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Trading Psychology - Consecutive Loses AND The Trading Psychology Spiral

You go long and the market immediately goes down - you go short and the market immediately goes up. That's 2 consecutive losses, and you are getting a little 'anxious' so you don't take the 'next' trade. Of course, this trade is a winner. Now to make the situation worse, you then 'chase' the move, and as soon as you enter the trade it immediately reverses, thus giving you another loss – this is now 3 in a row. Ok one more ‘try’ - this can't happen on every trade can it?

This time though, you will be real clever. You have noticed that the market is in a range, and it's the bounce from the low/retrace from the high that is causing all the problems. So this time, the next trade you take will be a range extreme fade AND the hell with your trading method. The market is at the range low, and per your new ‘on the fly’ trading plan, you go long. Instead of bouncing again, the range immediately breaks out to the downside. Not only does this give you consecutive loser 4, but the loss occurred from trading against one of your ‘best’ method trade setups, and becomes a trade which is giving enough profit to pay for the previous 3 losers, and make you net ahead.

Now what are you supposed to do – QUIT? AND to be sure that there is no more temptation – your throw your computer out the window, and dive out right behind it. You are in a trading psychology spiral.

WHAT is a Trading Psychology Spiral?

I think of a trading psychology spiral as the transition from trading losses that you have accepted both as a part of your trading method, and as something that is inevitable in trading, into a surge of emotions that continually builds to a point where you can no longer accept anything. As this eventually ‘spirals’ out of control – trading method becomes completely ignored, and is then replaced by emotional responses and decisions for everything that is done. Even if quitting was really the only viable thing to do at the time, the trading psychology spiral can cause an emotional response where this isn’t even considered, until the situation becomes so desperate, that the trader can’t take it any longer AND does have to quit.

This isn’t a discussion about emotions and trading, and the various fears and issues that keeps a trader from trading to begin with; as we know, emotions are an inherent part of trading – you learn to control them OR you can’t trade. This is a discussion about emotions that are typically controlled well enough so that you ‘can’ trade, but then something happens where the trader loses that control, and their emotions spiral. A series of consecutive losing trades, especially those caused by deviating from the trading plan, are a root cause for this happening.

This also isn’t about something that happens only to inexperienced and unprofitable traders. There are going to be those times where nothing a trader does will work, and that result is going to be a series of consecutive losers. So the situation is the same, it’s the reaction that may be different. For instance, traderA may go into a panic causing them to spiral out of control, losing all self-confidence and self-trust, and ultimately more money than was intended. On the other hand, traderB may go into a period of revenge trading, coupled with an increase of their trading size, as they are ‘sure’ that each next trade is going to bring them back to even. Also, a spiral out of control, and the losses continue – AND also a loss of more money than was intended. WHAT does traderC do?

Controlling The Trading Psychology Spiral

Consider: each time a tpsych spiral occurs AND you go out of control - the quicker the next spiral is going to occur, and the faster you will go out of control when it happens. This is going to continue, until trading becomes too painful, and you will not be willing to trade any longer.

Consider: it is better to work through the emotions instead of quitting. Quitting is too easy, and this provides no solution or aid in preventing this from coming back and intensifying each time you have a rough period. As well, you have lost the ability to 'count' on yourself when you need to do so the most. To control a tpsych spiral, before you go out of control, is a tremendous win in and of itself. Do this, and get your trading back on track, and you will have made gains the value of which you can't imagine, as you will know that you may have losing periods BUT you can trust yourself to remain in control, and not magnify the damage.

In light of this, take what you believe to be your key trading issues, write them on an index card, and stick them on to your monitor. The objective is realization and awareness, thus making these issues available to your conscious as a reminder, instead of only available to your subconscious as a problem. As you make your notes BE SURE that you are writing short non-judgmental notes - DON'T let the 'solution' make the 'problem' worse.

For instance, consider the combination of a build of emotions coming from consecutive losses which are also occurring during congestion - write notes similar to these on your card:

a build in emotions may come from a series of quick consecutive losses
quick consecutive losses often come from trading inside of congestion
are your losses 'base' congestion method trades OR are you overtrading
there is nothing wrong with 'base' method trade loses
your trading results are fine when you 'base' method trade

Now consider the same situation BUT different notes:

don't be a stupid idiot and overtrade congestion like you always do
you are going to lose your ass and end up with another losing day like usual
you do this same crap every day and the same thing happens
you have no reason to even trade if this is all that you are going to do


Remain Neutral

Remain neutral - another note for your index cards.

Another approach may be to write notes that include the things you can remember yourself doing or feeling as you transition from acceptable emotion to tpsych spiraling, for instance: shortness of breath - sweating - squirming in your chair - unable to sit down. AND as the spiraling becomes more intense: cussing - screaming - throwing things - breaking things. UNTIL the spiraling is out of control: panic - desperation. Clearly, there is a whole list of physical responses to uncomfortable emotional situations; realizing them as they occur may be a step in controlling them before they ‘take-over’ and lead to spiraling.

Be Aware

I want to know the potential for the spiraling situation. It is VERY important to acknowledge that you have emotions, and not try to ignore them or hide from them as a solution to the problem OR because you perceive them to be a sign of weakness. This actually will just make the situation worse. You are human - humans have emotions - emotions become more intense in more difficult situations. So, I don't need to know how I am going to have responded as I go out of control. I do need to know, and have something to remember, and/or think about, that can keep this from happening - that can keep me as neutral as possible, in what would be the more difficult trading periods – something that will 'push' me back to tmethod AND 'away' from tpsych.

WHAT does traderC do?

traderC is the trader who remains the most neutral in winning and losing; the most neutral in all situations. It's this neutrality that becomes essential in keeping the emotions from becoming a trading psychology spiral, as the trader can 'accurately' evaluate their losses in terms of method. This trader will only trade their most 'base' method setups after any difficult period AND IF these lose, so be it, that possibility has already been accepted. Go on to the next method trade – it probably will be a winner.


About the Author: Barry Lutz has been trading, as well as teaching others to trade since 1997, through his firm Tactical Trading, LLC., http://www.tactrade.com. He also writes a daily trading teaching lesson called the Trade Journal, which can be found, along with other resources on trading psychology and trading method at The Tactical Trader, http://www.tactrading.com.




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