The Invisible Wall that Separates You from Your Potential: Establishing a Disciplined Impartial Trading Psychology


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Rande Howell

15 Aug, 2018

in Psychology

“I see the potential, but I keep hitting an invisible wall.  My trading mind is in good shape one minute and then, out of nowhere, a switch goes off.  I don’t see it coming. That’s where I keep falling apart – I even see it happening right in front of my eyes.  It’s like I’m a spectator and I am paralyzed from doing anything.  My impartial trading mind flies out the window, along with my trading rules.  When the dust settles and I can see clearly again, I see that I lost control again.  I keep trying to stay impartial, but I keep losing that battle.  It’s frustrating because I’m trying hard, and I’m so close. That invisible wall is what keeps me stuck where I am as a trader.  If I could get past it, it would make all the difference in the world.”

Why Do You Keep Hitting a Psychological Wall Despite Your Best Intentions?
Traders try hard, and then even harder, to achieve disciplined impartiality in their trading.  This is an emotional and psychological mindset where fear and eagerness to act are not present in the trading psychology of the trader while he is in the act of live trading.  To achieve this mindset, traders try to develop nerves of steel where emotion (in theory) is not allowed in the mind and where their trading mind has the patience of an ambush predator.  They become emotionally tough.  Yet the harder the trader tries to achieve this elusive mindset, the invisible wall is still there thwarting their best efforts.  Emotions still break through into the mind of the trader.  The disciplined impartiality that the trader is trying to achieve falls apart when the mind is hijacked by emotion.  Defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory again, again, and again.

This scenario is played out every day by nearly every trader who has not learned how to develop his emotional nature and psychology specifically for trading.  What understanding, knowledge, and skill is missing in the vast majority of traders that keeps them stuck at “the Wall” despite their motivation to win and become a consistently profitable trader?  The answer starts with the lack of awareness of how the brain operates when stressed and the quality of mind that emerges from that brain challenged by the uncertainty and risk that the brain experiences.  This is huge.  What you do not know about the brain and mind experiencing the stress of trading will hurt you.  Just check your trading account for confirmation.  That blindness to understanding the relationship between the brain and mind is at the core of why you keep hitting “the Wall” in your trading.

It’s not about trying harder.  Plenty of traders have already proven that trying harder, by itself, is not going to work.  If trying hard and being persistent were the answer, traders would be awash in money – but they are not.   What is required is waking up to a very different world.  Probably the hardest task a trader will ever do is to have the epiphany that the brain and the mind are one unit.  The mind that you bring to trading emerges from the brain.  It is not separate.  Rather, the mind is part of the potential of the human brain - AND THAT POTENTIAL IS SHAPED BY EMOTIONAL LEARNING.  Every time you have expectations of what will happen in a trade, you are experiencing the historical emotional learning that shapes the engaging mind.  Every time you experience fear, you are in a limbic memory that swallows the moment in which you live.  Every time you feel the urge to act impulsively (you guessed it), you are experiencing a limbic memory and learning that creates the mind with which you engage uncertainty and risk.  Every time, no exceptions.

There is no mind “out there” that is separate from the biology of the brain and, in particular, the survival instincts of the limbic system (the emotional brain) of the adaptive organ called your brain.  If you are listening carefully to what I am saying here, you hopefully are waking up to a very different way of understanding your trading psychology.  In this new way of understanding, your biology, your brain, your emotions, your perception, and your thinking (acting as one unit) are all interconnected every time you look at a chart and make a trading decision.  And your brain has a different agenda than you (as long as you are in misalignment with survival purpose) which, for the struggling or stuck trader, occurs most of the time you are risking capital with an uncertain outcome.

Go back and carefully read the vignette in the beginning about the trader hitting his Invisible Wall WITH THIS NEW UNDERSTANDING OF THE INTERCONNECTION BETWEEN BIOLOGY, BRAIN, EMOTION, AND MIND.   The trader is thinking that the problem in his trading is in his mind.  But the mind is a creation of the brain with a heavy dose of the limbic system (aka emotion) influencing the perception of his mind.  He never saw the emotional hijacking coming because he did not have the eyes to see the profound influence that the emotional brain (limbic system) has on what he “sees”, much less on what he is instinctively reacts to.  The limbic system sees threat to life in any uncertainty while the thinking brain (seeing through the eyes of logic) sees opportunity in uncertainty.  And what he does not know about his emotional brain is, in fact, hurting his capacity to become the trader he could be.  How about you?

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