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zdo

Know Thyself

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John - "Ever noticed when someone is having a bad run...? advice given is often to say hey take a break...seperating from it aint as easy as just saying this is it ? as you know well through your coaching egs or from your own experience and what you have heard from others...Hence when someone can seperate from what they are identifying with they can then see the object more objectively and when we can do this we usually trade better."

 

The idea of co-dependence is always an interesting one - I have always found the good traders are the ones who really love the markets, the thrill, the money, the constant dealing..... and yet you still need to be able to switch off when you are not trading well. Or alternatively switch off when trading well - over enthusiasm sometimes hurts also. The disassociation I guess is often referred to as perspective.

Many people I know over the years have mechanisms to do this - enforced holidays, hobbies, meditation, drinking.

(sometimes a good night on the sauce used to put things in perspective after either a good or a bad week - whatever works right - but now I am to old)

There is a great section (rarely mentioned ) in one of the market wizards books that talks abit about this from a particular un-named traders ideas.

Point being - part of knowing yourself is knowing which pain to listen to and then having the distraction (for want of a better word) to be able to enable you to walk away and refresh.

(Famously George Soros had a rethink about things when his back played up on him)

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Yeah DugDug you are spot on with your behavoural egs on what some people actually do to pull away from trading (or anything else for that matter that they are stuck to !)

 

I like FxGirls idea of shouting out aloud ones trading etc this is a good method to organise ones thoughts and even help shatter the fusional state that can occur to varying degrees with people. I think it would be benefical to do this ie yell out ones trading actions/thoughts and also try and stay in the body when doing so...

 

The trick with this particular issue is being conscious of the pull toward and also away from the object of trading of oneself , ...Quite often this experience can give an awareness of a third thing that one never expected. Fusion is actually a safety measure....

 

safety against what ? well states that are quite chaotic that we would rather not know about. These states are within all of us to varying degrees. We would rather not experience them as they will feel too overwelming...This is at the heart of the Fusional Complex.

 

There are a few Freudians and Jungians who have written extensively about this but it is not widely known or used in practices. Dr Nathan Schwartz Salant is probably the leader in this very interesting and very important area of our psyches.

 

All the Best

 

john

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JBW, Dug, et al,

 

This is some real meat.

Anyone got some Attachment Theory associations to add ? ;)

Evocative, conflict poducing, denial triggering, and resistance engendering and I have not even begun to work on it yet... :)

 

Thanks a lot.

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Zdo - my ideas are more shoot from the hip, personal experience and popular (but by no means unscientific human nature ) science books. I dont really know enough about theories but I am always happy to try and add what I can.

One thing about having worked on a trading floor and with other traders for many years is you do see a lot,.... and I mean on a daily basis from a lot of people....the whole range of human emotions and the various ways of handling them from different personalities in fast forward and real time. Not after the fact analysis. When you see grown men cry, sulk, fight, niggle, haggle, joke, get up to mischief in quiet times, ram rubbish down each others throats,screw other people then go for a beer afterwards its fascinating - I sometimes wish the floors were still open in many places, as its not quite the same in front of a computer.

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Hi Zdo

Can you elaborate what you mean by attachment theory associations ? If I think what you are getting at is Object relations...? not entirely sure though.

 

As a trading coach what do you "see" that people do when trading ? what do people do when you are teaching them to trade (harder to see still) ? where do they go(and where did you go) when there is an interaction with them and visa versa...? what phatasies do they bring to the table about trading...? what is the field between you and the student...can you see this field ? then can you talk about this field openly ?

 

Can you show them a way to find their edge ? this is where the real work needs to be while being conscious of the above material. Most people dont know what this(edge) is or what it looks like let alone believing someone elses theory on it and hence what are the ways/methods to find it....the ave trader wont know what they are looking for here...its amazing the other paths that go on in this one such endeavour.

 

Best

John

 

JBW, Dug, et al,

 

This is some real meat.

Anyone got some Attachment Theory associations to add ? ;)

Evocative, conflict poducing, denial triggering, and resistance engendering and I have not even begun to work on it yet... :)

 

Thanks a lot.

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Can you elaborate what you mean by attachment theory associations ? If I think what you are getting at is Object relations...? not entirely sure though.

That was a flippant association. I know virtually nothing about fusion and just enough about attachment theory to be damaging. – but at that moment somewhere the two seemed obtusely connected. Object relations are fundamental to attachment styles (Ainsworth, et al) and… I was making guesses that less adaptive attachment styles would be more susceptible to the pitfalls of fusions – and I don’t know what those pitfalls are :confused: so this is really profound and groundbreaking right? Would welcome insights and references. thx.

Some traders bring vulnerabilities to the table that most other traders can’t even imagine exist – evidenced by thousands upon thousands of disjointed trading psychology conversations on the internet where one player tries to reveal and process an issue and other players come back with one of the forms of ‘just be disciplined you dumbass’

 

As a trading coach what do you "see" that people do when trading ? what do people do when you are teaching them to trade (harder to see still) ? where do they go(and where did you go) when there is an interaction with them and visa versa...? what phatasies do they bring to the table about trading...? what is the field between you and the student...can you see this field ? then can you talk about this field openly ?

