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Blake Beattie
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Emotional Anchoring  22.12.2009

Cognitive neuroscientist LeDoux performed a series of experiments on rats. His work has improved our understandings of how emotions affect our thoughts, moods, motivations and behaviour. In one such experiment he put rats in a cage, and sent a mild electric shock through the caged floor with the sound of a tone. After a few repetitions, the rats would freeze in fear from the sound of the tone, without a ‘shock’ being present (very much along the same findings as Pavlov’s dogs studies in 1903). The sound of the tone acts as an ‘anchor’ – an emotional trigger causing a specific response.

We develop a series of anchors which affect our behaviour every day. Examples might include:

  • Hearing a police siren whilst driving – immediate response might be to put the foot on the brake. Often we feel ‘on alert’ with an instant increase in heart rate.
  • Hearing certain songs will bring about emotional states linked with memories of the music being played before.
  • Even the way someone looks at us, could trigger a reaction from a previous person who looked at us in a particular way.


Some of these anchors or neuro-associations are positive and indeed helpful. However, some anchors we develop are quite detrimental. Begin to ask yourself the following question: Am I responding to the present situation or past experiences? If it is past experiences, and the response is not a good one, then it is very possible to change the anchor, thereby changing the response. The first step to changing the pattern is to be aware of when you go into the negative spiral. Remember, you can’t change what you do not acknowledge.

 Write down some anchors that you have developed. Next to each one, write down if you think it is a positive, worthwhile reaction you have developed to the stimulus. If it is not, by changing the anchor, we can change the emotional response for the better. To change the respponse, you must interrupt the patterned behaviour by doing something very different.

Eg. If every time you think about a specific relationship you get upset and depressed, then you might ‘interrupt the pattern’ by listening to a great song, or by splashing your face with water. If you ‘interrupt the old mental pattern’ enough times, it become harder to repeat it. Deeply entrenched anchors require a few “pattern interrupts.” Try it a few times, and see if you feel the same way afterwards. In a sense what you are doing is altering the chain of brain waves that fire in your mind. This way the end result or response becomes altered because of a new way of thinking. So what might this technique be effective in changing?

So if you don’t like how you are feeling at any point of time, you can change the emotional anchor. This can certainly improve your mood at times when you need it most, plus providing you with energy.

enjoy the journey,

Kind regards,


Blake Beattie

Copyright www.blakebeattie.com November, 2009