Resource anchors – an IRL Patronus charm?

Undergoing an anxiety attack is one of the scariest feelings I have had to experience.

Personally, for me, it used to happen every morning before I went to work (this was during my old stressful job).

I would drive all the way to Bangsar from Kajang pre-dawn, early enough to beat the morning rush hour. I would reach my place of work an hour early. While waiting for dawn to break, there was nothing to do but sleep while isolated in my car.

Immediately, I would have nightmares and wake up with such strong heart palpitations, feeling absolutely scared, and as if I was the loneliest person in the world. And I knew, this will keep repeating, again and again, each work morning.

I spoke about this to my then-psychologist. At that time, we thought that my anxiety was around my lack of belief in my work performance. She suggested I write up the good feedback I had received from my supervisor and clients, and to stick it somewhere visible.

I thought about this but knew that I was not insecure about my work performance. I was just scared to go to work. I felt like a lone soldier getting ready to go into a battlefield – every day.

So I modified my psychologist’s suggestion.

I printed out pictures of my loved ones – my partner, my family, my friends, our family dog. I laminated them and then stuck them all over my car’s dashboard on the driver’s side. Every time I had an anxiety attack in the morning, I was immediately reminded that I am not alone in this fight. I thought about all the calm, happy experiences I have had with them – and focused on that instead.

It’s been three years since this phase – and I still keep the pictures in my car till today as a personal reminder of how far I have come. The pictures are a modification of what some people would call a resource anchor.

Almost three years later, they are still holding strong!

What is a resource anchor?

I came across this term recently when reading a summary of American psychologist Tara Brach’s book, ‘Radical Compassion’.

At one point, she brings up resource anchor (which I have since learned is a well-known NLP technique).

I have the best example to describe this: Remember that scene in Ratatouille, when the mean critic guy finally tasted Remy’s dish and was immediately transported to the memory of his mom cooking the dish?

The critic started crying, cause he was tiba-tiba immersed in this feeling of joy and warmth that his mom used to provide him. It was triggered by the taste alone.

In this case, the taste of the dish was an anchor – you can say it is a reminder of another experience or a mental portal that transports you to another state (mentally/emotionally)

Prepping your anchor to fight fear

So, back to Tara’s book – which focuses on helping people practice mindfulness through meditations and shifting our thoughts to be kinder to ourselves.

One practice she recommends is establishing resource anchors – ie. stocking up your own inventory of calming, joyous, comforting, or relaxing memories that you can pull out next time whenever you feel anxious, upset, sad, or scared.

Yes, you are prepping good memories ahead of potential negative moments.

(Quick segue- Okay, I read into this NLP thing a bit – and it typically involves a paired physical action with the emotion – but for the purpose of this blog post, we don’t have to go that in-depth)

Tara describes it as mentally evoking a person, place, activity, or memory that makes you feel safe in times of fear. Here’s what she suggests starting with:

  • Think of someone you feel the most connected to – this could be a loved one or even someone you never met such as a spiritual master like Jesus or Buddha. The living/dead/pets – anything goes, as long as this ‘entity’ makes you feel safe.
  • Think of a place where you feel safest and strong.
  • Think of an activity that makes you feel safe, strong, or connected to yourself – it could be doing art, cooking with your family, dancing, etc.
  • Think of an event when you felt safe, empowered, or accomplished.

As someone with an emphasis on meditation, Tara then recommended focusing on creating this image in your mind, taking into account all the points above. If possible, you want to zoom into the one person, place, activity, and memory that makes you feel safest.

Close your eyes if need be, and try to recreate this memory in your head. Remember when Harry Potter thought about the love of his parents and friends as a tool to cast his Patronus against the Dementors? This is just like that. The good memories are your Patronus and the Dementors are your personal fear and demons.

Like Professor Lupin had insisted on Harry, you want to create this vivid memory mentally, strong enough to feel emotionally. What are the words spoken, what are you feeling right now, who is holding you at this moment? Take your time to commit this memory to mind to ‘install’ it.

You want this memory to be solid enough so that the next time you are feeling down, you can pull out this memory from your mind as a reminder that you are not alone and that you are more than this one bad moment.

For me, two years ago, I obviously did not know of this method. My version was a visual reminder in the form of small laminated pictures. I locked in my positive feelings with the pictures of my loved ones. I could always see them in my car when driving, ie. the place where I was most likely to feel scared and anxious.

I also had my illustration of Sita (Rama’s wife) as my phone wallpaper. She was the person that I resonated with the most at that time because in the Ramayana – she was kidnapped and had felt abandoned. As someone who then just got dumped and then lost her mom – I felt abandoned too and found solace in Sita’s resilience to stay strong, all by herself.

This was my version of a resource anchor- and perhaps it would help you too to have a visual resource anchor to ground you. You might want to keep it at an accessible place or somewhere strategic, ie. where you notice you tend to feel the lowest at.

An alternative is to have a small object that reminds you of this memory and to carry it around as a small keychain! You can be creative and think of these sort of tangible anchors if it helps you.

I hope this helps, kawan-kawan. This is a method that worked for me, but might not necessarily have the same effect on you, if so please don’t be disheartened.

Even if this practice does not work for you, at least it is a good reminder to us that we are much more than one bad moment – we are part of a larger community, we have a plethora of joyous, warm human experiences as well. We are so much more and we will keep trying 🙂

Take care, kawan-kawan.

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Do share this post if it was helpful for you because as a brand new blog, I need all the help I can get!

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