 

Can you show them a way to find their edge ? this is where the real work needs to be while being conscious of the above material. Most people dont know what this(edge) is or what it looks like let alone believing someone elses theory on it and hence what are the ways/methods to find it....the ave trader wont know what they are looking for here...its amazing the other paths that go on in this one such endeavour.

 

John, Great questions – but to be honest, I’m having some trouble relating to them as a whole. Here’s why. At no charge I mentor one person at a time until s/he ends it and I don’t accept traders who don’t already have an edge. Example: In the relationship just previous to the current one I literally never knew exactly what his edge was… unbelievable to me too, in immediate curiosity almost slipped and asked a couple of times, but refraining helped keep the issues right in front of him *… In the active 14 month part of that relationship we never did anything but process polarities and conflicts and clear limbic dissonance.

You ask what I “see” . To generalize -

I see great POTENTIAL… and …. I see great DENIAL!.

I see real risk taking! …and….I see desperately tenacious grips on some weird and unnecessary levels of homeostasis!

I see brilliance! … and… I see some SERIOUSLY F’d UP mental ‘mapping’!

I see strange otherness… and… I see a mirror

Truth is more important than trading…

It’s taken me a while but I’m finally getting at least adequate at simply being present for the other person. Feels good in the moment but ultimately a session is degraded if I’ve offered even the slightest tidbit of advice - even if asked. With varying success, I practice at narrowing to just one question per session that can’t be answered rationally or immediately, but will be answered in time…. not a teacher, not a coach, not even a mentor – mostly just a processing facilitator…

 

So “Can you show them a way to find their edge ?” No I personally can not. I can offer some encouragement on line right here. But ultimately each individual must take on a Thomas Edision like identity and put on blinders to all else… I liken edges to pants. I know I don’t want to be wearing yours and hopefully you don’t want to be wearing mine. Just as important – they’re also not likely to fit! I’m hard core on this - Build your own base extremely independently and then only when that is accomplished look to others for refinements and enhancements. And run the ‘inner work’ in parallel…not as a remedial afterthought

Whoops - even though I have taken all your questions to heart, this whole post turned out to be more of a rant to newbies than a solid response to you (and it only cost me ~4100 USD :missy: )

 

 

* I can pretty safely infer his entries were based on retracements in trend … the main point is over all those months we never explicitly discussed it, ie he never described it…

Check my posts, I rarely discuss specifics about edges online either… “it's not what you say it's what they hear” anyways – makes most edge sharing a complete waste of time…

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Object Relations and Attachment Relationships have to be tease apart in the way I work with people. Attachment understanding has grown immensely since the 1960's. What we know is that attachment is needed for all social mammalians for survival. When the the fundamental needs for Cherishment and Connection are broken (and this will happen) a disruption to secure attachment is experienced by the adapting brain. To the brain this is a matter of life and death and only later does it become psychological.

Being that the brain is primarily organized around fear (fear of loss, fear of missing out, fear of failure), we can begin to see how our more primitive adaptions to survival become a liability in trading. The neural pathway has produced a familiar pattern that becomes the box of our comfort zone (perceptual map) and suddenly, there we are, trading from fear, impulse, or greed (fear of losing out). It is these biologically based patterns that we have to learn to observe and disrupt so that we can call up more empowered part of our being. It is in this regulation of emotion and motivation that opens the door to the development of an empowered self. Until we learn to manage our biology, our psychology will be overwhelmed.

Rande

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I’ve avoided taking part in this discussion so far because so much of the focus has been on psychodynamic theory and concepts. But, as a cognitive-behavioral-whatever-works therapist, I finally decided that I'd like to say something about this.

 

Recent research (last 10 years) involving SPECT scans shows us that much of what we have thought of as personality dysfunction, is brain dysfunction. Many obsessive-compulsive, anxiety, depression, and impulse control issues are the result of brains that aren’t functioning correctly. Address the problems (using diet, supplements, drugs, exercise, learning activities, etc.) in the brain and thoughts and behavior change. Fail to address the problems in the brain, and all the psychotherapy, psychodynamic or cog-behavioral, will be at best of limited value and, at worst, a waste of time.

 

My guess is that many traders who invariably get out too soon, or can’t make themselves take the trade, or move their stops, and so on, are suffering from varying degrees of brain dysfunction. If these problems can be addressed, then the remaining behavioral difficulties with their trading can be addressed in relatively short order. And I do mean, in short order…. and assuming they have a system that actually works.

 

For those who have a healthy brain, the biggest problem is finding their edge. The prevailing way of thinking about trading begins with the assumption that you have to develop your own system. The rational behind this advice seems to be that this is the only way to truly learn how the market works (I would argue with this assumption, but that is for another thread). The problem for new traders is that they don’t have the experience or knowledge to develop a successful system. So, problems with the system get confounded with problems of execution (psychology) – sometimes for years. So, it seems to me that if you are going to try to help someone with the psychological issues of trading, it is important for both of you to know, not assume, that the system being traded really does have an edge.

