Anchoring – Do you know the meaning and do you use anchors consciously?

What can be an anchor?
An anchor can be a place, a song, a word, a person, a piece of clothing, a car, etc. The anchor is related to triggering memories and emotional states in you. In short, a particular place is a trigger for you that leads to an anchor for that particular place. For example The jetty at your summer house is associated with fond summer memories as a child, and it makes you happy and warm. When you see a bell-shaped skirt, you think of your old grandmother. You see a green car and think of your funny neighbor. You hear a song on the radio and remember the disco in high school. With all these different memories you get anchored to, there are also different emotional states. One makes you happy, another might make you angry, another makes you tingle and another fills you with warmth and love.
Think/listen to a song you like. What do you feel and what memory(s) come up?

Your anchor(s) are personal, which means that others around you may not react to those words or body language of your colleague in the same way as you do. This is important to keep in mind when communicating with other people. The reactions we get do not have to have anything to do with personality type (color codes etc.), but can in many cases be directly related to emotional experiences from anchoring. Many times we are unaware of the reasons for our reactions and if we don’t stop and reflect on them, we continue to behave in the same way. Where they have a negative impact on ourselves and the environment, knowing how to anchor can make a difference. I think it is equally important to become aware of and work with positive anchors, both those we already have (identify) and how we can create them. So here is a post that hopefully gives you more understanding of the power of reflecting and consciously anchoring and re-anchoring. More on re-anchoring later in the text.

Positive vs Negative anchoring
We have plenty of positive anchors. We can also choose to add positive anchors to help us in certain situations. Anchors that give a boost to a running race, football match or important and crucial meetings. What kind of playlist do you listen to when you want to “get busy”?

We can also create positive anchors to contribute to a stronger community. Perhaps your company is starting to offer joint lunchtime training one day a week in the workplace. An hour where you socialize, train and no roles apply. A way to reinforce the values that everyone is important.

Or maybe you have a joint mandatory break every afternoon, to demonstrate the importance of taking a break and maybe adding some kind of movement to release tension in the body (after a lot of sitting/standing).

Or why not have a “creative hour” once a month where everyone can make suggestions for improvement in the company, which are then discussed and processed by management with feedback. All these, if repeated continuously and creating good conditions, become positive anchors.

It can be the same at home. Maybe your Friday fun is the highlight of the week with all family members gathered around games and socializing – an anchor that makes you happy, warm and grateful. Something else could be the Saturday breakfast, my own big favorite, long breakfast with lots of goodies on the table and time to enjoy just being – I get warm in my body just thinking about it.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this text, not all anchors are associated with positive memories and emotional states. There are words, songs, places and people that take us into bad states such as feeling fear, anger, frustration, despair, sadness, etc. Then it may be time to try to re-anchor them so that they get a positive anchorage. Sometimes this is not possible, and one alternative would be to pay attention to where, how and when these negative anchors come and make conscious strategies for how to respond to them before your thoughts go into a negative spiral.

Sometimes things happen that make it impossible or even interesting to turn them into something positive. What may be needed in the first instance is to be ‘separated’ from the memory. A way of telling the brain that you are not in the memory now, that you are in the present and what happened was you in the past. Otherwise, we can stay in and relive the memory over and over again, as if it is happening right now, taking us into the negative emotional state again and again and deepening it.

This is the part where I wished that medical staff, police, firefighters, psychologists (some may be working on this) and others could be involved. learned more about. Both how they can meet people who have just experienced trauma, but also for their own debriefing after heavy workloads.

I do not mean that this is the solution to everything, but there is a very important function of making a separation from the memory, a so-called “dissociation” as we call it in Communicology*. I will talk more about “association” and “dissociation” in a later post.

If you find that you have negative anchors that you would like to change – you can re-anchor. This can be done, for example, by using physical change. Physical change in the form of moving yourself from one point to another. In the case of the company, it is possible to use the meeting room for a re-anchoring. This is to clarify that the old anchor is “over there”, and now there is a new start and the anchor is “here”. The company may have had some outdated values that are now being replaced by new modern ones. A suggestion would be to write down the old values on a piece of paper, put a bin at the far end of the room and throw the paper into it in front of everyone. Then go back to where the rest of the meeting is held and only touch on the new values. Possibly add some fun activity during the meeting, which anchors you in the newness even more.

For yourself, the same kind of re-anchoring could be done by, for example, giving away your worn-out sweatpants that have an anchor to a sad separation, loneliness, etc. Then go and buy yourself a nice new pair that you spend the first few times in with a good friend, slumber party or something else that represents the replacement of the old with something new and energetic.

