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Anchoring and Conditioning

NLP reverese anchoring

Introduction: NLP Terminology

In Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) parlance, five major 'modalities' or sensory means of perceiving the world are recognised: visual (V), auditory (A), kinesthetic (K), olfactory (O) and gustatory (G). These correspond to the five senses - sight, hearing, touch, scent and taste. In addition to these major modalities, there are various submodalities, the ones of primary interest here being the internal memory responses of Vi (Internal Visualisation) and Ai (Internal Auditory): the latter can be further spilt down into Ai as direct 'sound' and 'noise' and Aid as internal verbalisation or dialogue - commonly called 'thinking' in words. Both the Vi and Ai submodalities are internal and are activities of the imagination which can be evoked by the use of words either internally or externally generated. Normal everyday 'thinking' commonly comprises chained images in Vi and Aid modes.
Since the body is one unit, and effectively has memory in ALL modes (since the underlying system is interconnected to itself as the nervous system), total memory - as well as being associated chronologically and linearly by related topic in any particular mode - is associative in all modes: this provides the basis for anchoring.

Memory and Direct Anchoring

Memory, as amply demonstrated by Pavlov and others, is associative [see also Appendix to this paper]. This is the principle underlying the NLP technique of direct anchoring, wherein a 'state' (usually of mind) is elicited in the subject and an 'anchor' applied by the operative in some other modality to the given state - eg commonly a touch on the shoulder, some specific movement, eg waving an arm, moving an object, an auditory experience, and so on.
Let it be said at this point (and this is an aside - but an important one), in consequence of work done on studying word interrupts, sequences and their dependence/effect on restructured memory, that the full nature of the mechanism of anchoring has not yet been fully explored. Memory, whether it be auditory, verbal auditory, visual, kinesthetic or whatever appears to work in pattern and sequence (see elsewhere). The mind does not consistently recognise all patterns, rather those which are seen to be of some value and those which are either particularly unique in some way or repeated. Rhythm, itself a temporal pattern underlying a lot of other patterns and sequence/order is important in this process as is sequence and pattern - rhythmic or not - in all modalities (to explain, a kinesthetic 'pattern' could be 'rough/smooth/warm/rough/smooth').
So, to say to someone (for instance) 'Remember a time you were wonderfully happy' and simultaneously gripping their shoulder as they access the state may be all well and good, but it's a 'one off' weak anchor and, without reinforcement, it will soon fade away. Although it might be true that Pavlov's dogs were trained to go for lunch when the bell rang, it didn't happen overnight - it took lots of repetition (changing and reinforcing change of mind-state - repetition can be viewed as a way of 'burning in' a neuronic pattern) and preconditioning before salivation occurred without food being present. As for means of reinforcement, well repetition is the obvious one: the discovery and development of the rest (means of repeating without inducing boredom, sequencing, introducing rhythm, making the process dynamic) is left up to the NLP researchers.

Technique of Simple Anchoring in Therapy

The typical case is a therapist (T) and a subject (S). The therapist, by the skilful use of words, will endeavour to evoke an internal Vi/Ai state [say state X] in the subject - with Ai apriori leading Vi.. As the state peaks in S - and T will be seeking non-verbal as well as verbal cues top detect this - T will apply an 'anchor' in some other mode to that being accessed by S, typically a touch or grip on some body part for a K mode [say touch Tx], and 'anchor' the internal state. This may be reinforced several times for effect & several anchors applied during the course of one session. When the subject returns to 'normality' (i.e. is no longer internally accessing state X), the therapist can re-evoke state X by applying the kinesthetic touch Tx - which by association of that particular touch will cross-link into the Vi and Ai modes and the internal state experienced in state X.
In theory, any modalitie(s) may be used to anchor any state indeed, changes in voice tone/pace can be, and are, commonly used. There are a lot of variations on the basic theme available, but the previous paragraphs summarise the basic principles.

