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.