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Hot Buttons Exposed or Anchoring 101

"Let's not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it," ~Vincent Van Gogh.

How many hot buttons do you have? By our latest calculations, each one of us has over one million unmarked hot buttons wired up into our bodies and minds. If you think some people are good at pushing your hot buttons - guess what? They know only a handful! Imagine what your life would be like if they learned all of them. Or, how about if *you* knew all of your own hot buttons.

Good news - they can't ever learn all of your hot buttons. Bad news - you can't either. However, you can learn your most important ones, the ones that make you explode with joy or anger. And the best news is that there are techniques out there that allow you to eliminate all of your hot buttons. So let's explore here the basics of your hot buttons, what they are, and how you create and destroy them.

The technical name for a hot button is an anchor, and the process of creating a hot button is called anchoring. Anchoring is a modern word for something people have been doing since the dawn of times - connecting emotional responses to triggers. For example, phobia of snakes is an emotional response to a visual anchor of snakes - your mind is programmed to see snake, feel fear.

"Officially", anchors were first studied in earlier 1900s by Pavlov, a Russian scientist who would feed the dogs while blowing a whistle. After a short while, the dogs would learn to salivate to the whistle (definitely not a natural reaction for dogs), even when no meat was given to them. A simple example from your life is how nostalgic (response) you feel when listening to a song (sound anchor) from your childhood.

Anchors are automatic emotional responses, they are activated without your conscious participation. Anchoring is ever present, you can't go for five seconds without creating or destroying some small anchor. Your subconscious mind is constantly looking for possible causes for the way you are feeling right now and, since it doesn't know any better, associates everything in your environment to your emotions.

Let's look closer at how anchoring happens. Imagine you are sitting in your room listening to a new Madonna song, and you happen to be feeling great (for whatever reason). Meanwhile, your subsoncsious mind is sifting through all the information it is getting and searching for triggers to form tiny visual, sound and kinesthetic anchors to feeling great. Triggers such as the images in your room, the song itself, the sensations on your body. Ok, so the next day you are visiting a music store, also feeling great, and the Madonna song is coming over the speakers. Same emotion, all different triggers (the room looks different, the sensations on the body are different), except the song is the same. So the connection between the Madonna song and feeling great is reinforced, while other triggers become weaker. The anchor is growing stronger. The next day the Madonna song comes on the radio, the anchor activates and it INDUCES great feelings in you.

In their natural habitat, the strength of anchors is directly proportional to the strength of the emotion. Thinking back to our snake phobia example again, that lifelong anchor was created through a single very scary exposure to a snake. When creating anchors on purpose, their effect can be greatly amplified through skillful timing and smart choice of triggers.

A usual question at this point is - if anchoring is happening all the time, aren't we like marionettes? Yes and no. At any particular moment you are all wired up in anchors like a cat in its fur. But because most anchoring is random, old anchors are continuously overwritten by new ones, so no one really knows where the strings are. Just like a cat is continuously losing old hair and growing new one.

There are myriads of applications of anchors to relationships, work, healing, personal growth, therapy, fitness, etc. Here is a very simple use of anchors in relationships:

First, a question: Why do people want to see you again (the ones who don't HAVE to see you)? Pause for a moment and think of your own answer. Because you make them feel good, because they associated (anchored) pleasant emotional states to your presence (occasionally this gets pretty twisted, like when you make someone angry, but they enjoy their anger). So if you want to make sure that people will want to see you again, make them feel good in your presence - smile, give flowers, laugh together, etc. Have a good time together.

The converse is also true - the easiest way to have people avoid you is to anchor unpleasant feelings to your persona. Be nasty, blame them, make jokes at their expense. Obvious, right? And yet that's exactly what most of us do to our loved ones. In the next article I will show how we habitually set negative anchors in relationships, and how to change this bad habit.

You’ve just read TIP #78 FOR CREATING AN EXTRAORDINARY AND MEANINGFUL LIFE brought to you by Holographic University. To get the next Tip visit us at:

May You Be Happy!
- Arman Darini, Ph.D.

About the Author: Arman Darini, Ph.D. is the director of Holographic University, the author of weekly Tips for Creating an Extraordinary and Meaningful Life, and a certified international NLP Trainer. As the leader of a dynamic team of Life Trainers and Coaches, Arman's motto is "I don't believe in your limitations". To learn more about Arman, visit

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