Utilize problem anchors to reinforce positive change

Dr. Lewis Walker, author of Changing with NLP: A Casebook of Neuro-Linguistic Programming in Medical Practice, recently wrote:

I think that when someone has had a longstanding chronic problem over many years, in virtually all areas of life there are huge numbers of contextual anchors (people, places, color schemes, sounds, voice tones, postures, gestures, etc.) that keep it alive… Chronic re-exposure to these myriad anchors after a session is one way in which the problem can recur over time to a varying degree…

I have experienced this anchor issue myself in making major life changes. It’s a big problem for a lot of people.

Contextual anchors as resources

The existing anchors for a longstanding problem state are powerful, widespread, and reliable. They recur in exactly those contexts where the problem has been a problem.

The person making a change most needs their new resources in these contexts. Old “problem” anchors thus make ideal resources for anchoring the person’s new solution state.

This type of intervention seems potentially useful for virtually any longstanding or widely contextualized problem. I therefore added it to my change work toolbox in the form of hypnotic suggestions.

Repurposing existing anchors

I chose to use hypnosis because I want to repurpose all the old triggers, not just the ones the client knows about consciously and could include in an NLP process. The basic format I use is direct suggestions that “the more the problem, the more the solution.”

If a client doesn’t know what an anchor is, either explain or adjust your language. Suggest that:

  1. What were anchors for the problem now anchor the client’s resource states and behaviors.


    “Each and every object, thought, and experience that used to trigger those old behaviors and beliefs, old attitudes and emotions… from now on instead triggers your new and empowering behaviors and beliefs, your new and empowering attitudes and emotions. Whatever used to reinforce your old self-concept as someone who had that problem, now reinforces your identity as someone who thinks and acts so you get the outcomes you want.”

    (Note: Make sure you include actions in your solution suggestions. Ensure that the client will do new behaviors that will create their desired outcomes, not simply feel different.)

  2. The stronger the anchor was for the problem, the stronger an anchor it now is for the solution. What used to be the strongest triggers for the problem are now going to be the most help in solving the problem. This changes the meaning of the anchors, making it less likely that the client will think about or respond to the anchors as they used to.
  3. The more strongly and more often each anchor gets triggered, the more strongly it triggers the client’s resource states and behaviors. Immediately after the session, some clients may still have negative responses to their anchors. This suggestion will build the desired responses over time. The more the client gets triggered, and the more negatively, the faster they build more useful responses. This suggestion turns negative responses from subjective “proof of failure” into marks of progress.

I initially test most new patterns by running them on myself. A few days after giving myself the above suggestions, I visited a context that has a lot of old negative anchors. Instead of responding negatively, my emotional responses were neutral. I no longer felt that I had to change aspects of the context in order to make it bearable. Instead, I looked around to see what I could maybe change in the future, while no longer feeling any need to change anything.

Want to experiment?

This is an NLP development blog, and you can participate by testing patterns. Try today’s intervention on yourself or a client, and report the results in the Comments section below. Thanks for participating!


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