they are at the peak of their motivated state and anchor the feeling, you can then fire the anchor off at a later date and make them feel motivated again.


There are lots of ways to use anchoring both day to day and in the therapeutic sense. Generally speaking though, if you just make an effort to experience positive emotions with people then those feelings will eventually, through time, becoming linked to you…to your face, your tone of voice and your general demeanour.


For more information on how to use anchoring check out our NLP Introductory Day or our Licensed NLP Practitioner Course.



10 Ways to Let Go of the Past

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012


1. Realize that the past is not real – Okay, here’s the inside scoop…the past is not real! You do not own a time machine and you are not capable of going through the exact same experience more than once. I know it may sound like I’m stating the bleeding obvious here but it needs to be said. When we are hooked into re-living the past what we are actually doing is re-playing internal memories of the past stored in our autobiographical memory. Re-playing these memories can generate feelings similar to how we felt when we had the experience but they are still only memories…movies we play inside our mind…they’re not the real thing.


It’s a bit like going to a theme park and taking part in a rollercoaster simulator. We know it’s not the real thing but we act ‘as if’ it is. It’s perhaps not quite as intense but we still get some of the emotion and thrill we get when we are on an actual rollercoaster.


Getting lost in the past is a bit like going on a scary simulator and then forgetting it’s not the real thing. It’s like watching a really bad movie (like Taken 2), hating it and then going back to see it voluntarily several times a day. It doesn’t make sense so why do it inside your mind?! (Apologies to Taken 2 fans but be honest, did it really merit a second instalment? :-) )


2. Realize that you are not your past but a product of how you’ve interpreted you past memories – It’s time to stop using your past experiences as an excuse. If you find yourself saying things like ‘I am this way because…’ (And then list a load of things that have happened to you) then stop it. Past experiences do not dictate who you are or who you turn out to be. Its how you have interpreted and continue to interpret those past experiences that count.


While some people clearly have advantages in terms of upbringing and support nothing is set in stone. For example, take three different people who were bullied as children. One could grow up to become a bully themselves, another could turn into a complete wallflower and the third could draw strength from it and start an anti bullying campaign. Three similar experiences all with drastically different outcomes because of how the individual interpreted the situation. The great thing is It’s up to you how you interpret the things that happen to you. As soon as you change the meaning you draw from your past experiences you change the way you feel and hence how you think and behave in the present.


3. Find the real learning – One way to help re-interpret past memories and let go of any negative emotions attached to them is to find the real learning. One of the main reasons we are still emotionally involved in our past memories is that we missed the real learning or created a misinformed opinion about what happened. We find ourselves in a situation where we haven’t yet developed the resources and/or skills to deal with it effectively and it affects us emotionally. These feelings are then attached to the memories to highlight a need for learning. If we miss the learning the feeling can linger on and create the urge to re-play the memory over and over in your mind. It’s almost like we do a kind of ‘peter pan syndrome’ thing on the experience. We grow up but the memory stays locked in time.


The main reason we feel negative emotions is to highlight that something needs attention and to tell us we need to make some kind of new learning. Recognise and take on board this learning and the memory with the bad feeling has served its purpose.


There are lots of practical ways to go back and find the learning. One quick way is to simply look back at the memory through older, wiser eyes and ask, “What was I really meant to learn from this experience?” When you get an answer make a pact with yourself to act on the new learning. You’ll be amazed how just doing that can completely release your association with the past memory (you might even start to feel good about it). Another technique is to go back and imagine you are a neutral observer. What advice would you give that younger you? What new information is now available to you now from this neutral place that transforms the memory of that experience?


4. Plan for the future – Ask yourself what you would like to do differently in the future as a result of the experience. Remember, the function of bad memories is to highlight that something has to be learned or addressed. Once you get a sense of what the new learning is allow your mind to drift off into the future and imagine taking on board this new learning. Notice how it positively impacts your life then look back from this place and realize the bad experience made this new learning possible. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve used this and how powerful it can be.


