Test Anxiety

June 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Fears and Phobias

How Squeezing Your Fingers Can Help You Survive the Bar

A Survivor’s Story

When Joe came into my office last February, he was very distraught. He had already failed the bar exam once and his confidence was at an all time low. Every time he took a practice test, he would just freeze up. Joe had all of the classic symptoms of test anxiety.  Since there were only two weeks left before the exam, I suggested we try a quick technique called anchoring. I assured Joe that with this simple tool, he could learn to instantly change his anxiety state into a more resourceful state in a matter of seconds. Joe picked an anchor (finger squeeze) that instantly transported him to a time in his past when he felt calm, collected and confident. Every time he fired off the anchor, he was able to quickly access those positive states. Armed with the right tools, Joe managed to tame his anxiety and pass the bar! Just imagine having access to your most resourceful states – confidence, relaxation, focus – in a matter of moments. The tools are literally at your fingertips.

What is Anchoring?

Anchoring is the process by which an internal feeling is linked (or anchored) to an external trigger. The most famous example of anchoring is described in the experiments of Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov noticed that every time his dogs encountered food, they would get excited and salivate. As an experiment, he decided to ring a bell every time the dogs were fed. Pretty soon, just hearing the sound of the bell alone stimulated the same salivary response, an artificially induced state of excitement. The bell became an auditory anchor.

Anchors can involve any of the five senses. The following are examples of anchors in everyday life:

  • Seeing a traffic light change to green and pressing on the gas pedal (visual)
  • Hearing an old love song and immediately feeling nostalgic (auditory)
  • Being pat on the back and interpreting it as a sign of praise (kinesthetic)
  • Smelling apple pie and instantly being transported to childhood (olfactory)
  • Tasting chicken soup and associating the taste with a sense of comfort (gustatory)

Whereas most anchors occur naturally, they can also be set up deliberately. Intentional anchoring is commonly used as a therapeutic tool by hypnotherapists and practitioners of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) (a method for accessing the brain’s full potential).  This valuable tool can help move a client very quickly from one state of mind to another, enabling the client to reach desired goals and outcomes.

Where Else is Anchoring Useful?

Think about the last time you were interviewed for a job. Were you as confident as you wanted to be? What about the last time you gave a presentation in front of an audience? Most people can recall at least one or more scenarios in their life where they wish they had shown more confidence, determination or focus. Anchors are useful in the professional setting (i.e. presentations, speeches, interviews) as well as the social realm (dating, sports, hobbies). Wherever it is that you want to feel more resourceful, that is when an anchor comes in handy!

How Training People To Use Anchors Has Helped Me Expand My Business and Reach a Larger Audience

As a hypnotherapist, I typically work with individual clients on issues like insomnia, chronic pain, eating disorders, anxiety, fears/phobias, and habit control. During my sessions, I use hypnosis in conjunction with other tools (like anchoring) in order to achieve the quickest, most effective results. The idea to train people in anchoring first came to me when I was working with a group of retirees. I taught them how to use an anchor to propel themselves into a state of greater relaxation and physical comfort.  The effects were immediate. I have since held several workshops on hypnosis and weight management, where anchoring was a key component and the results were similarly positive. This month, I will teach LWL roundtable participants how to use resource anchors in their businesses.

Creating Your Own Anchor in 5 Simple Steps

  1. Identify a desired state of mind (i.e. confidence, calmness, focus).
  2. Recall a specific time in your past when you felt the desired state. If you can recall a few strong experiences, select the most powerful one. Put yourself back into that experience as if it is happening in this moment. Notice what you see, hear what you were hearing, feel what you were feeling in the moment. Try to vividly imagine being there. When you notice the feeling come back, intensify the feeling as much as you can. Try to double the feeling.
  3. When the feeling is at its strongest, “anchor” it in by making a unique physical gesture with the fingers or hand as you say a word or phrase to evoke the feeling. (e.g. clench your left fist as you softly say to yourself COOL & CALM). Hold the state for a few moments, release the anchor a nd then break state (change your emotional state by thinking about something completely different ).
  4. Repeat the process about five times (using the same memory or an equally powerful memory from the past) in order to build a strong anchor. Repetition is key.
  5. Test the anchor by firing it (make the unique gesture, say the word/phrase) and check th at you actually experience the desired state. You should feel the anchored state within 5-10 seconds. If the feeling is not satisfactory, choose a different memory that is more powerful.