Let me be clear and direct: trading losses are not a problem. To look at them as problems is to take the wrong step. Trading losses are part and parcel of this business. Everyone goes through losses. You can’t avoid them. The best you can do is to minimize their impact through strategic risk management.
But alright…. even with strategic risk management, the act of taking a trading loss is inherently painful. I get it. The reason is simple: where there is a perceived loss, there is pain. Inevitably. But emotions mainly arise in response to what you think something means, not to the thing itself.
Let me say this again for emphasis: emotions mainly arise in response to what you think something means, not to the thing itself.
Consider these two scenarios…
Suppose you come back from the gym after an especially intense workout session. A couple of hours later, you feel some muscular soreness. But you are okay with it. You actually feel satisfied with yourself because you know you’ve had a good workout, and the soreness is arising as a result.
Imagine now that you didn’t go to the gym and started having the same kind of soreness or pain all over your body for no apparent reason, just randomly out of the blue. You would probably think that there’s something horribly wrong with you, wouldn’t you? You would certainly freak out, thinking you’re having a serious illness or something…
In the first case, physical pain was welcomed in the context of intense athletic exertion; it lets you know that you are performing at your maximum.
In the second case, the same physical pain in another context yielded a different response – one of fear and confusion. (something is horribly wrong with me!)
So you see, the meaning we give to things determines our emotional response and our next set of actions. Even emotions that seem extremely direct and biologically determined are mediated by meaning.
For instance, your mother kissing you will produce an entirely different emotional response than your girlfriend or wife… Again, it all depends on the meaning.
Mindful awareness is a quality of mind that you should learn to develop because it’s a kind of freedom from fixed meanings and stories. This is not to say that meaning-making is always bad. It’s not. It is useful, but mindful awareness frees you from automatic interpretations of habitual responses, and that gives you the benefit of choice.
Let me explain…
When taking a trading loss, here is the pattern one typically falls into:
– The trading loss occurs.
– The event is perceived and immediately interpreted, based on some familiar framework of meaning-making.
– An emotion arises in response to the meaning you have given it.
Now, without mindful awareness:
– You’ll give equal weighting to all your thoughts and emotions, even though they don’t all deserve to be listened to and trusted.
– You have no (or little) choice. The energy of said emotions will demand expression. They have to be channeled one way or the other. So you’ll eventually do something that seems mandatory based on your interpretation of those emotions.
But, with mindful awareness:
– You’ll notice the process of meaning-making as it starts, and you’ll discern wisely what is arising as feelings in your body.
– You’ll feel those as they are, without judging or wishing things to be different (full acceptance of what is). In doing so, you’ll automatically defuse them, and you’ll then have the freedom to choose how you want to respond instead of just blindly reacting.
– You’ll be able to trade in the moment—and at the same time, to accept any outcome.
How To Develop Mindful Awareness
It’s very simple: Pick up a meditation practice! But not every meditation practice will do since not all of them are created equal and provide the same benefits.
For instance, many systems of meditation will have the meditator focus their mind upon some items, such as prayer, a chant, mantra, a candle flame, a religious image, or whatever, while excluding all other thoughts and perceptions from their consciousness.
The result is often a state of rapture that lasts until the meditator ends the session of sitting. It is beautiful, delightful, meaningful, and alluring…. but only temporary. That locks you again in story-making — why is it over? I want more of it, etc.
So, you need a meditation practice that gets you out of that cycle; that helps you develop a quality of mindful awareness so that you can learn to notice things, states, and conditions as arising and passing, and doing so with complete equanimity.
Here’s an example of one: