Most traders realize that trading involves a lot of psychology. And most traders readily admit that a significant portion of their trading losses, or lack of performance, is due to “psychology”. Although the term ‘psychology’ isn’t always mentioned as an explanation, you can see it easily enough in the following statements ……”I froze just as I was about to pull the trigger”….. ”I hesitated and missed that trade and was so pissed that I got myself into an impulse trade right after”….. “That large loss was not what I wanted, I held it thinking it would come back because last time I bailed out of this type of trade I got stopped out right before it reversed”….. “I was really nervous about losing money again so I got out of my winning trade way before my target”
Those are four common examples of trading psychology issues manifesting in one’s trading. Do you recognize yourself in the above statements?
All four of those statements have in common one thing, fear. Whether it’s the fear of not being perfect, the fear of being wrong, fear of losing money, fear of missing out, the fear of not being approved by others, or some other fear, the common theme is fear. Most trading mistakes are a maladaptive attempt to deal with fear or anxiety.
Emotions like fear and anxiety cannot be eliminated; it is part of the human experience. But how you respond (your behavior, the action you take in response) to anxiety and fear will determine how successful you are as a trader. Some traders recognize this and do something about it; they learn to work with the fear and anxiety to reduce the chance that they’ll continue to fall into the same old behavioral response pattern to fear and anxiety.
Fear will never disappear. Yes, maybe some days you feel more ‘in the zone’ and fear is less of an issue, but most days you’re probably not in the zone; and on those days the fear is unavoidable. Most likely, those are the days when you have your largest losses. The question is, what are YOU going to do to work with the fear? If you cannot eliminate fear, you must learn to work with it, use it to your advantage. Emotions are a form of self-communication; you need to learn what the message is (e.g. If this trade loses I won’t succeed as a trader) in order to begin to learn how to control your actions in response to the fear and anxiety. Your performance will not change until you learn to manage yourself differently when experiencing fear and anxiety.