Have you ever gotten angry while trading? We all do. Maybe the market moved unexpectedly and you blew your top. Perhaps your stop was taken and the market moved in your direction, but now you’re not on board! Maybe you became distracted and missed a great trade. Many things can trigger anger. You can’t always avoid it. Anger is a natural human emotion.
Acting Out with Anger
It is not anger itself but what you do with anger that’s important. Once feelings of anger arise, traders may get caught up in the anger and act out unskillfully. A “revenge trade” may be placed, with the trader thinking, “I’ll show the market who’s the boss!” How often has that worked? You may oversize a position in frustration of what you are experiencing, or act out in other ways. Kicking the cat (who is, of course, innocent in all of this), throwing things, and spitting at the computer screen have all been reported by angry traders.
There are better ways.
An Awesome Way to Regain Your Composure
You can cool down more quickly and minimize the damage to yourself, your trading account and innocent others with a brief mindfulness break. Mindfulness is awesome for anger. It can be deployed at any moment, helping you to calm down, refresh, and re-start your trading with a clear mind.
Mindfulness doesn’t try to suppress or control the anger in any way. We actually turn towards our anger and lean into it. This is counterintuitive and some may find this difficult to grasp. With mindfulness, we seek to look closely at our emotion – examine it, not get rid of it. When it comes to strong emotions like anger, a wise psychologist once said, “you will either have it or it will have you.” Mindfulness lets us have it skillfully.
Steps to Take
Here are five steps you can take to address anger:
1. Take a Break. If possible, get up from your trading desk and go to another room or outdoors for a few minutes. If you can’t leave the trading desk, mentally disconnect from the screen and your surroundings.
2. Map the Anger. Where do you feel the anger? In your gut? Your chest? Across the shoulders? Once located, note how it feels. Get specific. Does it feel hot, cold, prickly, numbness, tension, throbbing, sharp, hard. Everyone experiences anger differently. Also note how the sensations change. Notice if they grow or diminish in intensity, fluctuate, and shift around.
3. Label What You Feel. Name the most prominent sensation. It may feel like hot throbbing in your stomach. Silently say to yourself “Hot throbbing,” and let your attention rest on this sensation, even if it feels uncomfortable.
4. Become Friendly with the Feeling. This sounds odd, but remember, feelings like this are normal and the more we don’t want a feeling, the more we will have it. In your mind’s eye, see if you can hold the sensation like a mother or father holds a child—with love and kindness. As you hold the feeling in this way, see what happens to it.
5. Acceptance. Accept the fact that you are human and have emotions like anger. If you tend to get down on yourself for becoming angry, take a moment to forgive yourself. Blaming yourself for getting angry isn’t helpful and only serves to perpetuate an unconstructive cycle of high emotion, poor trading and self-criticism (you already know this, right?).
Leaning into anger, noting the sensations, and giving them a little ‘loving-kindness’ are counterintuitive, but will go a long way in helping yourself handle this common human emotion skillfully.