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Hypnotic Anchors

Updated on August 25, 2011

The Power to Create Mood, State, and Influence

How would you like to learn how to alter your habits or the behaviors of others? Would you like to increase the positive responses and influence you have on other people? What if you had the psychological tools necessary to create internal change in yourself and those around you?

The late Milton H. Erickson, master hypnotherapist, may have had the answer. Based on his selt-taught research, he defined and advanced the concept of Hypnotic Anchoring, where external stimuli affects our moods and responses. His work and teachings have been adopted and refined worldwide by noted personaes, forming many of the foundations of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

The main topic of this article will be a discussion on Hypnotic Anchors, or external stimuli generated to induce internal states or responses. We will go over how it is accomplished, some of the methodologies, and various expectations of the practice. At first glance, they may seem to appear rigid and mechanical, but they are not. They are very natural; we use them every day when we extend our hand in a show of friendship, count to 10 and take a deep breath, and sit back with our favorite cup of tea or coffee and start our morning.

Disclaimer: The author does not claim authority on Hypnotic Anchoring, nor is this considered a form of training; this is intended for informational purposes only.

So What is A Hypnotic Anchor? - Explaining and Dispelling the Myth

Take a moment and describe yourself.

Did you explain using the "5 senses"; taste, touch, smell, sound, sight? Or did you describe how you felt. Or did you do both?

According to Milton H. Erickson, our senses are linked to our emotions, and they receive the external stimulation that influences how we feel. So, as many people in Western Civilization know, if we watch a TV show where the people are eating dirty bugs, we wince and maybe even gag. That's because we "Westerners" previously created a Hypnotic Anchor, a mental link to the visual picture of "eating bugs" as nasty and gross; for some of us, we'll get very uncomfortable and for others, we'll experience a gag reflex.

And that's the point; you may not know it, but Hypnotic Anchors are all over the place, working as intended. For example, the show "Fear Factor" is based entirely on the notion of introducing external stimulations linked to fear.

A Hypnotic Anchor, therefore, is a created psychological mechanism representing that "link" as we are describing. It can be done intentionally or covertly; it is a process where the practitioner observes emotions or states of minds, and then sets the trigger, a special action or series of actions, that can be used later to invoke the same "state" or response. The effect? You can learn to influence feelings, states of consciousness, or habits, to come and go.

Some issues surrounding Hypnosis and Hypnotic Anchors:

  • Resistance: Some people try to resist hypnotic methods; Erickson introduced the principle of Resistance Induction which uses vague communication to allow the subject to "fill in the gaps" and induce themselves to accept Anchors and suggestions.

  • Direct Control: Anchoring and Hypnosis has never been able to accomplish direct control over any person. All forms of hypnotic suggestion are indirectly controlling.

  • Resource Building: In most instances of hypnotic implementation, a practitioner establishes lower-level anchors or suggestions, to use as "tools" in solving large goals.

Before you continue, how much experience have you had with Hypnotic Anchors?

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How To Place A Hypnotic Anchor

And an example.

This process of establishing an anchor is complex, but the steps are straightforward.

  1. Establish your goal. For example, are you trying to quit smoking, do you want your child to consistently clean his room, or would you like to get a raise at your job? The big goal is not a bad idea; it just means you may have to break it down into smaller goals, independently accomplished.

  2. Determine the subject(s). In smaller challenges, this is a single person, sometimes yourself.

  3. Achieve the State. This is the trickiest part of Anchoring; get the subject in the proper mood or frame of mind. This is often done when an experience is being recalled with a climactic point.

  4. Set the Trigger. When you observe the moment of highest peak, this is the time to set a "trigger", an action, word, or form of stimuli that you can repeat at a later time.
Now, let's try an example; for many men and women the goal is to establish a relationship, so this is what you might do:

Step 1. Check! Your goal is to create a positive relationship with a person.

Step 2. You've identified the person, right?

Step 3. During conversation, you ask questions until you get the subject recalling a highly, emotionally-charged (positive) experience.

Step 4. When you believe the subject is at his or her highest emotional state, you place your hand on his or her shoulder (or you could brush away his or her hair, or say a phrase, etc.)

Congratulations! In the example, you've set your first Hypnotic Anchor. Now, later in the date, or at a later meeting, you can touch the person's shoulder in the same manner and it will influence the same feelings, now linked with you.

Extra Notes to Place A Hypnotic Anchor

There are important things that can help you achieve success.

Once you feel you have an understanding of Hypnotic Anchors, you can begin to use them. But knowing when they are most and least effective is the key to implementing them well. As a fundamental, follow these rules when you intend to set an anchor:

1. Learn to observe properly. You are looking for states of consciousnes, deep recall, and emotional intensity. The best time to apply an anchor is when the subject is "caught in the moment", deeply involved in his or her experience.

