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  • Writer's pictureDennis Carroll

The Difference Between Anchors and Triggers

Two common concepts in neurolinguistic programming are anchors and triggers. Understanding what both of these concepts are can help you on your path to achieving your goals. Both anchors and triggers are conditioning patterns that can help you to address your thinking patterns and behaviors in a way that can help you to adopt more successful strategies. At Premier NLP Life Coaching, we can teach you these and other NLP techniques to help you to get the most out of your life. We’re going to provide you with a model of how anchors and triggers might work for you. You might initially think of anchors as something that you can use to control your own state by using specific triggers. Here is an exploration of the meaning of anchors in more depth and how they can be distinguished from triggers.


Anchors are different things that can bring forth certain feelings and thoughts. They are stimuli that can bring back memories of earlier events. For example, some people might hear an old song and be brought back to a time when they were young.

A stimulus can occur in any one of your senses, including kinesthetic, auditory, gustatory, visual, or olfactory. These stimuli are things that can bring back earlier memories both good and bad.

If you find yourself in a particularly happy state that you would like to revisit in the future, you can choose something that can bring it back. This can be anything from tapping your foot a certain number times or whatever might work for you. You’ll want to trigger it several times so that you can condition the response. Later, test the anchor that you have chosen to see if you return to the previous state.

You are also able to anchor others. If you find someone who is in a certain state, you can create an anchor for him or her by giving him or her a certain look. Let the person move out of that state and then do it again to see what happens.


Triggers work in a similar way as anchors. However, triggers recall behaviors instead of feelings or thoughts. For example, when you hear a certain commercial, it might trigger you to drive to a restaurant and order a meal. Thoughts of a specific situation might lead you to bite your nails. Like anchors, triggers can also be implanted on purpose.

How to use anchors and triggers

Anchors and triggers are powerful in your life, and you’ll hear about them frequently in neuro-linguistic programming. Nearly anything can serve as an anchor or trigger. It is important for you to understand how you can use them in your life in a positive way.

Negative anchors and triggers

Anchors and triggers can be positive or negative. For example, when you encounter someone who you believe is acting in a patronizing manner, it might serve as an anchor for anger for you. If someone tailgates you in traffic, you might immediately feel angry or scared. Triggers can also be negative. For example, if you have an upcoming test, you might react by smoking a cigarette.

The key to understanding anchors and triggers is that they do not involve any rational thought and are instant. Because of the importance of anchors and triggers in your ability to enjoy a happy life, NLP practitioners work to help you to extinguish negative anchors and triggers while you also will acquire new, positive ones.

Negative anchors are instant, are unconscious, and are immune to positive thinking. This means that you need to use techniques to defuse your negative anchors before they happen. You can do this by identifying the triggers that occur frequently and defusing them before they can occur again.

When you recognize that your mood has worsened, think back to when your mood was positive. Then, work forward to find the point at which your mood changed. That point in time is where you will discover the negative anchor. You can then use an NLP technique such as the swish technique to defuse it. This can help you to remove some of its power over you.

Build positive anchors

In addition to defusing negative anchors, start to build positive anchors in the way in which we previously described. Whenever you feel particularly happy, create an anchor that can help you to recall that state. With practice, you can bring back happy memories so that you can increase your overall happiness.

Contact Premier NLP Life Coaching

At Premier Life Coaching, you can explore your own anchors and triggers and learn to build new positive ones. You can work with our personal certified life coach using NLP techniques to help to increase your happiness and your self-confidence so that you can become more successful. To learn more, schedule a consultation by calling us today.

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