 

The best psychologist (meaning the most effective) I ever met told me that people don’t seek help if they could figure it out for themselves. Although I believe that only the client can make psychological changes, if all we do is “be present”, the service we offer to our clients is limited. A faithful dog could do as well. Simply being present or simply being empathetic is the perfect scenario for coaching (or therapy for that matter) to drag on for months and/or years. Although there are clients who already know what they need to change and how to do it and a coach who is an empathetic sounding board is all they require, most traders aren’t in that position. Remember, we are doing coaching here, not therapy. What we are after is behavioral change. These traders have tried everything they know to change their behavior and their strategies haven’t been successful.

 

You can root around trying to uncover unconscious conflicts, fusional complexes, dissociation, etc. as the basis for your bad trades, or you can focus on how to change behavior in the here and now. We are not trying to help a client have a better marriage, related to his mother in a more positive way, or increase his level of satisfaction in the bedroom. Instead, we are trying to impact at a limited, specific set of behaviors.

 

Most people come to trading as a way to make money. Certainly, trading can have the additional benefit of allowing you to explore who you are and how you approach life, just as any other difficult challenge can. However, a coach’s job is to help a client develop behavioral strategies that support their trading goals. In my opinion, a psychodynamic approach may work eventually, but it is the long, winding road to the goal of making money through trading.

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Hi FX Girl - "What we are after is behavioral change."

 

Thats actually an interesting and a very valid point - especially in a thread about know thyself.

 

As I guess what you are really saying in a general way - who cares what you think, what you want to know about yourself, who cares what your hangups are, issues and rationale for trading and why you have certain trading issues - the key to all this is not to actually know yourself, the key is to change yourself. To eliminate the bad habits and replace them with good ones through an actual process of coaching and training - not just constant analysis.

(I also think that when people do say - just get some discipline - it is along the lines of saying if you are not prepared to actually change your behaviour and become disciplined about your approach then its going to be tough to improve as you are not even prepared/open to change your behaviour in the first place....)

 

Its similar to evidence based management which essentially makes business decisions based on the actual results and the evidence as opposed to making decisions based on a philosophy, false business myths or other such generalised rules of thumb based on analysis derived from generalised ideas.eg; all teenagers like computer games therefore lets design the banking websites around a game. (i am sure most people, including teenagers dont want their bank to pretend they are gamers - however the evidence might prove me wrong on this)

 

I like the approach of here is the problem - how do we change the behaviour to fix the problem, more so than try and work out why the problem occurs in the first place (eg; mummy did not love me enough and let me wear her high heels when I was a child ;))

Edited by DugDug

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I’ve avoided taking part in this discussion so far because so much of the focus has been on psychodynamic theory and concepts. But, as a cognitive-behavioral-whatever-works therapist, I finally decided that I'd like to say something about this.

 

Recent research (last 10 years) involving SPECT scans shows us that much of what we have thought of as personality dysfunction, is brain dysfunction. Many obsessive-compulsive, anxiety, depression, and impulse control issues are the result of brains that aren’t functioning correctly. Address the problems (using diet, supplements, drugs, exercise, learning activities, etc.) in the brain and thoughts and behavior change. Fail to address the problems in the brain, and all the psychotherapy, psychodynamic or cog-behavioral, will be at best of limited value and, at worst, a waste of time.

 

…the remaining behavioral difficulties with their trading can be addressed in relatively short order. And I do mean, in short order…. and assuming they have a system that actually works.

 

For those who have a healthy brain, the biggest problem is finding their edge. The prevailing way of thinking about trading begins with the assumption that you have to develop your own system. The rational behind this advice seems to be that this is the only way to truly learn how the market …

Although I believe that only the client can make psychological changes, if all we do is “be present”, the service we offer to our clients is limited. A faithful dog could do as well. Simply being present or simply being empathetic is the perfect scenario for coaching (or therapy for that matter) to drag on for months and/or years.

 

You can root around trying to uncover unconscious conflicts, fusional complexes, dissociation, etc. as the basis for your bad trades, or you can focus on how to change behavior in the here and now. We are not trying to help a client have a better marriage, related to his mother in a more positive way, or increase his level of satisfaction in the bedroom. Instead, we are trying to impact at a limited, specific set of behaviors.

… a psychodynamic approach may work eventually, but it is the long, winding road to the goal of making money through trading.

 

 

FxGirl,

My first reaction - This is a ‘know thyself’ not a ‘change thyself’ thread.

It was founded on curiosity about differing perspectives on the latest in ‘know thyself’ / 'aware thyself' stuff to deepen our understanding of humans in general for traders in particular, etc - with some license of a little bit of questioning and discussion of ‘dynamics’ btw. Our posts about “psycho dynamics”, “unconscious conflicts, fusional complexes, dissociation, etc” may be worthless to you and most likely millions of other traders – but I really appreciate them.

So I’m not that sure we need to push all that aside in every single thread without exception, cut these amateur discussions, and just ‘change behaviors’…

Besides, there are no threads on the internet anywhere about that :roll eyes:. Let’s kill this thread now so we don’t interfere. Please forgive us TL. Hello ET.