2. At the same time, learn to recognize the moment of climax, the point of greatest intensity. This is when the experience will achieve the greatest momentum. Utilyzing items #1 and #2 together provide the best anchors.

3. Set a unique anchor. For example, a pat on the back, if commonly received by the subject, will minimize the impact of your anchor. Examples of unique anchors might be a unique inflection of a word or shaking that person's hand in a very different way.

4. Set an unrestrictive anchor. If you are keen to a person's memory recall, or Eye Accessing Cues, you'll be able to tell if they are referring to visual, audial, or kinesthetic memories. By setting less restrictive anchors, you bypass already established links. For example, if the person is referencing a visual memory, you might set an audial hypnotic anchor.

5. Set a "complex" anchor. A slightly more advanced technique, by performing a verbal and a kinestetic anchor together, you are reinforcing the mood or behavior through two senses.

6. Reinforce your anchor. When you have established the anchor, you should reinforce it from time to time, continuing its impact. In the beginning, the strongest reinforcement will be the original recall you used to establish the anchor; later on, the anchor will be strong enough to influence by itself. Repetition is a key component, but should not be over-abused, as the impact can become minimized.

False Triggers

The Problem with Weak Hypnotic Anchors

False triggers, or notably, "weak anchors" occur when a trigger fires too frequently. For example, if you placed your anchor with the word "Hello", it will go off often and other people will also fire it. That means the entire experience is lost or absorbed; it will be incorporated or minimized into commonality.

As stated above, to avoid false triggers, the objective is to make certain your anchors are unique, and possibly, complex. Using small, direct phrases is a good practice, and more direct in firing the anchor, but don't use a set of words that are commonplace. Instead of something casual like "You look great!", try "(Name), you look very alluring" (for a female), "(Name), you look very handsome" (for a male), or some combination that doesn't normally get used.

When referring to complex anchors, the practitioner is following the unique guidelines by setting two triggers in unison, such as shaking a person's hand gently and performing a big intake of breath. Those two combinations, in effect, become one trigger, when experienced by the subject.

Anchor Collapsing

Replace One with Another

In many cases, after you've studied how Anchoring works, you may want to get rid of Anchors that have been "hanging around" in your mental closet for years. These Anchors have been established naturally or accidentally; we see this most often when the subject has a behavior or addiction that needs changing. For example, every morning you may find yourself in a routine which involves having a cigarette; this is a perfect candidate for Anchor Collapsing.

To collapse an Anchor, you basically replace the existing one with a new one you've devised. The emotion tied to the cigarette in the morning is what keeps the Anchor reinforced; to alter this, you could use a vivid recall of the routine, and at the moment of highest intensity, eat a stick of gum. (In this example, you are replacing the cigarette with a stick of gum). To make the new Anchor work, you would have to repeat the technique for reinforcement, and eventually, it would overwhelm the memory/experience of your morning routine.

Different Uses for Hypnotic Anchors

Behold, the Power of the Anchor

Most people who tend to use Hypnotic Anchors fall into two cateagories: they are either practitioners or artists. A practitioner uses the anchoring techhnique to aid the recipient for the benefit of overcoming addictions or reinforcing positive behaviors. An artist, so to speak, is a person who finds an independent use of the technique to gain influence, establish behaviors, or some other creative use. In Neuro-Linguistic Programming, for example, many people train in anchoring to establish better relationships in business and social settings.

Some of the interesting uses where Hypnotic Anchors could apply are:

1. To quit smoking.

2. To establish a stronger relationship with an individual.

3. To go into a trance or deep state of meditation.

4. To influence a crowd during an event.

5. To help a person remove or reduce depression.

As we see, there are many potential uses for the technique.

Other Appropriate Books Introducing NLP or Anchoring

The technique of Hypnotic Anchoring became really popular with the introduction of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Here are some written works that explain many of the concepts and techniques used in its study.

NLP Techniques Anyone Can Use
NLP Techniques Anyone Can Use

This is a "Kindle" version book I have not checked out. For the cost of 99 cents, it seems a decent buy.

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists
The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists

This book shows how some of the techniques were adopted and used for gaining influence in other areas of life.


Thanks for dropping by! If you see anything you like or feel this lens/article could use some additional content, feel free to leave your comments and inspire the debate.

Feedback for "Hypnotic Anchors"

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very interesting. This is my first introduction to the topic and I do feel as though i am starting to understand what it's all about. Blessed. Will appear in my Resabi: Winging It lens.

    • thesuccess2 profile image


      7 years ago

      I know anchors must work because I've sure as heck got negative anchors!

    • thesuccess2 profile image


      7 years ago

      I know anchors must work because I've sure as heck got negative anchors!


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