An anchor is a device, normally made of metal or stone, that when cast down to the bottom of a body of water prevents the boat or ship from moving with the wind or currents.
Without anchors, countless lives would have been lost over the course of history to the ocean.
Without anchors, travelers could not traverse a stormy sea and survive.
But, for the majority of us, we don’t come across many of them in our day-to-day lives.
But, maybe we should, as anchoring is a well-documented technique for overcoming even our greatest fears.
Think about the thing you are most afraid of, genuinely afraid of. Picture it vividly in your mind.
You probably felt a shiver up your spine, your heartbeat pounding and every single cell in your entire body screaming NOPE.
Fears have a great power to rule our lives if we let them. When we are afraid of something, we avoid it at all costs, sacrificing potential opportunities and occassions because we aren’t quite ready to face it.
In our rational minds, this probably doesn’t seem to be the case. We spin ourselves stories that justify and rationalise our behaviour.
For instance, if you’re afraid of meeting new people, whenever invited to a party you may say ‘oh, I just really need some me time tonight’, or ‘not many people I know are going’, or ‘I’ve got something at home I need to do right now’. You’ll give any excuse to give yourself a reason not to do the scary thing.
Maybe those excuses are in part true, but at the end of the day, they’re still excuses.
I used to be deathly afraid of the ocean. A few instances of almost drowning during my childhood and I vowed never to step foot in any water deeper than a bath again.
It was a genuine phobia – even looking at a picture of deep water made me shiver and feel a feeling of complete dread.
For years I said no to trips to the beach with friends, refused to go to the swimming pool with my younger siblings, and almost turned down a holiday because of this fear.
I came up with all kinds of stories: ‘oh, I should probably stay home and work’, or ‘they go swimming after school, they don’t need to go again’. Anything to disguise and avoid having to face one of my biggest fears.
But I learned that underneath the veneer of justification, there lies the common thread: you’re absolutely terrified.
Identifying these fears is necessary to the process of facing and overcoming them.
You can’t fix a problem you don’t even know exists.
One day, I discovered a technique that completely changed the way I thought, and felt, about the beautiful, blue sea. One that allowed me, after almost a decade, to step foot in the ocean.
The rather aptly named, anchoring.
Anchoring is the process of exposing yourself to your fears mentally, and recallibrating your mind to think of them in a different way.
You do this by vividly imagining yourself in a situation with your phobia, whether that be lions, tigers or bears (oh my!).
Then, you use a hand gesture such as squeezing two fingers, balling your fist, tapping your leg in a certain rhythm.
Then, whilst doing this gesture, you think lovely thoughts. Whether that be of a word like ‘happy‘, of similing babies or playful puppies, think of something that makes you feel relaxed and joyful.
Try to repeat this exercise at least a few times a day for a period of a few weeks.
Over time, whenever you picture your phobia, do the hand gesture and think lovely thoughts, you’ll begin to associate that phobia with the gesture and lovely thing, therefore reducing your anxiety and fear.
So, when I was afraid of the ocean, whenever I imagined an image of a deep, dark, sea, I balled my hand into a fist and thought of puppies and calmed down.
Eventually, whenever I thought of a large body of water, I would immidietely think of something happy, which meant that I began to associate them with feeling happy.
This meant that when it finally came around to me dunking my toe in the water, I was just thinking of adorable dogs. Nice and calm.
Anchors are incredibly things, and ground us even in the midst of a stormy ocean. So, give it a try, and let’s overcome our phobias one lovely thought at a time.