 

re: “if all we do is “be present”” That was sharing about my own labors and challenges of working with others. You’re a professional. I’m not. Let’s face it, I simply could never be a professional … Out the gate I’ve got incredibly low tolerance for the time it takes someone to even briefly talk about themselves, their ‘feelings’, etc. (and I love it when someone can get right to succinctly describing and working on the ‘behaviors’…)

Just because I have to work issues like being nonjudgmental, or even listening at all, etc doesn’t mean in the least that in my sessions we don’t WORK hard start to finish. I push my peeps a whole lot damn harder than any ‘professional’ dares - and if you don’t believe me PM me and I’ll clear it with the one of them and you can ask him yourself what we did to help him change his own ‘brain’, remove unwanted states, etc…Ask him if there was any long term waiting around for insights…

 

re: “suffering from varying degrees of brain dysfunction” Excellent point. I was hankering at this in ‘Other areas to consider’ post herein a while back However, I think if you stick with it you’ll ultimately find that it’s not just brain dysfunctions. It’s even better seen as whole body dysfunctions, of which changing the ‘brains’ is only a (major) part…

 

re: “The prevailing way of thinking about trading begins with the assumption that you have to develop your own system” Au contraire! If we could accurately sample the trading population more likely we would find that > 80% have little interest in developing their own system (especially for the reasons I encourage it). Rather they are just looking for something that works right now – thinking that will sustain them across time. In addition, whether they are upfront about it or not, most trading coaches and psychologists would prefer a client assimilate the coach’s own system. All system vendors, including the ones who provide the ‘free’ psychology guidance, definitely operate with the opposite of that ‘assumption’. So I’m challenging your attribution that developing your own system is “he prevailing way of thinking” in the industry …

and re “the only way to truly learn how the market works” : That is not anywhere near the top of the list of why I insist that traders should develop their own systems.

 

On topic herein is not really about the ‘changing’ part of the process ( but content about that is for the most part accepted.) Rather, on topic is more about the ‘awareness’ parts of the process…In this thread, we are not "trying to impact at a limited, specific set of behaviors".

And it really is ok for you to initiate threads fxGirl ;) and contributions about ‘brain changing’ would be much appreciated here and from many others I’m sure…

 

All the best

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Dear Zdo:

 

I’m genuinely sorry if I upset you by entering a post that was somehow in contradiction to the spirit of this “know thyself” thread. I had simply hoped to expand the discussion. Since most threads seem to wander, I wasn’t aware that the topic was limited. However, if we are going to explore ‘know thyself’, don’t you think that ‘know thyself’ generally leads to ‘change thyself’ or at least “accept thyself”, which is a form of change?

 

“Our posts about “psycho dynamics”, “unconscious conflicts, fusional complexes, dissociation, etc” may be worthless to you and most likely millions of other traders – but I really appreciate them.” I’m delighted that this thread has been a place where you and others have had an opportunity to discuss these theoretical approaches; however, I believe that there are other equally valuable approaches to ‘know thyself’. I don’t think we have to limit ourselves to one approach, do you?

 

“However, I think if you stick with it you’ll ultimately find that it’s not just brain dysfunctions. It’s even better seen as whole body dysfunctions, of which changing the ‘brains’ is only a (major) part…” Now this is a very interesting issue. The Heart Math people would certainly agree with you that the brain is not the only locus of control. And certainly many people report that their “gut” feelings are an important part of their way of knowing. And, any one who has done neurofeedback or biofeedback knows that the mind and body are intimately connected. And many over-learned (practice, practice, practice) activities such as shooting baskets, hitting a golf ball, and marksmanship seem to have a ‘body memory’ associated with their optimal performance. I wonder if successful trading doesn’t also have a similar aspect. Nevertheless, it seems that if the brain isn’t functioning correctly, thoughts and feelings are deeply affected. I’d like to address this issue first, then go on to others.

 

“So I’m challenging your attribution that developing your own system is “the prevailing way of thinking” in the industry …” Well, you might be right here, Zdo. However, I have seen people who claim to be experienced traders give that advice to beginners over and over again in forums here, on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., and in a myriad of articles on trading. You said that you insist that traders develop their own systems, but for a different reason. I’d be interested in what that reason is.

 

“On topic herein is not really about the ‘changing’ part of the process (but content about that is for the most part accepted.) Rather, on topic is more about the ‘awareness’ parts of the process…” People become aware by observing their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. But once you attach a label such as a fusional complex, or an unconscious conflict, you are a long ways down the road past awareness and into a system that defines your thoughts, feelings and behaviors as functional or dysfunctional (or at least on a continuum with functional at one end and dysfunctional at the other) and that posits ways to change them. Which is fine by me. However, with great respect for all that psychoanalytic concepts have given to the field, I personally prefer a different orientation for the development of ‘know thyself’.

