Saturday, September 12, 2009

Three Negative Patterns of Self-Talk and How to Overcome Them

In an earlier post, I described a pattern of self-talk that is surprisingly destructive. Our internal dialogues are a large part of our self-management: how we talk to ourselves will shape both how we feel and how we respond in trading situations.

Three types of self-talk are especially corrosive:

1) Victim Self-Talk - Here we tell ourselves that others have created our problems and are responsible for our setbacks and losses. Even when people legitimately have been victimized, it is not helpful to wallow in victimization. Such talk robs us of a sense of control over our destinies. How do we feel energized and optimistic about life if we're telling ourselves that positive outcomes are out of our control?

2) Hopeless Self-Talk - Sometimes those losses and setbacks become so frequent or seem so overwhelming that we doubt whether we'll ever find success and happiness. Hopeless self-talk is an important component of depression. Many times, it is accompanied by self-blaming talk, where we direct our anger and frustration at ourselves over disappointing outcomes. The result is a gradual leaking of optimism and energy, where the dominant mood can be expressed by, "What's the use?"

3) Perfectionistic Self-Talk- When we acknowledge our successes, we reinforce self-efficacy and confidence. Our victories are psychological confirmations that we can, indeed, achieve our desired ends. Perfectionism robs us of victories by setting standards of success so high that they cannot be met. It's not enough to have a winning trade; we missed the high or low tick. It's not enough to make money on the week; we lost money on Friday. In a dangerous way, perfectionism snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, cutting us down just as we need affirmation.

How do we overcome such negative self-talk patterns? One valuable initial step is to make our self-talk explicit: to talk out loud what we're saying to ourselves implicitly. As I detail in The Daily Trading Coach book, cognitive techniques that make use of journals can be especially useful in this regard. The idea is to identify problem situations as they are occurring and write down both how you are thinking and how you're feeling in those situations. This builds self-awareness, so that you can become better at thinking about your thinking and catching yourself in the process of undercutting your own optimism and confidence.

Further use of the journal actually intercepts negative thought patterns as they are cropping up and replacing those with more realistic and helpful ways of viewing situations. It is very difficult to act in destructive ways when you're interrupting negative talk and rehearsing constructive conversations with yourself.


3j30 said...

Good notes, very true. I do my "journal" writing on a message board, in fact. Find it very therapeutic.

Margie Remmers said...

Excellent post. One technique that I have heard of to build on this is after writing it out in your journal, to re-read it and pick out the phrases of negative self talk--then to actually REWRITE the journal entry from a positive perspective. I can imagine this would be very powerful.

Margie Remmers

Radek Dobias, H.B.Sc., M.W.S., B.Ed. said...

Awesome post, Dr. B! Maybe the most damaging one is the victim mentality. By choosing to be a victim, one projects, and thereby gives, one's power away to the outside world.
I spoke to a psychiatrist with a 50 year experience recently. He said the hardest thing is getting people off their attachments of victimhood.

Curtis said...

I am not so sure: I've found I've been MORE successful when I attribute my failures to other people or random factors. I suspect that people who concentrate on the WHY are less likely to be successful in tasks or professions with low probabilities: sales, for example.

In other words, the best psychology is no psychology. The best therapy is no therapy at all. Action, reaction, adaptation.

DreamJOBZ said...

Dear Brett, G'day

I am changing all those 3 Negative nelly Patterns to 3 Positive Peppy Patterns. LOL.

1. Predator Self-Talk
2. Serenity Self-Talk
3. Excellence Self-Talk

Tomorrow never dies.

Live Awesome.

DreamJOBZ said...

Dear Brett, G'day

Here we go. PFA my quick write up about this patterns to change to positive patterns. I hope it help.

1) Predator Self-Talk – When we forget to self-realise our failures. It is so easy to gang up against the winners in the market and blame them for our failures. I also come across these kind of situations in my trading career, what I did was, I accepted my failure first, second, I asked myself, So what? and thirdly, work on all possible solutions, it need not to be perfect, even I list down the stupid idea. and fourthly, choose the most practical idea to solve it. This time with more energy.

2) Serenity Self Talk – I have seen many honest people can’t think high about themselves because they look at their own recent records and settle themselves to average. Because for them they are honest in looking at their facts, which is their failures. But on other hand, they have comfortably forgotten about their previous success also. They need to talk to themselves, “Well, I also have a good track record, so I can do it again. I will take it slowly. Lots can happen.” I generally, remember about my failure when I succeed to supple my over enthusiasm/ lethargies and remember about my success when I fail, just to energise my attitude. This creates serenity in me.

3. Excellence Self Talk – Perfection doesn’t exist, there is only excellence. Perfection is a journey, so we keep perfecting us. We can’t be perfect to start, but we have start to be perfect. Well, here is a hitch. Here I use NLP technique. Many times, perfectionism becomes a paralysis by too much analysis. This is overly used term already. And it becomes excuse not to enter the market or not interested in limited amount of pips potential. For example, sometimes, we are not interested in 20 pips potentials, and then we increase our expectation to 50, and then to 100, 200, before we are ready. And forgetting most important factor of “Consistency” and still holding to huge pip target. So solution to this challenge is to breath in and breath out. I can hear you are saying “What?!” Yes, this technique, somehow, helps me to take action in right moments. What I do is when I breath-in by filling from belly to chest, I watch market price action goes up in mind’s screen and I say to myself ‘buy’ and when I about to finish breath-in then I will say ‘closed order’ and same for sell when I breath-out. I don’t control my breaths in between, I let it happen naturally. I don’t know someone is using this technique in the world. So this is copyrighted. LOL. No problem, you can carry on and let me know how this helps. I do this after my Tibet 5 Rites exercise and few minutes of meditations/ thoughtless state.

If it is funny, LOL, but it works :)

Be Awesome