Trading, Money & Mental Health

· 5 min read
Trading, Money & Mental Health

Money. The very word is dripping in emotions, hopes, dreams and mental projections of "success".

In a society that values money, even at the cost of values and morals in some cases it can be almost impossible to reject the fact that we all want it, will do many things for it and that includes sacrificing our mental health. This can be a subversive process that is hard to label, spot and catch in the moment. Something drilled into us from the day we are born.

The absolute paradox of value and money is that the very thing you chase can be the thing that destroys you. I have chased money on several occasions and in parallel sacrificed relationships, time and most importantly, my mental health. Just like Icarus flew too close to the sun, I've lost sleep, jeopardized relationships and undermined my own ethics far too many times to count.

Although my relationship with money has evolved, in my early days I truly obsessed about:

  1. Not having enough
  2. Having too much
  3. My friends doing better than me
  4. Others doing better than me
  5. Not being the "alpha ape" that society expects from a trader and high performer.

This is an open blog about my struggle and small triumphs against obsession with money and how I learned to (and am still learning) to relate to it.

A Revelation from Psychotherapy

During my last visit with my psychologist (who is amaze-balls), I was asked the question. "Are you sure you don't have a gambling addiction".

I was totally dismissive of this point and jibed back, "Sure, as much as you are addicted to being a psychologist". Soon noticing how I was triggered from the very question. As I was about to move on she asked me a few pertinent questions:

  1. Do I lose sleep over my stock market positions?
  2. Can I go a day without checking the market?
  3. How do you feel when you lose?
  4. How do you feel when you win?
  5. Does is impact relationships?

I answered, initially politely but the conversation began heating up far quicker than anticipated. I was on the edge of my chair, body language suggesting defense mode and stopped on the spot. "Oh shit" I said out loud - soon recognizing a few painful behaviors that were becoming more habitual and noticeable in my life.

Having this behavior reflected back to me helped me bring it from my sub-conscious mind into my conscious. The really big question this brought up was "why do I even care?".

It was a revelation at the time where I realized, most of my FOMO trades, stemmed directly from a social comparison or trap which I constructed for myself around "money" instead of process, excellence and self-development.

Mo' Money Mo Problems

I quickly noticed that I was exhibiting signs of gambling addiction, losing valuable sleep and the irony was that I was trading worse and becoming obsessive about the money instead of the journey and learning.

Having had a few successful years back to back in stocks and crypto, the initial joy and exploration of trading was slowly being replaced with paranoia about how much I could make, how much I could lose and started becoming about other people vs me.

My initial me vs me (when I had little to lose so it wasn't a big deal) had now turned into an extrinsically focused nightmare. What's worse, I did not recognize it until the patterns were formed and am still in the middle of weening myself away from checking crypto 24/7.

I came to a few realizations that I wanted to inspect and weed out of my psychology:

  1. Feeling like net worth defined who I am, very deceptive and insidious
  2. Becoming a slave to the market instead of letting the market just be.... a market!
  3. Separating relationships and trading - do not give you friends tips or take tips from them unless you are fully accountable
  4. Living in the real word more and walking away from the monitor now and then
  5. Looking at wealth, health and happiness holistically

To successfully execute and go back to basics and the "joy of trading" I embarked on a new mini trading rehab which I may suggest for others.

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Trading Rehab

A few promises I made to myself to rekindle the joy of trading and reconnect with the outside world were as follows:

  1. Leaving my phone in another room when I went to sleep. The easiest way to avoid checking prices and futures
  2. Taking at least 1 full day per week totally away from all screens, phone, laptop, desktop and otherwise and hitting the mountains
  3. Trading far less. This was when it started coming together again. When I trade less and look at the screen less, I tend to make more money. Again, the paradoxes in action
  4. Putting large profits into longer term investments and building a base of assets from which to take risks, including properties and long term investments
  5. Getting my wife to do our long term buys to avoid mixing strategies and pensions etc and not mixing strategies
  6. Indexing crypto currency as part of an overall "barbell" strategy as opposed to trading everything
  7. Staying away from social media or at least reducing it by a wide margin
  8. Not reading news in the evenings before bed
  9. Micro-dosing

I wrote last week about building the basics before you trade and soon realized just how far I had gone with trading and investing.

The foundation for any good, sustainable long term success is really taking care of your mental health .

My unhealthy obsession with money became what lost me money and I was not taking care of myself and rewarding both my wife and I for being prudent, investing well and learning a lifelong skill that meant I could make money in almost any environment.

This blog is short and sweet to all of my fellow traders, ambitious business people and those looking for success in money.

Success has nothing to do with how much money you have, it's about the relationship you have with money, people and most importantly yourself. If you become paranoid and build a shelter based on fear and obsession - even if you get rich financially you will be the most broke person alive.

You are not your trading account. You are a complex being with an infinitesimally small probability of being alive - our very existence is a black swan event.  The very chance of you reading this is evidence of something greater than money, authority and fear. Take care of yourself and remember we trade because we love it and it keeps us learning!

Back to basics. Back to what is real...

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