Introduction To NLP Anchoring 8: Chaining Anchors

Chaining anchors means building a chain or series of states that lead from a present state to a desired state. This is useful if the present state and the desired state are so different that it would be hard for the person to move from one to the other in one go. It’s particularly useful to set up a way of ‘automatically’ getting out of a ‘stuck’ state like boredom or apathy, towards something more useful like motivation.

Why not just use a ‘motivation’ anchor?

You might think that you could just give the person a motivation anchor they could use to bounce themselves out of it, and that will work sometimes. But when they are in that stuck state, they may be feeling so unmotivated that they actually don’t feel motivated enough to use the anchor, or don’t remember they have it, or don’t believe it will work.

In that situation, a chain of anchors that pulls them out of the stuck state automatically is going to be a very elegant solution, because they don’t have to consciously think about it.

How ‘chaining anchors’ works

This is another one of those patterns where it’s easier to have someone else help you install the anchors, so it would be best to practice this one on a decent live NLP training. Although if you want to have a go yourself, you can certainly do it.

Here’s how it works: a state can be the trigger for another state, when you make a neurological link between them. There’s a great chapter in Change Your Mind – and Keep the Change by Steve and Connirae Andreas, which is a fine book about submodalities, where they get their seminar participants to recall the effects of taking their favourite recreational drugs.

“What’s the first thing that tells you when it’s kicking in?” “Where in your body do you feel that?” “And then what happens? Where do you feel that?” and so on. And the person associates into the kinesthetics of each stage of that process as they describe it, and of course as they do that they are conditioning in a neurological link between each of those sensations.

The Andreases take them back to the first step, and each sensation acts as an anchor that triggers off the next – so from that point on, they can get the effects of taking that drug whenever they want, without needing the physical drug to get them. Which could be quite useful.

This is an important point. The main reason people take drugs, or drink, or smoke cigarettes, or eat cream cakes, is to change their state. It gives them the most reliable way they know of bringing about a state change – even if, in the case of the cigarette, the state change is just relieving nicotine craving.

When people have effective ways of changing their state, such as setting off a resource anchor, they don’t need to resort to taking things that will damage them any more. They still have the choice to use those things, but they don’t need to – the anchor works just as well, or better, and doesn’t have the damaging side effects.

How to set up a chain of anchors

This is the process:

Introduce the intervention:

  1. As with any NLP intervention, get in rapport with your client.
  2. As with any NLP intervention, set the frame (i.e. explain what you’re going to do in terms that the client can understand, and check that the client is OK with it. In this case, if you’re going to use a kinesthetic anchor, get the client’s permission to touch them)

Plan the intervention:

  1. Identify the problem state.
  2. Decide on the desired end state.
  3. Decide on the intermediate states to get from the problem state to the desired state. You might have one, or two, or maybe three intermediate states – in theory you could have a chain that was any length, but why would you bother?The intermediate states should be dynamic, high-energy states that can easily change into the next state. My friend Jonathan Altfeld, at (which is appropriate as he’s a real master of NLP), uses a great analogy of airline routes. You know you have some airports, like Schiphol or Atlanta, that are ‘hubs’ – lots of routes fly into them and out again, and a lot of people change planes there en route to somewhere else. And then you have other airports that are a terminus – pretty much the end of the line, and when you fly there, there isn’t really anywhere else you can get to from there (there’s a lot more to it than that – why not get Jonathan’s ‘Automatic Yes’ audio programme if you want to explore this more?)So your intermediate states should be ‘hub’ states like Curiosity, that you can easily move on from, rather than something like Rage or Worry that’s hard to go anywhere else from.The first intermediate state needs to have enough ‘oomph’ to pull you out of the starting state. It can even be something mildly unpleasant, like impatience – that will get you out of most states pretty quickly. And of course, it should be easy to get from each state to the next one – it should feel like a natural route.One way of finding a natural route that will work for the person, assuming you have someone who isn’t in the stuck state all the time, is to find out how they have got out of that state in the past – and use the stages of that journey as the intermediate states in your chain.OK, so now you’ve got your chain designed and ready to install.

Make the intervention

  1. Elicit and anchor each state separately, beginning with the problem state. So you’re going to need separate anchor points for each one. Test them as you go, and break state after each one that you anchor – especially the last one.Kinesthetic anchors are the easiest to use for this purpose – and the knuckles on one hand give you a nice easy sequence of four or five (if you use the thumb) places to anchor the sequence of states. You *may* need to stack the intermediate and end state anchors to get the required intensity – but don’t stack the first one.So now you’ve got a series of separate anchors – #1 is the problem state, #2 is the first intermediate state, and so on.
  2. Condition in the links between the anchors in the chain. Fire off anchor #1 and notice the response. When that peaks, fire off #2, and let go of #1. When #2 peaks, fire off #3, and so on. You can repeat the sequence a couple of times to condition it in some more.

Validate then maximise the benefits

  1. Test by firing anchor #1 (only). The client should move through the intermediate states and end up in the desired state. If they don’t move through the states, repeat the conditioning sequence as needed.
  2. Ask the client “How do you feel about <whatever name they used for the problem state> now?” Pay attention to their non-verbal reactions rather than what they say.
  3. Future pace: “What’s going to happen next time you’re in that kind of situation?” Again, pay attention to the non-verbal response, and you’re also looking for a congruent verbal response.

That’s setting up a chain of anchors formally, as if you were a therapist and the client had come to your consulting room. You can also set up chains of anchors conversationally.

For example, if you enjoy telling stories, you could tell a story that leads the listener or audience through a chain of states, starting with where they are now and ending up with a desired state. If that story was really memorable and successful in evoking those emotions (you can tell if it’s working by paying attention to your audience) then the next time you mention the first part of the story, or the name of the main character in it, they will go straight through the chain and end up in the desired state.

Alternatively, you could tell several stories with different content but the same structure, leading through the same sequence of states. The repetition will help to condition in the state chain.

If you use the same voice tone to start each story, one that you don’t use anywhere else, then next time you use that voice tone it will set your audience off through that chain of states. If you think that sounds like an unusual or outlandish thing to do, stand-up comedians use that exact same method all the time. They might anchor the states they want with a voice tone, or a gesture, or a facial expression, or a verbal catch phrase – and usually, the voice tone as well as the words will be the same each time they use the catch phrase.

Next: using anchors in real life!

Don’t know what some of the technical NLP terms mean? Try the NLP Glossary

Anchoring book coverDon’t want to wait to find out more? Get everything you need to know about how to set and use anchors (and lots of other useful stuff besides) in my Kindle e-book Practical NLP 4: Submodalities and Anchoring

(this link should take you to your preferred Kindle store – if it doesn’t, just go to your preferred store and search on the title)

© 2018 – 2019, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

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