Threat Versus Opportunity

By Andrew Menaker, PhD

As a clinical psychologist, before I became an active trader and a coach working with traders, I was involved with C.I.S.D. (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing) and threat assessment.

There’s no school or curriculum for a trading psychologist. And as I started working with traders in 1996, I realized my prior professional experience would come in handy.

The human brain is designed to survive more than to thrive. That’s a matter of evolutionary biology - our ancestors who were good at detecting threats and identifying opportunity survived and passed on their genes.

Our cave-man ancestors who survived were able to very quickly determine whether or not something is an opportunity that meets an immediate need, such as hunger.

The detection of threat or opportunity occurs both consciously and subconsciously. On the subconscious level it often occurs in less than a second, and then our conscious mind begins to deliberate.

The fact that a significant part of the threat vs. opportunity assessment process is largely subconscious and occurs so quickly is something to consider as a trader.

Not surprisingly, you can show the same stock chart to ten different traders and you’d get ten different opinions. Some of the opinions may be similar, but the details would vary.

This is, in part, how I developed my core trading psychology philosophy.

We don’t see the market as it is; we see it as we are.

This philosophy is the basis for my work as a trading psychologist; it also helps inform me in my own trading. The only thing I know for sure when it comes to markets is that a market can do anything at any time.

If I continuously remind myself of this, and also work to understand how my personal filter operates, I tend to do very well. I also see this with my clients.

Andrew Menaker PhD is a trading psychologist; you can read more about him at