September 25, 2013

Change the Anchor: The Secret Tool for Reconditioning Negative Associations.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes someone will remind me of a person I had a bad experience with and its hard for me to get past that.

I recently took a yoga class and we had a wonderful substitute. Unfortunately, she looked and sounded very similar to a former partner. It was hard for me to stay focused and I had to engage in a few mental shifts before I could relax and start enjoying the class.

One of the most interesting things I learned from psychology is the power of conditioning. One of the first things they teach is don’t counsel your family and friends. If they start dumping on you all the time, after awhile they will associate you with their negative feelings about a situation or person.

It’s related to a phenomena called conditioning—many have heard of Pavlov’s dogs. Every time the dogs were fed, Pavlov rang a bell.





Soon they became hungry from the just the sound of the bell. We do the same thing all the time. We link emotional states to things that are going on in our environment.

Perhaps I go through a tough time in my relationship and I begin to associate emotional pain with my partner. If this goes on long enough, even if they are kind to me, I’ve still come to associate that past pain with them. I have become conditioned—just seeing their face equals pain. I can be annoyed by them and not even know why. Many relationships have ended over something as simple as negative conditioning.

Fortunately, there is a way to recondition yourself.

Say you had a bad experience with a cat scratching your face as a child. On some level, you now associate all cats with pain. This could be a problem if your family has a cat. So to shift that, think of a time in your life when you had a good experience with an animal—say, a puppy you played with as a kid.

You can create what is called an anchor in your body.

Think of that experience with the happy puppy. Really feel it in your whole body. Then do some kind of action, like patting your shoulder. Keep repeating this process.

Think of the puppy.

Pat your shoulder.





After awhile you will have created an anchor to that emotion in your body. Anytime you want to feel the emotion of playing with a puppy, you just have to pat your shoulder.

Now to change the anchor.

Start thinking of the cat and then pat your shoulder. Try to feel the experience of the puppy instead.





Soon you will start to reprogram the old memory of the cat and replace it with the dog.

You can apply these principals to anything you have a negative association with; turn any positive emotional memory into a new anchor to replace something you would like to change with people, places or anything.

Time for class. I wonder if that sub will be teaching again; for some reason, she reminds me of puppies.

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Ed: Sara Crolick

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