Few people are likely to understand self sabotage more than traders. While it’s an innate tendency in almost all of us, traders get to experience it more often and more directly than most others. If you’ve traded for any period of time, you know what I’m talking about. It seems like whenever things start to go well, you find a way to mess it up. It almost feels like you want yourself to fail. But how could that be? Who would want themselves to fail?
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. – Marianne Williamson
This quote may be the very thing that helps you understand your tendency to sabotage yourself. Marianne Williamson is an author who has ventured deep into the human psyche in her writings on spirituality. What she’s bringing to our attention here, is that what we often fear most is not failure, but success. Of course this is completely unconscious. No one goes out there and thinks “man, it sure would be scary if I succeeded, made lots of money, and got everything I wanted.” Consciously, most of us want very much to succeed. But it’s not the conscious mind that is in control.
Of course, the natural question that arises at this point is: why do we have this unconscious fear? And the most basic answer provided by psychology and the great spiritualities is that we all carry around unconscious guilt. Deep down, we believe we are lacking in some way and that we don’t deserve to receive abundance in any form. However, the reality is that we indeed are powerful beyond measure and do deserve great success. But it’s hard to accept that because it conflicts with our unconscious beliefs. And nothing is more uncomfortable to a person than having reality conflict with their beliefs. We’ll do anything in our power to alter reality so that it comes back into synch with our beliefs. In the world of trading, this translates into doing those things that cause losses whenever you’re up a lot of money, because succeeding like that is uncomfortable and causes internal resistance.
If you’ve experienced that nagging feeling that something feels wrong when you do very well, that’s the resistance in action. If you suddenly stop doing what made you successful just as you’re really succeeding, that’s the resistance in action. It’s not always obvious. In fact it’s usually quite subtle. But it’s there in most people, and now you have an idea why. It’s just something that is a deep part of the human psyche.
But having said that, what do you do about it? Well, like I’ve mentioned a few times before on this blog, there is great power in awareness. It has a momentum of its own. So next time you experience these signs of self sabotage coming up, instead of fighting them- which is the natural reaction- simply watch them with awareness. Recognize that they’re normal and don’t judge yourself for having them. When you bring what’s unconscious into the realm of conscious awareness without fighting or judging it, it loses its power over you. You’ll now have a means of severing that link between it and the actions you take. And this is the key. You have to realize that you may never get rid of the unconscious fear of succeeding, but that doesn’t mean that it has to keep leading to sabotage. Awareness severs that link between it and automatic action, and then you can use the power of choice to accept the success and not sabotage yourself out of it.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Have you experienced self sabotage in trading before? What form did it take? Do you have any techniques that you use to deal with it? Your comments are welcomed.