The oldest NLP ``neurological'' technique is also one of the best known NLP techniques --- Anchor Collapsing (although it's no longer the best choice except in a few situation). As a therapeutic technique it has several drawbacks, one of which is that it requires considerable skill from the practitioner. But as a phenomenon providing a clue to the workings of the mind, it seems utterly fascinating to me and I am baffled as to why academics psychologists seem to have complete disinterest in it.
To start with, one identifies a situation in which the client has an undesired response. ``What is a situation in which you respond in a negative way that you would like to change?'' One then identifies the desired response by asking ``How would you LIKE to respond in that situation?'' One then helps the client identify one or more personal resources (generally emotional states) which would be sufficient to enable him to respond in the desired way.
For instance, one of the first pieces of NLP I ever did outside class was with a friend who, like myself, was new to Berkeley (where I was living at the time) and very interested in movies and enthusiastic about the UC Theatre in Berkeley. But to her distress, she found that she was having a claustrophobic reaction to the crowds in that enormous theatre and was afraid that she would have to stop going there.
When I asked for her desired response, she said ``I just want to feel comfortable and not think about the crowd of people around me.'' So I asked her, ``Are there any times in your life when you experience feeling that way?'' to which she answered ``Sure, just walking down the street or being at a restaurant or being at home.'' I then asked her what it would take to enable her to feel that way at the theatre. She identified some feelings which I no longer remember (but stronger than the mere feeling of being comfortable) and I asked her ``Are there any times in your life when you have those feelings?'' I remember her answer to this since it seemed so strange to me. She said that she had the necessary resources while she was eating a frozen yogurt cone, and while she was standing by the railroad tracks near her job waving to a passing freight train.
I was now ready to do the anchor collapsing. But I want to give my conjecture here that for some clients, this much is all the intervention that is required. Simply asking the client ``How would you like to respond in the problem situation? What resources would you need in order to respond that way? and What are contexts in your life in which you already have those resources?'' is sufficient to enable the subject's mind to reprogram itself with the desired response. If one wants to do a scientific study on anchor collapsing, this is a hypothesis that needs to be considered.
To do the anchor collapsing, I had my friend imagine being in the UC Theatre and feeling claustrophic. When I could perceive a strong reaction (she had a very expressive face), I squeezed her left shoulder. Then I had her imagine eating a frozen yogurt cone and when I saw a strong pleasurable response I squeezed her right shoulder. I then had her imagine watching a train coming by and waving and squeezed the right shoulder again. I then tested my ``anchors'' by squeezing each shoulder and watching her face to see if she got the appropriate response. I probably also asked her ``Do you think that this [squeeze right shoulder] is enough to handle this [squeeze left shoulder]?''
I then asked ``Are you ready?'' and then squeezed the two shoulders at the same time. For a moment, there was a look of confusion on her face and then she smiled. (In some cases, one can observe a very deep momentary disorientation when two very strong and contradictory stimuli (``anchors'') are presented at the same time.) I then ``future paced'' what I had done by saying ``Now I want to imagine going to the UC Theatre next time there's a good movie there and take this [squeeze right shoulder] with you and feel comfortable'' (with a change in voice tone on the phrase ``feel comfortable''). To make sure, and as a test, I future paced again without the shoulder squeeze.
I subsequently did a lot of NLP with my friend, using many different techniques. Some of the subsequent work was, in my opinion, extremely artful and I helped her solve some major personal problems. But shortly before I left Berkeley, she said to me ``You know, of all the things you've done for me, I think the one that's actually made the biggest difference in my life was that first piece of work about the UC Theatre.''
Anchor collapsing works best when a subject has an undesired response to a fairly specific stimulus. The more general the problem situation, the less likehood of success. Beginners sometimes think things like ``I'll use anchor collapsing to cure this person of overeating, by changing their response when they see food.'' This is very unlikely to work. The stimulus is much too varied and the problem is too complex. At best one might be able to kill a compulsion for one particular food. (There are better ways of dealing with compulsions, though.)
A fellow student in an NLP class used anchor collapsing to cure my fear of heights. (I didn't know about the Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure at that time, and in any case any technique requiring visualization always got an automatic ``I can't do that'' from me during that time). From everything I know now, I wouldn't have expected that to work, but it did. Partly this was because the first attempt was only partly successful (I walked over to the open window in my office on the seventh floor and felt fine, then looked straight down and -- WHAM! -- my fear was back) and I was able to use it to identify the specific stimulus -- that woozy feeling when looking straight down -- I needed to immunize myself against.