Psychotherapist For High Achievers Anxiety & Stress Expert Specialist in Extreme Pressure Environments London & Birmingham

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Trading Psychology

How does fear affect your decision making when it comes to trading?


The perception is that the elite of the trading world seem to have one thing in common - that they all operate without one specific element - fear.

Certainly some of the most successful traders of all time, have said this is the precise trait that gives them their edge. The differential between themselves and other exceptional traders.

Most traders have seen the show Billions, and if they have, they will remember the scene where the character Wendy Rhoades, a Performance coach and Psychologist, is in a therapy session with a character called Danzig, and she says -

“You are tuned in to the one yelling at you over the loudspeaker that you are fucking stupid and your performance blows and you are ignoring the quiet one, inside, telling you where the alpha is. Now, that’s the voice that got you here and it’s still there if you are willing to listen. What’s that voice telling you?”

My work is fundamentally the same as Wendy - it’s my job to get you operating in the space where you make better decisions, and ultimately make more money.

However although I have been called “The real life Wendy Rhoades” many times, in fact some clients do just call me Wendy, there are a couple of significant distinctions between myself and the character in the show.

The main one being that on top of the traditional psychology I use in my sessions, I also use some pretty mind blowing techniques.

Techniques that have the ability to remove issues that are the cause of 90% of your negative outcomes, and the reason you make the decisions that you afterwards regret. Oh and the other is that I don’t tend to get you standing up and thumping your chest!

Utilising Neuroplasticity and Neuropsychology to form a unique style therapy that is based on the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience, I work with clients to achieve the optimal mindset to perform and ultimately give them that edge.

These techniques are so powerful they have since earned me a different nickname - “The Wizard”.

Of course it’s not always a Portfolio Manager having a confidence crisis – although obviously that is not uncommon, and once it happens it can be a slippery slope if it isn't sorted out (which of course we can) - but it is the issue of fear that is the absolute game changer.

Fear, in some degree, is experienced by everyone working the world of investment and risk. Anyone trading at banks, or hedge funds.
Anyone in the midst of potentially losing, or gaining, anything, from a significant amount of money, or in fact, just their reputation, will feel it - and this is where this style of work can really make an impact.

A traditional Trader Performance Coach would be working on a conscious level, and would be looking at behaviour and discussing how you feel, and how those feelings cause errors.

An Investment coach is looking purely at the technical side of trading.

A Trading Psychologist works to understand why you keep repeating the same patterns, and keep making the same mistakes. Those patterns need to be deleted.

I work with clients to actually switch off the feelings causing the problems. The impact being they stop making bad decisions out of fear, and create a 'Vulcan' mindset. The mindset needed to be in that top percentile.

Most of my clients are already exceptional. They know what they are doing - they just need that ability to always trade in their conscious, rational, smart brain to move into that space of the elite.

'Fear' of missing out, 'Fear' of walking away too soon, 'Fear' of losing, 'Fear' of looking stupid, ' 'Fear' that you aren't as good as you believe you are, 'Fear' of letting people down - the common theme is obvious.

Fear is the issue. It is fear that ultimately causes major losses - because fear will cause you to make decisions that are not always logical. Remove the fear, and that can make the difference in becoming part of the elite.

When fear strikes, and it does, even to the veterans, it causes you to act impulsively, because you feel you need to take action.
You could normally be the most measured, calm and collected individual, but then you’re hit with a ‘perceived threat’ (the market moving and not in the direction you need) and it kicks in.

Then what happens is the connection to your Prefrontal Cortex (your rational intellectual part of the brain) is hijacked - and when that happens, you don't have access to the area of the brain you need.

You are then making decisions purely based on emotion and that is why in these instances, the moves you make might not be your greatest!

So how is it that some players seem to have the ability to stay calm - even when it hits the fan. They can sit it out. They hold their nerve. They don't feel panic. There is no self-doubt - they back themselves 100%.

They have manged to create a mindset that is optimum for the role - a place that seems impossible. They will no doubt have worked with a Trading Psychologist.

The human brain is designed to respond to uncertainty and ambiguity, by trying to create some certainty. So if you get out of a position, when you were meaning to be holding it, you will get an instant feeling of ease, it feels instantly better, for a brief moment – until you think “what the hell did I do that for?"

So that is where I come in… I can stop that fear.

We work with the brain processes - and that is a really important distinction here, in that we are working with the brain, not the mind.

So when there is a ‘Perceived threat’ – the primitive brain, produces adrenaline; a helpful hormone when it comes to fear, as it helps keep you alive, but it also has the ability to suspend both logic and reason.

A valuable hormone in the day when we often came face to face with a sabre-toothed tiger. Instead of having around to consider if the tiger looked hungry, you just got the hell out of there. Not so helpful in your current day, at the same time that logic goes out the window, along goes your strategy and your intellect too.

You are now making decisions emotionally, prior to the conscious logic and input.

The pressure for a trader is immense, every day you are either winning or losing. If you are constantly monitoring the market, you are essentially sending a signal to brain to say “watch out” - so you can feel like you are continually on high alert.

So if you can learn to operate in a calm state, you will have the upper hand, the ultimate psychological edge.

The trouble is, you cannot do this yourself, because the mechanism in your brain is too fast. It happens before you even know it is happening.

There are several areas of your brain involved in the early processing.

The Brain Stem, the Amygdala, which is where our fight and flight response gets switched on, and our Cerebellum.

The Cerebellum is really the brain’s secret powerhouse, it is our central processing unit, it is packed with more neurons than all the other brain regions put together and home to a super-fast wiring system.

It always looking at data, ie; your surroundings and your situation, to check if it is ‘safe’, ‘unsafe’ or ‘needs further checking/information’ ie; ‘Uncertain’

It does this by continually referring back to every single event that has ever taken place in your life, without you knowing or being aware, as this is all happening prior to your Cortex (the logical rational part of your brain) even receiving the data.

So if when any data that is similar to any previous ‘emotionally charged’ data it will perceive another threat and turn on the fight and flight response.

If that previous data is seen to be ‘unsafe’ this is where conflict arises. You think you know what you should do, but you feel you have to do something else, to go against that. You might just instantly make a rash decision, and then afterwards think “why did I do that?"

By removing fear, you learn to distinguish intuition from impulse, and you think more clearly.

Decisions are no longer driven by emotions such as fear of missing out, fear of regret, or more personal narratives, such as the need to be smart.

You start to make better decisions, even under extraordinary pressure – you are able to fully execute your strategy and achieve next-level success.

You know your brain is your most valuable asset - it’s time to invest in it.


Corporate Therapist

Sarah partners with organisations on a temporary or on-going basis, working in-house as a Corporate Therapist, giving the team access to therapy sessions at a frequency that suits the need.

A corporate therapy session is similar to a private session.

Working with organisations who want to gain the advantage of benefits that Neuropsychology offers, to create optimal human functioning to consistently perform.

A Corporate Therapist / Psychotherapist (or Performance Coach as some organisations like to position it with their teams) can have a profound impact.

An in-house therapist is there to keep the brilliant and ambitious individuals functioning at their peak.

This gives a truly competitive advantage. Research shows that positively-wired brains can boost productivity by up to 31%, and are three times more creative than negatively wired ones.

Sessions can take place in-house or at Sarah's office in Central London or Birmingham.

Talented people can only do their best when they feel their best.


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