Traders will find it next to impossible to work their way through the typical book on trading without being exposed to the subject of "controlling one's emotions". Indeed, the conventional wisdom demands that controlling one's emotions is absolutely essential to trading success. And, technically, that's true. If one has them. But, contrary to conventional wisdom, emotions are not an unavoidable component to trading (granted, those who insist that emotions are unavoidable consider the selection of a shirt or of sunny-side up vs over easy to be emotional decisions, but this is about neurotic behavior: addictive, compulsive, illogical, irrational, obsessive, self-defeating, self-damaging behavior; revenge trading is neurotic behavior; cutting profits short and letting losses run is neurotic behavior).
By "emotions", the Wise are referring to The Big Three: Fear, Hope, and Greed. And withstanding all of these, much less controlling them, can seem insurmountably difficult. Hope, however, is only the fear that all will not turn out as expected or anticipated, and greed is the fear that one will either "miss" all that a particular opportunity may provide or that he will miss the opportunity altogether. Fear is the nexus.
But fear of what? Left to its own devices, fear can be invasive and seem all-encompassing. But if we examine it closely, we can see that "fear", with regard to trading, can be reduced to two elements: fear of being wrong (ego damage) and fear of losing money (destitution). Focusing on fear in this manner makes it manageable, even dispensable. Why? Because if one has a thoroughly-tested and consistently-profitable trading plan, there's nothing to be afraid of. If one follows it.
The novice is to be envied. He has nothing to unlearn and has no preconceptions. If he is curious, able to concentrate, is reasonably intelligent, and is able to work without investing his ego in either the process or the result, fear has no opportunity to intrude. And if he is working with the aforementioned plan, trading emotionlessly becomes a matter of course, like changing one's spark plugs.
The "experienced" trader (struggling, perhaps failing), on the other hand, not only knows a great deal that isn't so and thus has to be unlearned, he is also a bundle of neuroses, obsessively questioning his perceptions, his decisions, his actions (or, just as likely, his inactions). And running through his head almost without pause are the voices: so and so says, or I read somewhere that, or I took this seminar once that, or this book said, or but the ADX says. He has spent embarrassing amounts of time (and often money) in a search for instructions as to where EXACTLY to draw the line, EXACTLY where to enter, EXACTLY where to exit. This search is in large part what makes Pivots and Fib and Gann and MAs and so forth so seductive. One doesn't have to think about just where it is that price (traders) really react. All the trader has to do is draw the calculated lines. This search for exactitude also motivates the search for the EXACT stop and exact TYPE of stop that the trader should use, along with the EXACT trigger and the EXACT target. But if it were all that simple, one could package it into a kit and sell it (4x Made Easy and Weekend Seminar – lunch included). Learning how to trade properly from the beginning, with the aforementioned trading plan, would have enabled the struggling trader to avoid all this turmoil and become consistently profitable, if not at the outset, then close to it. But there's no going back, this side of amnesia, so wanting to is simply wishful thinking.
All is not lost, however. Though the struggling trader can't go back and start over, he can reprogram himself, rewire himself. This may take more discipline than he's capable of, but it's either that or continued losses and eventual bankruptcy.
The reprogramming begins with becoming intimate with fear, nuzzling up to it, licking its ear. Unless and until one addresses fear directly, eyeball to eyeball, he will find it impossible to bring about its evaporation.
First, realize that the fear of being wrong and the fear of losing money can be consolidated and simplified further by becoming acquainted with their father: the fear of the unknown. By this I'm not referring to the fact that the outcome of any particular trade is unknowable; I'm referring to the fact that the struggling trader rarely understands just what it is that he's looking at.
Second, one must know just what it is that he's looking for. If he doesn't know what he's looking for, ipso facto he won't recognize it when he sees it. If he doesn't recognize it when he sees it, he of course will not what to do with it. And if he doesn't know what to do with it, it's a cinch that whatever he does will very likely be the wrong thing (fear of being wrong). And not only will he be doing the wrong thing, he'll be doing it at the wrong time. And doing the wrong thing, especially if he's doing it at the wrong time as well, he will very likely lose money (fear of losing money).
Third, the task then becomes to transform the fear of the unknown into a confident ease with the known. And one accomplishes that by developing a (you guessed it) thoroughly-tested, consistently-profitable trading plan. In order to realize a consistently-profitable trading plan, one must thoroughly test the elements that go into it. In order to thoroughly test those elements, one must define them precisely (e.g., what is a "range"? what is a "breakout"?). And once one knows exactly what he's looking for, he will know it when he sees it. And when he sees it, he'll know exactly what to do with it. Fear becomes irrelevant. The trader may in fact be so focused on his plan that he isn't even aware of fear's departure.
The trader who develops his own plan is in an arguably superior position due to his creating it step by step, block by block, from raw data. The fact that he is developing it himself and the process that he goes through in order to do so guarantee that he will have confidence in it. Whether or not he has the discipline to follow his own plan is another matter, but at least he will have no reason to distrust it.
Some "systems" are pre-packaged, ready-to-go, turnkey. All one has to do is follow the rules. But damaged traders are the least likely to follow the rules of a plan they didn't put together. Given that they are unlikely to develop their own plan from scratch, though (if they were, they would have done it already), a pre-packaged system may be their best shot, especially if it doesn't cost anything, e.g., CANSLIM. Nor does one have to have a fancy, bells-and-whistles charting program to trade the simplest of them.