Sunday, April 19, 2009

When the Body Controls the Mind

Thanks to readers for their interest in The Daily Trading Coach. It seems as though the book, with its 101 short, practical trading "lessons", has struck a chord with traders and portfolio managers looking to improve their performance. As I write, the book is sitting near #1000 on the Amazon list, unusual for a niche trading text.

One aspect of the book that is unusual is the inclusion of a dedicated email address that readers can use to ask me questions about applying the techniques. A number of traders have taken advantage of that feature, and I'm happy to offer them tips on customizing the ideas and getting the most from them.

A theme that the book tackles is how what goes on in the body affects the mind. Indeed, many times traders use their bodies to gain control of emotional turmoil, only to lose control in a more profound way. The following segment comes from Lesson 47:

"...defenses are coping strategies that protect us from the emotional pain of past conflicts. One of the most basic defenses is repression: keeping thoughts, feelings, and memories out of conscious awareness so that they cannot trouble us. The problem with repression, of course, is that a conflict repressed is a conflict that remains unresolved. We can't overcome something if we remain unaware of its presence. Many traders use their bodies to repress their minds: their physical tension binds them, restricting the physical and emotional expression of feelings. I've met traders who were quite tight physically and yet who had no insight into the degree and nature of their emotional stresses. In an odd way, getting tense was their way of coping: they were always mobilized for danger, tightly keeping themselves in control. It is difficult to stay in touch with the subtle cues of trading hunches--the implicit knowledge we derive from years of pattern recognition--when our bodies are screaming with tension and even pain" (p. 151).

This is part of a much larger problem that impacts traders: when our modes of coping interfere with our day-to-day performance. One of the most important functions I perform when coaching traders is simply watching them when they trade and helping them stay loose mentally and physically. It's amazing how flexible we can be mentally when our bodies are not filled with tension.



SSK said...

HELLO BRETT, Excellent point on the mind as it relates to the body. During my hiatus from trading over the last three months during market hours, I have concentrated on other things that are germane to trading and directly and indirectly reduce tension,(even though I still watch the market on and off, still do my homework, like reading, keeping up with the website, chartbooks, annotations, etc). Things in real life can manytimes cause a reduction in the ability to change the way you trade and change the way you feel mentally and physically.In my case I was thinking about things like trading addiction,(which in my case prevented me from a routine of exercise, and working on other problems like patience in the real world), stepping away from trading for a couple of months, if you have an addiction to trading is a very worth while pursuit in that it helps to get you out of a cyclical pattern, if indeed one exists, and that correlates to stress reduction, recognizing new ways of not only identifying but also solving a particular problem, as your focus is forced to change, therefore looking at it from a new perspective. Another example in my case of tension reduction,was working on the attribute of patience in the real world as you deal with everyday things in life (even little things you become aware of, that previously you wouldnt have given a second thought at), since you dont have anything else to distract you and are now focused on the task at hand without the stress of the markets, (at least in my case I have the circumstances that allow such time off), or even another pursuit, be it a hobby or something, enabling you to focus on that one goal in a variety of settings. This of course gives you larger blocks of unencubered time to concentrate on such goals if such a problem area exists that needs to be addressed. Regular physical exercise is also an area that is an important component of a regimine toward long term succsess as a trader. (it is far more physically draining while your trading over the course of a couple of years with no physical routine, as opposed to a time when one is reducing stress through exercise). Agian, a worthwile course to undergo, even if getting into the routine demands some of your time that would have been allocated toward trading, as in the end, a routine can be worked out that takes less time and is most effective hence the transition from one state to the other wont take as much recouperation time!(like walking five miles briskly when I should have walked 2!) All these real life expressions, are interrelated to long term trading succsess. While I am on the subject, another area that I have been working on is Deep breathing thoughout the day. Just trying to be cognizant of an involuntary action takes a lot of focus, but when you achive such, (as my wife which is a neuromuscular massage therapist can confirm), helps to alleviate stress accumulated in the mid and upper back and shoulder area, and give you a much more relaxed and focused approach to everything, when compared to the time that I was not as aware of my breathing habits. Thanks for your great work as always, and congratulations on the sucess of the new book, I look foward to studing it soon! Best,SSK

ekk said...

I recently took the abundance course - a course the provides a very simple technique for releasing negativity physiological tightness and stress that bascially get in the way of our goals and natural tendency to want to be happy and successful ...I was amazed at the profoundness of the takes work to do the release technqiues involved but so fat the benefits are very noticible. I also became much more aware of what kind of subtle thinking goes into the reality I create for myself - excellent stuff