5. Use Humour – Humour is one of the most universal and useful emotions we have available to us. It can diffuse arguments almost in an instant, it can dissolve negative emotions nearly as fast. Here’s a quick trick you can use that will help neutralize any bad feelings you have attached to a memory.


  • Allow the memory to come to mind until you start to feel bad.
  • Now start playing silly music inside your mind as you play through the memory – Notice how this changes the feeling.
  • Now imagine that everyone in the memory is wearing ballerina costumes and moving in time with the music.
  • Keep playing about with the visual and auditory aspects of the memory until you find yourself laughing because of how bizarre and silly it is.
  • Spend between 5-10 minutes laughing at how bizarre & silly the memory is.


6. Talk it over to someone – A lot of the time it can be very cathartic to let loose and just talk. Sometimes this alone can make the past seem a more pleasant place. (Please note this is not an excuse to wallow in self pity and become self indulgent. See it more as an occasional offload rather than a crutch)


7. Exercise, nutrition & sleep – It’s not just about the mind. Our overall physical health significantly affects our internal processes so the more you look after yourself the greater your capacity for mental health, the sharper you will be and the brighter the internal representation of your past, present and future become. The mind and body are intimately linked so anything good you do with your body will be reflected in your mind. Unless you are one of these individuals who are fine with just 6 hours sleep (this is such an alien concept to me I consider these people modern marvels of science!) then do your best to get 8 hours a night. Above all listen to your body, become attuned with how it feels…it can have a wisdom way beyond our conscious minds, ignore it at your peril.


8. Use the Past as a Resource – Actually it’s okay to get lost in the past every now and again. In fact it can be amazing providing you get lost in good memories. Keep a journal and record notes about all your successes, moments of passion, excitement and pleasure. Your memories can act as a pathway to good feelings, resources and enjoyable reminiscing so put them to good use. Take some time every now and again to vividly remember all the wonderful things you’ve experienced up to this point. We all need ways to keep ourselves entertained between experiences and going back to past pleasant memories is thoroughly enjoyable and does wonders for our happiness. Just remember life happens in the present so don’t get too lost.


9. Go to the toilet – Okay I put this one in as a bit of a joke. However regular bowel movements will help with your internal processing and overall sense of well being :-)


10. Seek Professionally help – If you are still struggling and it’s significantly affecting your life then seek professional help. Providing the therapist or coach is skilled at their craft, NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and hypnosis are excellent ways to let go of the past and use it as a resource to move forward.


There are lots of other ways though…explore, give things a go you’ve maybe never tried before. If you always do what you’ve always done then….well, I think you know how that one ends.

Take Care

Steven Burns

The Scottish Centre of NLP

I’m a Guru, worship me – The Power of status

Friday, December 21st, 2012


I don’t want to boast but did I ever mention that I own a helicopter, drive a Ferrari and go for regular tea and cake in St Andrews with Prince William?
I also own a penthouse in the west end of Edinburgh, run a multi-million pound company and regularly advise Alex Salmond on important political policies…


Of course none of those things are true. In fact, even if they were and I was quite blunt in telling you about them, you’d probably think I was just boasting. You may even feel slightly repelled by it.


What if they were true though? And, rather than me declaring it, you subtly found out through the course of a normal conversation? How impressed would you be? Would you secretly admire me…be a bit in awe? Would my words have more meaning to them than normal and would I have an over-exaggerated amount of influence over you?

Say I then offered you advice in something that had absolutely nothing to do with my area of success and expertise. Would you be more likely to take this advice on board than you would from someone perceived to be lower down in the social ladder?


If I asked you to then do something you wouldn’t normally do would you feel a bit pressured into doing it?

Or would you manage to distance yourself from the sparkle of my status and coldly assess the situation in a purely pragmatic and logical fashion?


Status is tremendously powerful. It can get you to do things you didn’t think you would ever do…It can get you to believe things that aren’t necessarily true and influence you to behave in ways you wouldn’t normally behave.


There’s a wonderful book that I keep coming back to time and time again called Influence – The science of persuasion by Robert Cialdini.
The book outlines what Cialdini calls ‘The 6 weapons of influence’ – the six main social dynamics that mould and shape our thoughts, feelings and behaviours on a day to day basis. It doesn’t matter what you do, where you do it or with whom, you will be influence by these 6 dynamics in some shape or form.