 

Best Regards,

FxGirl

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Hi,

 

fxGirl, re “whole body dysfunctions”

One way of progressing here, while keeping it nervous system / wet ware oriented, is to see the whole of the nervous system as ‘the brain’

leads to

Think Twice: How the Gut's "Second Brain" Influences Mood and Well-Being: Scientific American

etc.

 

While it is ok to just stay CNS oriented, I was taking it even further. Still in the realm of biology, the ‘brains’ (as whole nervous system) have little lasting modulation capacity over binding in the fascia ‘bags’, sensory motor amnesia, the ‘stress arousal syndrome’ in general, or even over residual muscle tension, etc. – all conditions whose absence is crucial to flow, frequent entry into the ‘zone’, or just plain ole performance at a high level.

Then beyond empirical ‘biology’ (but still in and of the magno-electric spectrum) we are of many bodies. Some of them ‘non local’…

 

Only a tiny % think these conditions have any effect at all on trading performance.

I have found they have tremendous impact on trading (and all) performance.

“Until we learn to manage our biology, our psychology will be overwhelmed.”

Rande Howell

 

 

Will get to your other comments as time and energy permits.

Am also starting a ‘Change thyself’ thread. Please fire away.

 

zdo

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Your beliefs, your states of mind, and your biases (who you think we are) become embedded in the neuro pathways of your brain. It is from this interfacing substrate called your brain that your mind emerges. When you recognize the dominant emotion that the brain (and mind) organize around is fear and that you are biologically and psychologically biased to avoid our fears, it is an easy jump to understand why trading can expose our lack of skills for managing our fear and denial of fear -- and why only 5% of traders actually make money consistently. What fears drive a person's psyche while trading? Fear of loss, fear of inadequacy, fear of not being right, fear of self sabotage, and fear of missing out. ALL ARE UNAVOIDABLE. You may blind yourself to them, but, in trading, your trading account will have final judgment. The avoidance of fear may turn into grandiosity, but underneath the arrogence is fear. All are powerful emotional states that overwhelm your thinking and the maintaince of states of mind conducive to effective trading. The key in developing an effective personal psychology for the innner game of trading is to first develop the courage to face your fears. That affords you the opportunity to reorganize your understanding of the self. This has tremendous impact on performance in trading. Then, developing the skills to invoke particular states of mind for performance, opens the possibility of designing the states of mind that you trade from. Each of these states of mind come with a self fulfilling prophesy machine called the brain. The Holy Grail is not the trading plan (there are many effective platforms and plans around). Emotional state and state of mind management is the greatest skill a trader will ever develop. Rande

Edited by Rande Howell
corrections

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Recent research (last 10 years) involving SPECT scans shows us that much of what we have thought of as personality dysfunction, is brain dysfunction. Many obsessive-compulsive, anxiety, depression, and impulse control issues are the result of brains that aren’t functioning correctly.

 

Damn I was hoping to avoid the full frontal lobotomy :) (I feel a bit guilty joking in response to such a serious post). Seriously though, how does one go about identify if this is the case and determining an appropriate course of action to deal with it? A quick interwebz search for "brain dysfunction" would seem to suggest that it covers a wide variety of conditions from low blood sugar to tumours.

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over the years I have developed a brain dysfunction from hitting my head on the desk numerous times :crap::crap::crap::crap::crap::crap::crap::crap::crap::crap::crap:

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Hey BlowFish -- Organic brain dysfunction is far from the typical brain (and mind) of a trader. In the same way an athelete trains both body and mind for peak performance, so does a trader "train" body and mind (I would add the spiritual also) to move from adaptations of the brain (and its emergent mind) that blind us to becoming more effective observers of our self fulfilling prophesies that biase what you "see" and interpret as you engage the market. And in the same way the brain influences mind, the mind can be taught to shape the brain. This intersection is the beliefs, attitudes, biases that we bring to the market. If we don't learn to be mindful of them, they control our perception of (and performance in) the market place of trading. In emotional regulation training you literally retrain the brain's archetecture and chemistry. You no longer react in the historical patterns that created the organization of the self you would call you (and its dysregulation). In calming the brain and mind, much more becomes available to us. Some might call this brain surgery, but I prefer to call this growth. Trading forces the issues like few other endeavors do. In most of the domains that we act in, we can deceive ourselves and rarely get real time feedback about the effectiveness of our beliefs and states fo mind. In trading, the influence of your fears and your biases will give you real time feedback about how well your beliefs shape outcome. This is why I like working with traders. The ones who want to make a living at trading have to develop the courage to do self examination so they can develop the states of mind that create efffective trading. If they want to survive and prosper they really have to develop the self. Suffering, in trading or in other domain of life, comes from our avoidance of discomfort and change. Transformation comes from embracing our capacity to change and evolve. My hope is that this helps you understand the interconnections of brain, mind, beliefs, and states of mind -- and how they impact performance. Rande Howell

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FXGirl -- My interest is not the technology, rather it is the beliefs, assumptions, and biases that open or close posibility in the mind's eye of a person. Helping people awaken to the power of their histories and moving beyond the grip they have on people's creation of their lives is deeply fulfilling to me. Once people "get it" that they can step out of blindly being sweep along by their histories and can powerfully influence the creation of their world, people find the confidence, hope, and courage to become designers of themselves. Trading is such a powerful platform for this. There are many different successful methodologies -- it's recognizing the mind (identity) as fluid, not static, and developing it to interact with the technology that I find great satisfaction in. Finding people to help a trader do this is a tad more difficult than find a trading methology (if followed) that is successful. Rande Howell

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Hi, Rande. I’m not sure that I want to agree with your assumption that “the dominant emotion that the brain (and mind) organize around is fear…” If you have had children, you know that they come into this world with few fears and that most of what you call ‘inherent’ fears are developed along the way. If children have any inherent traits, it seems to me that they are curiosity, pleasure-seeking, and pain-avoiding behaviors.