Anchoring the company or team
When I work with a company or team, I always start from their current situation and where they want to go. I spend time and effort with those concerned to find out if there are certain words and/or behaviors that have a certain appeal. This can be both positive and negative. Looking at how those anchors could influence the change or development process going forward.

Anchoring, re-anchoring or removing anchors – can sometimes take some time depending on the previous situation. So don’t be too fast but for yourself or you in a leading position in the company, set a clear framework for what the recruitment should look like and what it should lead to(intention), and be patient.

A sports team in the elite league that I coach, where they have had to list words that they think are important for the team to feel good. Words that will remind them why they are there and why they have the ability to beat all the other teams and win the gold medal. Along with the words is the fun team image, where everyone is this way and that and radiates lots of joy. That sign is in their locker room, and is a great pep talk before every training session and every home game.

Do you have any conscious anchoring on/for your company/team?
Examples of anchors are in advertising, Nike – “Just do it”, Unicef – “For every child”, Pripps Blue – “Blue blue skies and water…”. Other anchors (signature) are e.g. Michael Jackson’s “juck” and the tune for the McDonald’s commercial.

So never underestimate a snippet of melody or expression – it can take the world by storm. 😉

There is value in thinking about which words (values) and behaviors should be anchored in the company to strengthen the brand and the internal community and power. Strong cohesion increases the chances of creativity and going the extra mile.

Something else I also mentioned earlier is to use anchoring in a more physical form, to move within a place, to make movements, etc.

Anchoring – a way to shift state
I often and consciously use anchoring I have done to put myself in the state I want. For example before a lecture or an important meeting, or maybe I’m just feeling a bit low and want to get back on track. I have several different anchors that are very important to me. They allow me to actively shift state, which is highly effective in many situations.

What do you do when faced with an important situation? Do you have a particular song you listen to? Or do you say a few well-chosen words out loud to yourself? Think about whether you have such a “thing” for yourself.


And you, do you also have a playlist that you listen to when you are depressed and want to stay in it for a while? 😉

Awareness of your anchors
Becoming aware of the anchors that are clearly affecting you is a first step towards influencing them. You can find out and perhaps explain why certain situations put you in an uncomfortable state, even though you haven’t really known why. And you can reinforce and hold on to positive anchors.

Anchors can also appear in contexts that are similar to the memory you have the anchor to, and the connection will not be as obvious at first. Let’s say you don’t like it when the company decides to regroup some departments, including yours. You feel strong reluctance and don’t really understand why. A memory that later comes back to you is that when you were in primary school, you were always chosen last when the team (group) was chosen in sports. Such a memory/anchoring could be the reason why you now feel reluctant to be regrouped (unconsciously afraid of being chosen last in a group again).

Another anchor I read about was a girl who was in the tsunami disaster in Thailand in 2004. She went to therapy and slowly became better at dealing with everyday life and the loss she had experienced. However, every time she stepped into the shower and had the water sprayed on her, she had panic attacks and was thrown back into the chaos of the tsunami.

Anchoring as a strategy
Anchoring as part of a strategy is not a bad idea. I really enjoy working with anchors. Like metaphors, they are powerful, easy to make sense of and can, in relatively simple ways, bring individual employees, whole teams, professional groups and companies together to find a common denominator for something important in the process ahead. It is often also a good tool for building community, engagement and more good permits.

It is also exciting to find out what, if any, negative anchors exist that can be removed to make room for the positive.

‘What if’ – anchoring
“They’ll never work”. “It has always been like this, no point in trying”. “They’re too young, it’s not possible!” “They’re too old, they can’t!” Have you expressed any of these statements yourself or heard someone else? What would it be like if we instead played with our imagination a little and started with “What if…it is possible?” What would it look, sound and feel like? Can it be done? What is the worst that can happen if I/we test?

Why not explore “What if…” – and actually do. Take action. Dare. Try it. See what happens and again, what is the worst that can happen? De-dramatise!

– Think about whether you have negative anchors that need to be re-anchored or separated from (dissociation).
– What positive anchors do you have? Those that make you shift to really good states.
– Are there situations where you would actively want a deliberately chosen anchor to use?
– “What if…” you have something you didn’t think you could change, that you can…

You are welcome to contact us if you want to work more actively on anchoring!



* Communicology is an interdisciplinary meta-discipline. It is an area of expertise in change and development processes.

Definitions of Communicology
– The study of what is common in change and development processes.

– Studies of the structure and dynamics of communication and change when all experience and behavior is chosen, defined, described and understood as communication.

Want to know more? Contact me at [email protected] or visit any of these pages to find out more and to find training courses. Scandinavian Institute of Communicology or Communicology Center Hammarbysjöstad.

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