Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Dramaturgical Perspective on the Work of a Trading Coach

Beginning with the work of Erving Goffman, there has been an interest in dramaturgical views of human behavior. These liken daily life to theater, in which we all sustain performances, arrange our stagings, and enact various roles. Theodore Sarbin's work in social psychology, derived from the influence of Stephen Pepper's "World Hypotheses", emphasizes that we make sense of the world through metaphor: by finding similarities between what we see now and what we have experienced in the past. Much of that meaning-making takes the form of narratives: the organization of events into coherent stories.

Narratives are fundamental to human experience. Before there was writing, cultures possessed an oral tradition of story-telling. Such narratives tie together causes, effects, intentions, actions, and reactions. They lend coherence to our experiences. After all, what do we do when we want someone to truly understand us? We tell them our life stories.

Essential to any dramatic narrative are roles. We typically occupy multiple roles in our life stories: as spouses, parents, colleagues, employees, friends, etc. Others occupy roles in our life scripts as well. When the roles of two people fulfill mutual scripts, their relationship tends to be harmonious. There tends to be disharmony when a person cannot or will not fulfill the role assigned to him/her by the other.

Our life stories change when we adopt new roles. New roles require us to interact with others in fresh ways. They are novel interpretations of the self. Equally important, new roles require others to respond to us in fresh ways. When the feedback from new role enactments fulfills an emerging life story, that feedback is internalized. The new role increasingly becomes part of the self. We grow through the assumption of new social roles and the feedback generated from that assumption.

Conversely, we stagnate when we are locked into a limited set of roles. Though these roles, quite literally, are self-limiting, they are all we have to make sense of our world. We bring our scripts to new life situations, enacting the same dramas in diferent life arenas. Ironically, we avoid the disharmony of relationships that do not confirm our limited role definitions and seek the harmony of familiar role enactments. This locks us in scripts that may be unfulfilling: increasingly we live a life story that we do not like.

Therapy is effective to the degree that the helping relationship creates fresh social contexts for novel role enactments. The therapeutic relationship requires the individual to break out of stagnant dramas and enact new scripts. For example, someone who has grown up resentful of authority figures will have to find new ways to deal with a therapist who refuses to assume the mantle of authority. The altered scripts within therapy provide opportunities for feedback and revisions of the self.

Fantasies of success, hopes of winning fame and approval, fears of failure and rejection: we bring our life dramas to the markets. It is in this dramaturgical context that the most important questions we can ask when we're exploring psychological impediments to trading are: What has been my role in the trading narrative? What dramas am I enacting?

The successful trading coach, like the successful therapist, nudges the trader to interact with markets in fresh ways, internalizing new experiences and building new scripts. In dramaturgical terms, the coach and trader are both directors and authors in this enterprise, reworking scenes and developing fresh scripts.

The ultimate goal of coaching is for people to become authors and directors of their own life stories. The successful, fulfilled person lives an evolving narrative and guides that evolution. The unhappy individual is trapped in his or her own story. Talk cannot change a person in meaningful ways. Only novel experience that places us in fresh roles and new scripts can evoke the feedback that will lead us to internalize a different self.


The Devon Principle

How to Change Yourself

Becoming Your Own Trading Coach