 

I am in no way denying that many traders suffer from some of the fears you have described, but to say “all are unavoidable” is, to my mind, an exaggeration. Each trader has developed a different view of himself and life based on his interpretation of his experiences. Some interpretations, and the subsequent behavioral strategies associated with them, are supportive of happy, health lives, and some aren’t – and we could also say that some are supportive of profitable trading and some aren’t.

 

“Organic brain dysfunction is far from the typical brain (and mind) of a trader.” Maybe. Do you think that the tunnel vision that some traders develop once they are in a trade, their inability to take in new data about the trade if it contradicts their original assumptions about the trade, is just fear of loss (or any other type of fear)? Or is it possible that if this happens repeatedly that it might be a problem with the functioning of the anterior cingulate (the portion of the brain that regulates cognitive flexibility)? It seems to me that at least we ought to do a little differential diagnosis here.

 

“Once people "get it" that they can step out of blindly being sweep along by their histories and can powerfully influence the creation of their world, people find the confidence, hope, and courage to become designers of themselves.” This is a laudable goal, but I think it is psychotherapy, not coaching. And although I think it is wonderful to help people become self-actualized designers of themselves, I don’t think it is a necessary prerequisite to successful trading.

 

I’m interested in hearing more about what you mean by “In emotional regulation training you literally retrain the brain’s architecture and chemistry. Please say more.

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Hey FXGirl -- Evolutionary and neuro- biology of social mammalians place the mother emotion of survival at fear. Avoidance of threat is for more useful than attacking a threat or approaching the threat. Attachment between mother's and baby is built around fear of abandonment or isolation. Babies become distressed when seperated from the safety and care of mother. This is the amydala and limbic system that drives our emotional nature. And our biological nature cannot discern between biologically grounded fear and psychological discomfort. The limbic system was created 50 million years ago while our neo-cortex (creating a psychology of being) only came about around 1.5 million years ago. This is the underpenning of the limbic's triggering to fear and its step child, anger, to overwhelm the rational thinking of the neo-cortext. What many call brain dysfunction is about our brain adapting us to environmental response. Once the pattern is established, it locks in and easily sweeps "normal" functioning away. These are the assumptions that emotional regulation training is built upon. Emotion is powerful and controlls the kind of thinking that is possible for our brain and our mind. Think last time you were fearful and angry and notice the thinking and predictions you did. Calming the body and mind gives us the opportunity to choose the state of mind that we will respond from rather than react to. In trading, only about 5% of traders are successful and most report that some form of fear is at the base -- even fear of missing out on a trade. As we learn to trade beyond the pull of our primitve fear responses, a whole new world opens up. It was always there, but it could not be seen because our vision was clouded by our fear or our denial of fear. Remember, Wall Street is built around fear and greed. It really doesn't operate rationally. That's that 50 million year old brain at work. Rande Howell

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I guess that's the reason why Wall street lost so much money - those folks are driven by greed and not fear (so the media tells us) - clearly they are evolved differently from the rest of us. ;)

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Hi, Rande:

 

I think we may have some things in common about our approach to coaching traders. I can certainly agree that calming the body and mind gives us a greater opportunity to choose our behavior during trading. We actually developed a biofeedback device to alert traders when they moved out of optimal physiological levels for trading and it worked very well. Because a calm physiology is in compatible with high emotional arousal, one of the quickest way out of emotionally driven behavior is to settle the physiology. This can become a learned response with a few deep breaths or visualization of a calming or loving senario as the trigger.

 

And, yes, the amygdala and limbic system are involved in producing quick identification of threats and avoidance of danger, and it is possible to get stuck in a chronic “fight or flight” state (another area where biofeedback can be very helpful). Certainly, this part of our brain can and does hijack the rational portion at times. Some behavioral economics studies nicely connect this process with the perception of economic loss. However, fear, like other emotions, is complex. The fear of missing a trade is very different from the fear that you’ll never master trading, or that you’ll let your family down. And I think that there is a learned/experience component involved in the development of these fears that is far beyond the simple survival response of the amygdala.

 

But, luckily for us, as a species, and as individual traders, we do have a neo-cortex, even a prefrontal cortex, and other brain structures. So we are able to learn, reflect, analyze, think abstractly, etc. Also, fortunately for us, the amygdala isn’t the only brain structure involved in emotional response and so we have a much greater range of emotions than just that of fear.

