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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

What Makes Traders Trade? and How It is Changing in the Digital Age

Over the past ten years I have worked with a number of oil traders in my clinical practice who have sought help with their trading. Beginning with the husband of a colleague, who thought I might be helpful, at one point I was seeing as many as four. Over the years a total of about ten traders have come through my office. Recently, one of them told me that I had come to be known as 'the shrink to the Merc.' That was an exaggeration, no doubt, though it speaks to the fact that my presence among these men was hardly a secret. They spoke freely with each other of the help they felt they got from their conversations with me. ''Invariably we focused on the problems traders faced in making money - more importantly not losing huge sums. A good commodities trader can make one, two or even twenty million dollars a year, though many on the margins make less. On the other hand, sudden shifts in the market can cause the bigger players to lose several hundred thousand dollars in an hour. Several I saw had gone through dramatic reversals, losing millions of dollars, forced to sell their homes or liquidate other assets; they were in debt to the IRA, or to the trading houses that stood behind them. Many who came to see me felt out of control, unable to get in the groove that for them meant profit and success. Some were bewildered; they knew they made mistakes but why? And how could they stop themselves? How could things go so suddenly against them? What were they doing wrong? ''In the beginning, not knowing about trading myself, I felt handicapped. I did not even understand the lingo: I had no idea what a 'spread' was or a 'position,' a 'Dec-May' or a 'butterfly' or a 'crack.' I still don't. But I quickly learned that knowledge of the mechanics of trading was irrelevant. What really mattered to the traders was their ability to think clearly and to adapt to the mercurial changes in the market - and what mattered to me was my ability to attune to the motivations that affected the agility of their thinking.'