Triggers

Saturday morning and I am driving along the Seven Sisters Road on my way to Aikido Training, when suddenly I was confronted with a situation which could have turned out the wrong way and badly damaged my car and possibly me.

It was a three lane road and I was in the outside lane and a large white van was inside me about a half a car length ahead. Suddenly it turned across the front of me, switching lanes, no signal.

I had no time and no choice but to hit the brakes immediately and did it so hard I virtually stood on the pedal, I was out of my seat standing on that brake pedal. I felt all the wheels lock and shudder forward on the tarmac . I was convinced he was going to hit me and that would have taken out the front of my car.

I don’t know whether you know that feeling of doing everything you can and waiting for the bang of a collision and there is nothing else you can do. We stopped about an inch from each other and sat there. He was very apologetic and I just sat there in shock. You just don’t know what is going to happen, sometimes it is out of your control.

The next day, today, I had to drive along the same stretch of road and noticed I experienced the feelings of shock from the near crash. PTSD really. Seeing as I regularly use that road to get to Aikido Training I decided I need to do something to neutralise that bad feeling. I didn’t want to be re-experiencing that feeling of shock as it puts my body into that fight or flight mode and causes the negative feeling. If the experience was traumatic enough and you are constantly getting triggered into that feeling, over and over, that is the structure of PTSD.

So how can we change that response? There is a way, known as Anchoring in NLP, which, when you are back in that situation, can easily be used. I don’t need to be driving along that same piece of road to apply this technique, I can do it now while sitting in my lounge.

According to Richard Bandler and John Grinder (founders of NLP) Anchoring is the process of associating an internal response with some environmental or internal trigger. Stimulus response and conditioning as demonstrated by Pavlov.

In my case,  driving the same road would be the stimulus and would trigger the negative response of shock and this might continue for a long time. In some ways I am reinforcing the negative feeling by driving there, conditioning myself to feel bad.

I could avoid driving there or alternatively sit at home and go through the Anchoring process myself. Some people would prefer to do this with someone else, a therapist or Coach like myself. However it is very simple and can be a powerful tool for the rest of your life.

Anchoring

Choose a useful resourceful state (feeling) you would like to experience more of, e.g. self-confidence, happiness, relaxation, calmness, focus, etc.

  • Remember a time when you fully experienced that feeling.
  • Relive the experience by going back in time and associating yourself fully through your own point of view.
  • It may help to see where you are, take a look around and notice the colours, any movement and other people if there are any.
  • Hear any sounds if there are any, really listen and see what sounds there are.
  • Get in touch with the sensations, both emotional and tactile associated with this resource state. Notice your breathing and body posture as well as any smells and tastes.
  • Allow the feeling to grow and intensify and as you sense the feeling is growing, touch your finger and thumb together and hold it until just before the feeling begins to fade. Repeat this several times either with the same experience or another example to increase the intensity of the feeling.
  • Clear your mind by thinking about something else and when you are ready test the anchor by squeezing your finger and thumb or touching the part of your body that you have used to set up the anchor.

When you squeeze your finger and thumb together you can re-experience the positive feeling that you anchored.

Remember to use or lose the anchors you set up as they may fade. Continue to build new anchors as well for different situations, so any time you have a good feeling, anchor it.

Our world is full of anchors that we automatically respond to. It may be someone’s voice and when you hear a particular tone you have a certain response. A lot of advertising are anchors. Think about the Nike logo. They don’t need any words; people automatically know what that design means.

When you notice yourself having negative feelings, fire one of your positive anchors and you will be able to neutralise that negative state. When you do this regularly your brain learns to do it automatically.

In my case I build myself a strong positive feeling and when I drive along that piece of road I fire the anchor by squeezing my finger and thumb together. The positive feeling has to be strong enough so I might need to add one or two more positive feelings, so I am stacking a bunch of good feelings to make one powerful anchor that will at least neutralise the feeling of shock and if I make this journey enough times the negative feeling will no longer be there.

 

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