 

“What many call brain dysfunction is about our brain adapting us to environmental response. Once the pattern is established, it locks in and easily sweeps "normal" functioning away.” I do agree that we develop behavioral strategies and habitual thinking patterns in response to how we perceive our environment, and that we can call some of these dysfunctional. And while these patterns do shape the brain in that neural pathways are strengthened, I see that as different from ‘brain dysfunction’ in which the physical or chemical functioning of the brain is impaired. This ‘brain dysfunction’ is clear visible in cases of severe autism, but much less clear in cases of mild ADD. If you are working with a trader with mild ADD and are unaware that that is the case, you can spend a lot of time trying to influence emotional or behavioral responses and get only limited results. Although the techniques you are using may be very good, correcting the underlying chemistry of the brain may be necessary to get these techniques to work and achieve the results you and your client desire.

 

“Attachment between mother's and baby is built around fear of abandonment or isolation.” This one made me laugh. Any mother who has a loving relationship with her child knows that this statement is untrue. If you want to look at this from a purely scientific perspective, there is a surge in oxytocin and other hormones and neurotransmitters in the mother and child (and even the father) that stimulates mother-child bonding. There is also heightened activity in the basal ganglia – another area of emotional activity (lots of activity here when you fall in love).

 

I was nineteen when I had my first baby. I remember being blown away by the overwhelming love I felt when I held my son for the first time – it was the most powerful emotion I had ever felt. On the way home from the hospital, I startled my husband by speaking totally out of character and saying vehemently, “I’ll kill anyone who tries to hurt him or take him away from me.” – not exactly fear of abandonment or isolation. Yes, babies can become distressed when they are separated from their mothers. But in the beginning, this isn’t fear; it is simply pleasure seeking/pain-avoiding behavior. It is only if the baby’s needs aren’t attended to that this develops into fear.

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This is going to take a detour from pure psychology of trading. Regarding fear as a motivator of attachment in babies. This is based both on Steven Stosney's Emotional Inteligence work (while at University of Maryland) around the organizing emotions of shame, guilt, and fear of abandonment as the bio-emotive mechanism that organizes and re-organizes attachment among humans. Compassion is also a core emotion, but it is the parent's response to the baby and it certainly organizes the child's developing brain around secure attachment. Both are involved. In his reseach he found that there are 3 pathways that an emotion can take when triggered - attach, avoid, approach. Attack is assoicated with anger. Avoid is associated with fear. And approach is associated with compassion. The key is training the brain to shift the pathway that the emotion takes or at least create parallel pathways so that the learned response can collapse original impulse from taking over the cognitive process of a person.

 

Mary Ainsworth demonstrated the power of fear of abandonment (what most of us would recognize as disconnection or a sense of isolation) on toddlers seperated from their mothers -- and the repair attempts of the mother to self sooth the triggering of abandonment in Ainsworth's Strange Situation experiment. Fundamentally when you look at the four attachment styles defined by her, you can see many of the disorders and brain dysregulation so medicalized today are simply grown up versions of the primitive disruption to early attachment and the adaptation the brain makes to compensate.

 

I spent a number of years cutting my teeth on Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), ADHD, ADD, ODD, depression, anxiety, and Intermitent Explosive Disoder and concluded it was not nature that "caused" the dysregulation of neuro systems. In fact, I came to understand that when most of the ADD and ADHD clients were treated for anxiety and establishment of safe attachments -- the symptoms came under management without the aid of further medications to externally alter brain chemistry. It was anxiety that was causing the distraction, not an organic brain dysfunction. This is explored in the book, Driven to Distraction. Having worked with a number of Bi-Polars, I also understand that chemically altering brain dysfunction is essential -- when appropriate. Having worked with these populations before I became involved in personal development and peak performance has helped me greatly distinguish brain dysfunction from adaptation -- and how to help a person brain the brain to produce a different mind. Drug companies spend billions of dollars in an attempt to convince people that negative feeling state are brain dysfunctions that need an outside agent to regulate. I have found that our brain is a pharmacy -- and we can learn to become the pharmacist. Yoga and meditation systems (including mindfulness) are age old methods of regulating brain function. We would be wise to incorporate modern variations to regulate our brain and emotions.

Back to trading and the brain. The key in my work is first regulation of emotiion and state of mind, then it is awakening the aspects of the self that create a state of mind conducive to peak performance in trading. After all the heavy Emotional Intellence and Cognitive work, a foundation is laid to work from empowered Jungian archetypal elements of the psche. If you have not developed the inner courage to face your fears, they will bite you. And if you have not learned to invoke the impartiality of the sage, it will be difficult to become emotionally disengaged from the body's triggering to negative emotional states and neurally embedded beliefs that limit performance.