Anchoring in Everyday Life

The previous paragraph described the deliberate use of anchoring in a structured therapeutic situation, in addition to structured anchoring, random anchoring is going on all about us every day of our lives and plays a major part in our general conditioning whether we are aware of it or not. Some simple examples are:
+ tying a knot in a handkerchief or similar action to serve as a reminder
+ making/reading entries in a diary
+ anticipating behaviour from someone's (previously 'learned') tone of voice
+ anticipating the next event in a previously remembered sequence
+ associating a 'theme' tune with a particular TV show
+ religious ritual

Reciprocal Anchoring

So, back to reverse anchoring. Memory is associational in all modalities. In other words, to use a simple example of a kinesthetic anchor again, if someone hears the word 'Cat' and simultaneously has their shoulder gripped, then next time - but in entirely different circumstances - that same shoulder is gripped in the same manner they will have a tendency to remember the spoken word 'Cat' and whatever internal image they evoked that was associated with that word at the time the anchor was applied. Yes, true: but is not memory associational in all modalities? So, one might ask, what else was going on at the time 'Cat' was originally anchored by the shoulder grip? Well, perhaps there was that nasty smell hanging around from the pig farm down the road, the subject was smoking a pipe (she really should give up) and had the taste of tobacco in her mouth. The room was really hot (ninety degrees) and she was looking at a Picasso hung on the wall. So, she has the following associations with that experience:'Cat'/Shoulder grip/Pig farm odour/Pipe + Tobacco taste/Being uncomfortably warm/Picasso painting (+other aspects of surroundings).
And that's not all. When the word 'Cat' was uttered, let's suppose the woman instantaneously had a visual image of her cat, Hector, sitting on her lap and purring. So, next time she strokes her cat, because the internal states are interlinked - no matter how weakly - she will have some recollection of the odour of the pig farm. Likewise, next time she feels uncomfortably warm, will she think of Picasso, being gripped by the shoulder, her cat and the taste of tobacco. ANYTHING present when an anchor is deliberately applied, and ANYTHING the subject might remember at the time all become reciprocally anchored together: the events also become anchored to previous experiences. [There are, obviously, ways around this - and ways of improving the relative strength of deliberate anchors - for practitioners, in terms of careful environmental control].

Reverse Anchoring and Conditioning

As outlined in the simple example above, a shoulder grip can evoke the thought of a cat (and any number of other things): conversely, the thought of 'Cat' will evoke the memory of the shoulder grip. That is a fairly obvious statement of reciprocity, and might appear banal until one explores what lies beyond it and what meaning it has in terms of everyday life.
Day to day, human beings tend to behave habitually - live in the same environments, visit the same places, watch the same TV shows, drive the same car for years, interact with the same people. That is in the outside, observable world. Inwardly, we have similar habits - learned habits of language, emotion and thoughts. And here's the rub: in terms of reciprocal or 'reverse' anchoring OUR THOUGHTS CONDITION OUR ENVIRONMENT, and OUR ENVIRONMENT CONDITIONS OUR THOUGHTS. This is not a theory, this is actually observable if the reader is sufficiently alert. Since each of us spends a good part of every day in the non alert state (Aid/Vi internal state of 'thinking) and those thoughts are incidentally anchored by association to concurrent ongoing external events, random associations are being constructed by our nervous systems during such periods. Once these anchors are set, they can work in reverse such that events and spatial locations/objects can fire off certain thoughts. This effect will be particularly pronounced if the thoughts are repetitive in nature and carried out in the same physical location in that a feedback process will occur looping thought with spatial anchor.
So next time you are walking past a particular tree and you find some strange though 'pops into your head from nowhere', perhaps you'll be able to understand why - and if you can track it, you perhaps will be able to discover how and when you first made the association..

