Anchoring Your Emotions to Gain Self-Control

What are your positive anchors?

Have you ever listened to the radio, when suddenly a song comes on which transports you back to a time in the past, long ago?

For me, a sound, smell, or the taste of a seldom eaten food can all, at times, have an amazing power to influence my mood or bring up old memories.

Maybe lately you experienced one of those crazy days at work? Now imagine yourself travelling home after such an exhausting day. You turn down your street and reach your house or apartment block. As you walk through the door, you are greeted by that secure familiar smell of home. You then put your bags down and give a big hug to your partner, children or even pet; now the burdens of the day have been magically lifted off your shoulders.

How can walking through a door, a familiar person, a smell or a song on the radio exercise such power over our mood?

The answer is encapsulated in one word; anchors.

There are many aspects of our everyday life which anchor us positively, meaning that they prompt us to feel productive emotions such as calm, motivation or simply smiley and happy. There are, of course, many things which anchor unhappy or negative feelings for us. Maybe hearing the footsteps of your boss walking down the corridor will raise your blood pressure. Perhaps a person tapping on a table, fidgeting or typing loudly on their keyboard will have the effect of making you go crazy.

An anchor is anything which triggers our emotions, be they positive or negative.

Seeing a good friend, even from a distance, can anchor feelings of excitement and bring back thoughts of all the events which you experienced together. Just pausing to drink a cup of tea or coffee can be a wonderfully positive anchor. Within a few minutes of sitting with your favourite denver broncos hawaiian shirt in hand and sipping a hot refreshing drink, you feel calmed down, but also energized, ready for your next challenge.

A negative anchor is formed when we give aspects of our experience a negative meaning. We allow them to trigger unhelpful or negative feeling for us. From the sound of the alarm clock to a place which reminds us of an unpleasant relationship or experience, we make negative associations with many things, allowing them to trigger negative thoughts or emotions for us.

The key is to take advantage of our positive anchors and use them to our advantage. Whilst our negative anchors, once identified, can be changed and kicked to the curb.

Using positive anchors:

Identifying your positive anchors will allow you to consider what triggers in you positive feelings such as happiness, calm, or motivation, what ‘pushes your buttons’, in a positive way. This valuable knowledge you can subsequently use to achieve the exact state of mind which you desire, exactly when you wish to.

For instance, maybe for you, listening to Chopin over a cup of tea with your friendly neighbour, lowers your blood pressure and returns you back to feeling calm. Realising this will give you valuable knowledge. The next time you feel angry, you know that simply putting the kettle on, the Chopin CD in the player and knocking on the neighbour’s door will bring you back to a calm and relaxed state of mind. Maybe going for a run is what helps you get in the mood for creative thinking. If so, then taking a twenty minute jog will be your personal recipe to prepare for writing a letter or completing the next chapter of your novel.

Changing our negative anchors:

Important also is to take a note of your negative anchors. Ask yourself what are the events and people which trigger your negative thoughts and negative emotions?

What was it that got you angry, that you needed to listen to Chopin, over tea with your neighbour?

Often little things will all add up to irritate us. For some people, simply bad weather can affect their mood. For others it is the snoring of their partner or the sound of construction happening nearby which gets them worked up. All the experiences which anchor negativity in us, causing us annoyance or irritation only do so since we have actually decided consciously or unconsciously to allow them to do so. The sound of the clock ticking is annoying because you have decided to let it bother you.

So, simply ask yourself whether the current association is productive for you. Does getting annoyed about your partner’s snoring help or hinder your wellbeing? Does getting irritated by the slowness of the sales assistant benefit you?

Instead of getting upset, why not simply give a positive meaning to the trigger event? So, if your partner’s snoring annoys you and getting agitated will only make it harder for you to sleep, perhaps then it would be better to be less annoyed by the snoring. How? Try out the following idea, it may just work!

From now on, with each snore, simply smile and be thankful that the person you love is able to breath and is lying next to you. If that does not ‘speak to you’, then find your own positive slant or interpretation to the situation.

Perhaps your children’s noisy playing also gets on your nerves. If so, how about considering changing your thoughts about this too. Simply smile and be thankful that you have beautiful children who have all their limbs and organs intact and have great positive energy and play nicely with each other. Indeed thinking in this way before you ask them to play more quietly will help ensure that you speak to them in a calm manner rather than shouting and losing your temper.

If something annoys you, simply think of a new positive way to consider the noise, person, smell or whatever it may be. Doing so will reduce the stress and unpleasantness which you had previously felt.

Perhaps also give people the benefit of the doubt and accept them for the frail human beings that they are. Maybe the person who works at the supermarket simply cannot help but be slow when serving you; it’s just how they are. Maybe they in fact want to take their time in order to get your order right, taking their time for your own benefit. If however that does not work for you, why not speak to them. They will, without doubt, be happy to return your greeting and that in itself will bring a smile to your face. You would have now turned a negative anchor into a positive anchor.

Make a list of all those things which are positive anchors in your life and use them whenever you need to feel the emotion they prompt. Make also a list of negative anchors and ask yourself if you can give the sound, smell, event or person a positive interpretation which will help you stay calm and in control the next time you find yourself confronted by that event or individual.

write by Michelle Burns

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