One of the more powerful of these is the dynamic of authority.


In pretty much every culture the people who are deemed ‘authority figures’ (eg teachers, Doctors, political & spiritual leaders, experts in their field and celebrities) will have considerably more power and influence than the average Joe off the street. Think Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (when he was alive obviously)…If they were to give a talk on ‘innovation’ or ‘how to be successful’ their words would have much more power and meaning than if you or I were to deliver the same talk. They could even stumble and stutter their way through and a most of the audience would still hang off their every word believing them to be the secret of life, the universe and everything.


They get massive credibility by default because of everything they are that they don’t have to say. They get credibility and influence because of their status.


Interestingly enough, the power they have from being ‘an authority figure’ wouldn’t necessarily disappear if they start talking about something completely unrelated to their line of work…like for example ‘Family relationships’ or ‘Health’. They’re not known necessarily for their success in those areas but, because of their social status, their words would generally still have far more influence than the average person on the street.


My friend summed it up beautifully recently when she was visited by the CEO of the company she worked for. She said ‘When the CEO gives you advice, you listen…when he asks you to do something, you do it


Even though we live in a time where the boundaries that separate traditional social classes are blurred we have our own imaginary class system and it plays a huge part in how much power and influence we attribute to a person’s message. At a pre-conscious and often conscious level we are constantly making judgements of the people we meet and assigning levels of value to them that we believe they possess. It may sound a bit harsh but it happens and we all do it in some shape or form.
Then based on the value we assign we place them on some kind of imaginary ladder of social hierarchy. The ones near the top of the ladder generally have the greatest amount of social influence over us and the ones down the bottom the least. Specifically how this works is obviously down to the individual and what one person decides is valuable can be different from the next person.


Unfortunately this is where the power of status can be abused. When we are in the presence of one of these authority figure, we can become vulnerable. A story comes to mind about a time my Mum went to the Doctor after breaking her wrist for the second time in 6 months. With her age there was the obvious concern of osteoporosis so she was swiftly sent for Calcium tests and referred to a specialist. Unfortunately before any of that was done the Doctor made what he thought was a throw away comment. He said “Well I guess because you’re getting close to 60 that means you have ‘old bones’ and… I’m sorry to say it’s just going to get worse from here on in”.


I’m sure he thought he was just preparing my Mum for the worst but in actual fact he gave her a very powerful suggestion from a position of authority that affected her deeply for months.
He maybe didn’t realise the power he had as an authority figure but, none the less, it was a pretty reckless thing to say.


There are two types of abuse when it comes to status and authority and the first is plain ignorance. Many authority figures simply don’t realise the power and influence each individual word and phrase they utter can have and end up hurting people without even realising it.


The second type is a little bit more disturbing. It’s where someone knows fine well the power their status gives them yet they still use it to manipulate in ways that fulfil their own selfish means with general disregard of the other person. They use it as a means of control, to increase their power over you. They use it to dazzle and disorientate so as to satisfy their own needs without really caring too much if the other person or people get what they want. They can often believe so much in their own hype that they become disconnected with what the other person or people are feeling. After all, it’s a privilege just being in their presence right?


There’s a book called Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk (author of fight club) where the last survivor of a Creedish Death cult is catapulted to fame and success as a Guru spiritual leader. He appears on TV shows, blesses the masses and offers solutions to everyday problems. Behind the scenes though he is a fake…bank rolled by a multi million pound organisation who are just using the guru image to sell mediocre, mass produced products and seminars. The amazing thing is the masses (who worship the very ground he stands on) believe the products and seminars to be works of genius. They must be…after all he is endorsing them!


The reality though, when you examine things in the cold light of day, is that the whole thing is just a cheap cash in on a utopian ideal and he’s every bit of a smoke screen as the Wizard of Oz.


This is a dramatic example but it does illustrate the power status can hold. Like I say it can make you believe things that aren’t necessarily true and make you think you’re getting a lot more than you actually are.