Appendix 1 Provisional Rules for Creating Interrupt and Amnesia in Simple Prose

[Rule 0: it is difficult to the point of impossibility to remember the majority of the content of a series of words that are presented in a non-sequential order. The non-sequentiality can occur from random shifts in order from word to word, phrase to phrase and sentence to sentence as further explained below]
[Rule 1: swapping single words from the subject and predicate of a simple sentence will render that individual sentence more or less incoherent and generally introduce grammatical inaccuracies. If the swapping is done throughout a piece of text, the overall meaning is likely to remain decipherable to some extent through the sequential sentence structure and recurring nouns]
[Rule 2: the disordering of sentence positions in a piece of sequential concrete text will cause TDS at the sentence jumps AND create amnesia by being non-sequential. With some reflection, the meaning of short pieces of such text is decipherable.]
[Rule 3: stand alone, incoherent non-linear phrases with concrete nouns & verbs will not cause significant TDS as the subject can rapidly create a meaningful image]
[Rule 4: stand alone, abstract, non-linear phrases - although incoherent - are rejected out of hand by the subject as being meaningless]
[Rule 5: to have TDS and amnesia value, a phrase should appear to the subject to be superficially coherent & have at least some concrete terms.]
[Rule 6: unless primed, it is almost impossible to remember an abstract, incoherent phrase in an otherwise coherent sequence - and consequently an incoherent abstract sentence. This is mainly a function of non-imagable words but, since complete, linear abstract sentences can and do stand alone, it also depends upon the non-linear language pattern]
[Rule 7: swapping around the front and back halves of sentences in a paragraph of sequential text renders the paragraph virtually incoherent and in consequence difficult to recall]
[Rule 8: to significantly interrupt a rearranged concrete piece of text it is necessary to insert equally concrete phrases or break sentences]
[Rule: 9 abstract, non-sequential sentences inserted in a concrete piece of text have little impact & will be ignored by the subject]
[Rule 10: the meaning of a sequential piece of concrete text can be significantly disrupted by the insertion of alternate, entirely unrelated, concrete sentences. From previous rules (8.9), this disruption will be far greater should the original text be abstract in nature since the concrete sentences take precedence in consciousness and memory]
[Rule/hypothesis 11: the effect discussed above in the previous rule is further compounded if the interstitial sentences refer to emotion and use shifts in modality - descriptions that shift across VAKOG]
[Rule 12: (a corollary of Rule 2) stand-alone, well-formed concrete sentences (i.e. sentences which in themselves are sequential) which are arranged non-sequentially will cause TDS at the sentence jumps AND create amnesia]
[Rule 12b: The same effect may be achieved by the non-sequential arrangement of concrete phrases within sentences (e.g. by creating lists). Ultimately, with sustained conscious effort, the 'real' meaning of any such text is decipherable]
[Rule 13: in sentence mixing, shorter sentences will cause the greatest confusion, also greater amnesia about what went before]

Appendix 2: Word Dissociation

'Murphy has eight purple cows, four goats, thirty-six three-legged chickens, a pink sheep with two heads that sing 'Nellidene' and a wife named Martha Amandal. Orville and George Bright, who did not play howling Gibson Stratoblaster euphoniums in a heavy lime orchestra, were the inventors and developers of the first, smelly, noisy, gasoline powered, heavier than gasoline aircraft. The third letter in the betabet may not be 'D', a lemon could taste more bitter than an orange, a cube has five faces - whilst a clock has two, and the first word listed in the Oxford Dictionary is not 'A'. If a cat's fur feels smooth, and sandpaper is rough, then answer the following questions without re-reading anything: how many goats does Murphy have, and what is his wife's full name?'

The passage above uses sequence breaking (see Appendix 1) in an attempt to break the relationships between one group of words and the next such as to make the text difficult remember. Here's another example: read the following thirty-two words three times, turn away from the screen and write them down verbatim without referring back.

The hard Bill with at two who tried it tea pill named a fellow to swallow.
He tried three old will and left at five and at was an it in his.

Now do the same again with the following thirty two words. When you have done so, check the accuracy of your transcription.

The was an old fellow named Bill,
Who tried hard to swallow a pill,
He tried it with tea,
At two and at three,
And left it at five in his will.

You should have found the second version of the identical word groups far easier to remember since you had the SEQUENCES (= ongoing associations) of grammar, rhythm, rhyme and some predictable story line to follow. Set to music, you would have yet another anchor, set to harmonic music, yet another.
Interesting, isn't it, that songs and ballads were the traditional ways of handing down folk lore in the long lost days of pure oral tradition.

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