Neuro associations (NA) are connections/links between a specific intense state of mind and a specific external source which may be a touch, something we see, something we hear or even a memory. For example, a song that reminds you vividly of a specific event in your life, perhaps a holiday, a kiss, a party etc. When you hear that song, you may remember, without conscious effort, that specific event and, if the emotion was particularly intense at the time when the NA was being established, you may feel the feelings too and, to a certain degree, re-experience those emotions.
Back in 2005, I agreed to take part in a professional Kickboxing bout in Weston Supermare even though my coach could not accompany me due to family commitments. For those of you who are not familiar with professional martial arts, the coach plays a vital role not only to help athletes perform well, but also to ensure athletes’ welfare. I was well trained, in good shape and made the required cut in weight and, even though my coach was not with me, I felt positive about the bout.
On the weigh-in session (that is when athletes’ weight gets checked) I weighed at 77kg (170lbs) and my opponent weighed at 82kg, 10lbs heavier than me. Technically, he did not make the weight as the limit was 172lbs which meant that I could have pocketed the win and the prize without having to fight. Of course my competitive nature did not allow me to make that decision and so I have decided to fight anyway. It was a large event, it was being filmed and a professional DVD would have been made of it. In the evening, when my turn arrived, the crew had to choose an entrance song for me and they have picked a dance-song called “Don’t Hold Back”. So, the music starts, as loud as in a night club and here I go, coming out the dressing rooms with three guys walking with me; one with Vaseline, plasters water and everything that might be needed during the fight and the other two walking next to me. I get on to the ring and wait for it all to start. The rest of the fight is irrelevant for the sake of this article and also painful to write.
As you can imagine, that was a pretty significant event for me and it surely classifies as an intense one too. Today, even after 6 years, every time I hear that song, “Don’t Hold Back”, I remember that match, the cheering of the crowd, the feelings of the experience and the emotions I felt. This is a NA. What comes into your mind when I say the phrase “Just do it”? That’s right, Nike! What about “I’m loving it”? McDonalds (in the UK at least). These are ordinary associations which in marketing are used, sometimes more cleverly than others, to promote a specific brand or product. The way this works in branding and marketing is normally based on repetition of the advert to the point when people associate the slogan, music, image, colour etcetera to the brand or product being promoted.
NAs are based on the same principle but they are way more powerful for a large number of reasons, the most important ones are: 1. they have an effect on our entire system including our psychology, physiology and behaviour and 2. they can be “installed” very rapidly and outside of our conscious awareness. This means that one single event could be enough to make a new powerful NA, whether that is a positive one or a negative one; our mind makes no distinctions.
During the first few months of my son Mak’s life, I remember my wife and I taking turns calming him down when he did not want to sleep. One day, after having tried everything to make him stop crying without taking him out of his cot, I raised both my hands to my shoulders, palms facing forward and then slowly lowered them toward my waist whilst saying “Relax” in a very soft, deep and warm voice. At that point Maks, who was only 3 months old back then, looked at my hands with what seemed a mesmerised expression; he opened his eyes widely and miraculously stopped crying. Having seen that this small ritual worked once, I have started doing it every time my son was relaxed and when I knew that he was feeling safe. I did this for a long time, every single time Maks was particularly relaxed and safe.
Later on, when Maks was about 2 years old I could use the same technique even when he was in the middle of the biggest tantrum and obtain amazing results. This is because Maks unconsciously associated that specific movement of my hands, with a relaxed and safe state. It is important to note that this was not a conscious process where Maks would think to himself “Hands movement = safe and so I will relax”. This was out of consciousness.
The same goes with money, health, sport and just about anything you can think of. If every time you feel tired you sit down on the same chair and say things like “I am so tired” and you do this long enough, chances are that you will experience, to some degree, that same tiredness when you sit on that chair even if you are not physically tired. If every time you pay a bill you do so with bad feelings, you might associate bad feelings to money or to being able to pay your bills. Not a great idea! You need to pay attention to associations and, now that you know what they are, you can locate them and change them into positive ones. You will be pleased to know that it is much easier to create positive associations than it is to create negative ones. So how do you do that?
In therapy, many practitioners use NAs to associate positive states to specific words, faces, colours, pressure points etcetera and these really work like magic buttons that whenever you push, turn that desired state on. You can use these amazing techniques to change the way you feel about anything, literally. Follow the steps below and, if you do it well, you will find this simply amazing.
1. Choose what association/s you want to make/change – eg “I want to feel energetic and proactive every time I see my ‘to do list’” or “Every time I see these people I want to feel confident and positive” etcetera. This must be the state that you want to be in, on demand, when needed.
2. Choose the trigger: Chose the trigger that will turn that state ‘on’. This could be seeing something, clicking your fingers, pressing on a specific part of your hand or body, imagining a “power circle” on the floor in which you can step and make the “transformation”. Use your imagination and be creative.
3. Either recall or imagine (whatever comes easier) an event where you were in the state that you want to feel and anchor. First imagine seeing yourself in that state as if you are looking at it in the third person, a “new you”. Notice all the details including how good you look, the way you move, the way you would carry that state and your body language. Make it a small movie in your head. Then imagine floating into the body of that “new you”, the “you” in the state that you want to ‘associate’ with. Imagine that you see through the eyes of that new you as you are in that state. Imagine hearing the things that you would be hearing as you are in that state. Next imagine feeling all the feelings that you would feel in that state, amplify them now and feel the same way that you feel in that state.
4. Whne you are at the lick of that state (the strongest intensity) “turn on” that state. Click those fingers, jump into that circle or say that word or whatever ritual/trigger you have decided to use.
5. Repeat it until it becomes a NA – that is until every time you fire that trigger, automatically you feel that state. This could take a few minutes or a few days, in fact, it really does not matter even if it takes you more than just a few minutes because the rewards are truly amazing; this is a technique which can literally neutralise some negative associations which are both dangerous and limiting!
Note: Like anything in life, this may or may not work for you the first time you do it; persistence is key.