What can you do about your emotions as they apply to trading and investing? Of all the books and papers I have read or written on trading psychology, there is one aspect that stands out most clearly to me. This is the condition of living in the past. I believe that this is one of the most significant obstacles to trading success.
Why? Because the brain remembers. The brain imprints loss or gain in a “memory” area called the temporal lobe, and generates fear or greed as a result of it. The larger the loss or the gain, the greater the neuronal imprint becomes. Losses are imprinted as fear and gains are imprinted as greed. Both are equally destructive to further success with trading.
The real culprit is memory. It is the memory of losses or gains that stay with the unsuccessful trader, causing continual mental sabotage and inability to move forward.
The best traders forget about a loss the minute they take it and move on. They are confident in their system and their ability to execute it. It is not about the money for these people. It is about finding a system that will bring them more profits than losses. The best traders know how to take losses and not become depressed, angry, jealous, disgusted or defeated. They know how to take gains without gloating, boasting, or becoming euphoric. They see only the trade they are about to enter---not the trade that just ended or the one that might be coming in the future. All past trades are out of sight and out of mind. All future trades are an illusion.
This is a really difficult thing to do, but it must be done in order to move forward. If you are unable to detach from the past and the future, you will continue to be a victim of fear and greed.
Fear doesn't form in a vacuum. It is a learned response to a particular event or probability. In the case of trading, when you have a trade that goes bad, the regret and frustration can carry over into the next trade. Often, the fear is so consuming, that you don't enter your next trade. Of course, Murphy's Law dictates that the trade you don't enter is the one you should have entered, which only compounds the existing emotional anguish.