Thursday, May 29, 2008

Constructivism: Changing Viewing and Doing

All of us are like scientists, in that we are driven to make sense of the world around us. Just as scientists construct theories to explain their observations, we generate our own mental models that provide coherence to our experience. When a trader speaks of his or her trading, the depiction is not a photographic representation, realistic in each and every detail. Inevitably, some facets are left out and others are emphasized, as the trader creates a narrative. This narrative is constructed to fit with the trader's existing mental models. What we're hearing is not reality, but the trader's reality: how the trader is construing his or her experience in the markets.

Our mental maps are necessary--without them experience would seem chaotic--but they are also prisons of a sort. Fixed modes of viewing lead to fixed modes of doing: we can become trapped by the lenses through which we view the world. One trader, affected by his childhood, sees the market as a battleground of "us versus them". Another trader, equally influenced by his experience, regards trading as a way of overcoming past failure and finally proving himself worthy to others. Still another views trading as an arena for displaying his intellectual prowess and tinkers, tinkers, tinkers in search of grails.

Constructivism in psychology emphasizes that the goal of change is the ability to revise our mental models just as scientists revise their theories. By encountering experiences that don't fit our models, we have the opportunity to change those models to account for new experience. That is why all psychological change requires novelty and discrepancy: the good psychologist afflicts our comfort as well as comforts our afflictions. New experience forces us to alter our viewing, and that leads us to alter our doing.

The challenge for traders seeking to change is to generate their own novel, discrepant experiences. Talking to a counselor or coach, in itself, or writing in a journal does not create change. Change requires fresh experience that we can internalize--i.e., that can revise our mental maps. Just as new viewing leads to new doing, new doing can generate fresh views. More on this aspect of coaching oneself shortly to come.


Becoming the Play-Actor of Your Ideals

The Relationship Between Happiness and Success