Last week's column focused on how to trigger a neutralizing shift in emotions during trading. The next tool is the second part of the process, and it helps to reinforce the shift we want to make. Like the trigger, it relies on the associations between the physical senses and the mind.

Instead of aiming to do something that helps make the shift, as the trigger does, this one aims at stabilizing the shift. This technique is called anchoring. The trigger and anchor are designed to be used together as a smooth process to establish the shift and then fortify it.

Once we've made a shift, we can hold onto the neutralizing thought or feeling by again performing a simple connection with the visual or kinesthetic senses.

For example, perhaps we're feeling a little anxious after watching Toll Brothers ( TOL) go down. We employ the trigger behavior, let's say by pressing the left thumb and forefinger together, and this helps us to begin the search for neutralizing thoughts.

One set of neutralizing thoughts might be: "Don't get excited. It's only short term, based on fears of war, possible rising interest rates and the consumer getting in over his head in refinancing. Everybody has 'bubble' on the brain and is afraid of bombs bursting in Iraq. But the fundamentals of the company haven't changed. The real estate market is continuing strong right through the holiday season, at a time it traditionally slows down. Just hang on."

These thoughts might then be reinforced by an anchoring behavior, such as looking at a smiling Buddha statue on the bookshelf. Anchoring begins to build a mental and neurological association between the positive, neutralizing thoughts and the anchor of a pleasant smiling Buddha statue. Over time, it's possible (and even likely) that just glancing at the statue will further reinforce the positive feeling that goes with neutralizing the negative thoughts.

A Pleasing Setting for Easy Anchoring

And here's the good part: Once a firm mental association is made with the anchoring object, it can have its positive effect without you even having to consciously think about it. In other words, the anchor becomes unconsciously reinforcing simply out of habit. Since bad habits work this way, it makes sense that good ones do, too.

One reason it's to your advantage to have a relatively clean, organized and pleasing office setting for your trading is related to the use of triggers and anchors.

Since you can use various objects in your setting to trigger and anchor positive shifts of thought and associated feeling, it's a good idea to have objects set in place so that every time you look there, your eyes will find the same object, not having to search around for it. I use objects such as statues, pictures, trophies, books and memorabilia from childhood for triggering and anchoring shifts of thought and emotion.

The more orderly and consistent triggers and anchoring objects in the office, the more automatic and unconscious these mental connections become. Mental associations are being made all the time with events and associated objects or movements of the body.

All we're trying to do is more consciously use these associations to our own benefit. Once set in place, they can operate largely on their own.

An Example Beyond Trading

Let's look at a nontrading example, in this case how a professional golfer uses both a trigger and an anchor to enter a set sequence he wants to go through as he prepares to hit his shot.

A set of consistent behaviors is known as a "preshot routine." This is a common sequence that good players go through before every shot. Doing the same thing every time helps them deal with the pressure of competitive tournament golf.

For example, Jim Furyk , who finished the year as the 14th leading money winner on the PGA tour, decides on a club, pulls it out of his bag and then stands behind the ball to line up the shot. He visualizes the path he wants the ball to fly on. Then, just before stepping toward the ball, he hitches up his pants.

Now, hitching up his pants, which appears to the outsider as just a nervous habit, is something more. It's a trigger behavior that launches the approach to the ball, and it may have a positive thought associated, such as, "Just put a nice, smooth swing on it."

He then anchors his golf swing after the shot by holding his position on the follow-through of the swing. That builds in a mental/neurological connection between a good swing and a well-executed shot.

Holding the position also allows for this connection to be remembered in the body. This is referred to as "muscle memory" and is something that all competitive athletes may work with to enhance performance.

(For those readers who play golf and who would like to read more about the psychology of the game, please see the articles on my Web site .)
Steven J. Hendlin, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in Irvine, Calif. He has been in private practice for the last 26 years, investing for the last 20 years, and actively trading online as a position trader and long-term investor since 1996. He is the author of The Disciplined Online Investor and maintains a site at www.hendlin.net. At the time of publication, he was long Toll Brothers, although holdings can change at any time. He is pleased to receive your comments and questions for publication in his public forum columns at steven.hendlin@thestreet.com , but please remember that he is unable to provide personal counseling or psychotherapy through the mail.

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