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Hi, Rande:

 

Let’s start with the things we can agree on. First, I wholeheartedly agree that yoga and meditation are wonderful methods for optimizing brain function. Second, I agree that the pharmaceutical industry is actively engaged in trying to convince us all that taking a pill is the solution to almost all body and brain problems. Third, I agree that in most areas of life being able to function in a relaxed and anxiety-free manner is helpful – of course, there are some situations when higher levels of arousal are required as in sex, sports, and performance arts, etc. Fourth, I agree that the impartiality of a sage would be a great trading asset. Perhaps we should encourage more sages to take up trading - I can see the ads now "We guarantee emotion-free trading. Our managed accounts are traded only by certified Sages".

 

Sorry, it's hard for me to be serious for too long.

 

About Steven Stosny, despite his being on Oprah (which is a usual thumbs-up for me), I am not a fan of his work. Certainly the Duluth method isn’t particularly effective, but I don’t find any real evidence that Stosny’s method is much better. Abusers and batterers are tough to work with and I don’t think anyone has it right yet.

 

I do like Mary Aninsworth’s work – I remember when it first came out; it was ground breaking. But I can’t agree with your conclusions that “many of the disorders and brain dysregulation so medicalized today are simply grown up versions of the primitive disruption to early attachment and the adaptation the brain makes to compensate.” I certainly think that early childhood experiences influence the development of personality, but I don’t think that you can stop there. Nor do I think that you can lay “brain dysregulation” all at the feet of early childhood experiences.

 

RAD is a very rare diagnosis. Would you mind my asking where you were working that you dealt with such children?

 

About ADD and ADHD, there are certainly things that you can do that don’t involve drugs to help people, both adults and children, with this disorder. Reducing anxiety-producing circumstances (such as a boss or teacher demanding a certain level of performance) can be useful because when people with ADD try to force themselves to concentrate, the PFC activity diminishes. The harder they try, the worse it gets. But I know of nothing in the literature that says that the lack of safe attachments is a factor leading to ADD or that the “establishment of safe attachments” makes a difference in treating ADD. I think that for most people who have been diagnosed with ADD, some sort of adjustment in the functioning of the brain is helpful, whether it is through supplements, drugs, food, or neurofeedback. I guess I’m just not convinced that safe attachments do that.

 

I recognize that you and I are coming from very different theoretical backgrounds and that our experiences in working with people have also been very different… and that is what makes these discussions so interesting, don’t you think so too? You have said: “The key in my work is first regulation of emotion and state of mind, then it is awakening the aspects of the self that create a state of mind conducive to peak performance in trading. After all the heavy Emotional Intellence and Cognitive work, a foundation is laid to work from empowered Jungian archetypal elements of the psche.” I’d love to have you operationalize that statement, perhaps with case illustrations? Or maybe you could say how you would work with a hypothetical trader who is having certain difficulties such as getting out of trades too soon, has tunnel vision, or can’t take a trade, etc. It might be fun to have everyone on the thread talk about how they would deal with a specific issue. I think we could learn a lot from each other.

 

Most of the effective therapists that I know who have been in the field for many years say that they use whatever works regardless of their original theoretical orientation. So I’m interested in what you use that works to help traders become successful, and hope that we can continue this discussion in a collegial manner. Do you think we should move this discussion to the “change thyself” thread?

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You're right we appear to come from different orientations. The research psychologist Kegan noted that it was not the orientation that mattered. What mattered was the empathy or compassion that the therapist had for the client. That was the defining criteron that he comfirmed produced change in people. Stosney's and Dan Hill's work greatly impacted my work with people. After he retired from the University of Maryland and went public, something changed. The last communication I had with Stosney was a letter threatening a law suit for incorporating his work (which I learned in extended workshops from him) into the methodology I use to interrupt pattern. I couldn't understand (still don't) why he didn't incorporate breathing and self-soothing strategies into his emotional regulation process. It had proven highly effective while working with the populations I was working with then. These were adolescents and their families where the client could not be maintained in public schools or was about to be removed from the family due to mental illness -- fairly serious stuff. Once you peeled the layers away, it still come down to the quality of the attachment relationship that morphed into various conditions as the brain and mind aged. So RAD was a common dx unfortuately. I use a term, attachment disruption, to describe less horrific adaptations to the attachment process. I moved out of this arena as I realized that opening the mechanics of the attachment process was one thing, but the parents mostly were incapable of safe attachment.

I consider the mind to be a stage where various voices from within the self give rise to the internal dialog we hear as our thoughts. Most of us are only conscious of a small portion of this internal dialog. Expanding our undestanding of this phenomena helps awaken the giants that are dormant within us. And it helps us to unfuse our identity to limiting conversations occurring in the mind. To do this, emotional regulation has to occur simply to take the body out of aroused states and to calm the mind. When that is done, we can begin to awaken the observing self. That's were we find these parts of the self, such as the impartial sage, and they can be incorporated into our internal dialog. Examing and deconstructing our beliefs about who we are leads to the ability of managing our states of mind. Sage is such a state of mind -- and is useful in trading.

Regarding producing inquiry. Rather than try to write about a hypethetical trader, I written a number of articles that lay out certain aspects of the process I use. That might be easier building a scenero on a post.

Let me know. Now it back to attacking the killer thorned vine from hell that has engulfed part of wooded area of my land. Rande Howell

Edited by Rande Howell

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