Changing How We Cope - Changing How We Cope Brett N...

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Changing How We Cope Brett N. Steenbarger, Ph.D. www.brettsteenbarger.com Note: A version of this article was submitted to Trading Markets on 10/20/05 In my last article, and the first of this two-part series, I introduced the topics of stress and coping. We saw that stress is intrinsic to trading--and to all activities that involve high degrees of risk and uncertainty. Whether this stress becomes chronic distress, however, is a function of our coping. People utilize a variety of coping styles, including emotion- focused, problem-focused, and avoidant strategies. These methods for dealing with threat are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. Most often, when they are problematic, it is because they have become fixed and rigid. At one time in life, they may have served a useful purpose. Now, however, they bring unwanted consequences. Many traders are aware of behavior patterns that consistently lose them money and can't understand why they repeat these patterns despite their awareness. This is the fundamental dilemma that brings people to psychologists: knowing your problem patterns is necessary for change, but not sufficient . Addicts, for example, are typically quite aware of their problems. What waxes and wanes is their emotional connection to the consequences of these problems. To some degree, we are all addicts: we act on habit. Knowing our bad habits and sustaining the awareness to avoid and change them are very different challenges. Often, frustrated by their inability to change their patterns--and the perverse tendency to repeat costly mistakes--traders become armchair psychologists and conclude that they harbor, deep within themselves, a desire to fail. Repetitive patterns are self-defeating, but this doesn't mean that traders have a hidden urge to do themselves in. In fact, just the
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