Now I’m not saying don’t use status. The power that comes from authority and status can be a good thing. Because you have more power it does allow you to help people more. Your words have more impact, more meaning so you can use them to do some amazing things…to really help transform people. You do have to be very careful though and make sure your intentions are positive. Just realise that the power isn’t actually yours even though it feels like it. It’s all created by the individual’s perception.


It’s like at the start of Lord of the Rings when Bilbo Baggins fights continually with the power of the ring. The ring has the power to give him practically anything and, in the beginning, he uses it to show off…to play tricks and do magic shows. Then he eventually realizes he’s just using the power to fuel his own ego. That it can actually be used to create peace and harmony across the land so he does the honourable thing and hands over the ring to his nephew Freudo.


The temptation is always there with status to abuse it. Be careful and use it wisely. It’s also okay to be impressed and influenced by status and a person’s profile. (in fact for most it will be nearly impossible not to be)


Speaking from experience I’d just be extremely wary. As a rule I’d spend more time investigating the reality behind someone’s claims who has a high profile and high status than I would of someone with a lower one. I’d certainly be a lot more inquisitive of their true intentions. Can they really deliver what they say they can or is it all just smoke and mirrors?
One of the things I love about NLP is how you can use it to mystify…to do things that people don’t think are possible. The fast phobia cure is a great example of this. To most people the notion of overcoming a phobia in under an hour (most times a lot faster) is completely outwith the scope of what they believe. It utterly mystifies them and this can have a mesmerizing effect.


While I love doing things that mystify and they’re great for convincing people how powerful NLP is, I think it’s equally important to de-mystify…to de-construct. To show people that the miraculous change has a structure and can be performed by anyone.


To de-mystify is to enlighten. It wakes people up from their social slumber. It de-hypnotizes them from their social and personal constraints they think are placed on them and gives them the power to change.


Someone who mystifies and makes no attempt to break it down into something other people can do is not really teaching they are mesmerizing. They are installing the belief that they have the power and not the people they are teaching. Be wary, be very careful. When you go see a magic show it can be very impressive to see the woman sawn in half but it’s not real…it’s an entertaining illusion we buy into for fun.

Status can create a similar illusion. It’s sometimes nice to buy into but it does put you in a less empowered position.

Status and the power it brings can be the ultimate aphrodisiac and I don’t mean that just in a sexual way. It’s true in most social, personal and work situations, especially at the beginning of the relationship. This strange social hypnosis will cloud your judgement. It will make you think you’re getting things you’re not. It will create an over-exaggerated sense of feeling like you need them more than they need you.

If their intentions are positive and they can deliver what they say they can then great! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going with it…it’ll make everything they say and do more powerful so you’re in for a great ride. If you find their intentions are less than honest though and they know how to use their power to manipulate then personally I’d recommend turn and walk away. You might think you can handle the situation but the balance of power is not in your favour. The odds are stacked massively against you.


If you’re the one who is rising through the ranks of social hierarchy and you’re starting to feel the power and influence this naturally brings then I urge you to keep your integrity. By all means use your power and influence…You can do a lot of good with it but be aware the temptation to abuse it will always be there.


I read once that there’s a distinct difference between a hero and a champion. A hero does things for the benefit of society as well as themselves. They constantly balance their own needs with that of those around them and their intentions for doing what they do are to enrich, expand and create more personal freedom for people. For the greater good so to speak. A champion is mostly about ego. They do what they do to fuel their sense of self importance, to expand their trophy cabinet so they can boast, show off and increase the amount of control, dominance and power they have. It can seem attractive but there are huge pitfalls.


Just in case you’re wondering by the way, in the end of the book ‘Survivor’ by Chuck Palahniuk the Guru actually commits suicide. He realises he’s a fake…an empty shell of a man and that he’s designed his whole life from the outside in rather than the inside out. Consequently the masses who followed him lose faith and become hopelessly confused and lost. Simply because they mistakenly believed that all the power was with the guru rather than with them.



Take Care

Steven Burns

Scottish Centre of NLP


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