there it was—that juicy signal that all traders experience only
a few times each year.
And, this one was a gem!
My breathing started to quicken and deepen, almost to the
point of hyperventilation.
I had to wipe my brow with my hand.
I then dried my hand on my shirt because my brow was
already wet again.
feeling I had was highly motivating.
I was ready to act.
But I also noticed a knot in my solar plexus.
It was like a heavy hand pressing against my chest.
I felt motivated and yet paralyzed at the same time.
“How could this happen so quickly?” I asked myself.
My vision seemed blurred, and my hands shook.
started to take action and my body began to sway, so I threw
myself back into the chair.
Crying inside, I knew I couldn’t do it.
“Wait until I calm down,” I anguished, but the market
started to move just as I knew it would.
Yet I was still frozen.
I felt ashamed and very much alone.
concepts about the nature of the mind and body are changing
of you already understand how people create their own reality,
including their mental states, through the beliefs they adopt.
However, our new beliefs do not necessarily have any more
“reality” than old ones.
As a result, the most important criterion for such new
beliefs is their utility—how useful those beliefs are to us.
new belief that is very useful for understanding how people can
deal with feelings is to assume that the mind is not just
localized in the brain, but throughout the body.
And if your mind is located throughout your body, then so
are your feelings.
Let’s look at the evidence for this belief.
First of all, your nervous system travels throughout your
can move the muscles in your fingers and toes.
You have sensations throughout your body.
scientists have discovered a set of chemicals in the brain and
nervous system called neuropeptides.
Receptors to these chemicals occur in the nervous system,
the endocrine system (which is responsible for secreting hormones
that often have a major effect on moods and emotions), and the
The cells of these systems are located throughout the body.
Thus, your immune and endocrine systems are constantly
eavesdropping in on the messages you give yourself.
Every thought, feeling, emotion, desire—every internal
representation you make—is experienced throughout your body.
if you pay attention to your feelings, you will notice they are
located throughout your body.
Let’s try an exercise.
about a situation that made you emotional.
Bring back some of that internal feeling.
Notice where you feel it.
Although you may feel some sensations in your head, most of
you probably experienced feelings in your body—especially along
the midline in your chest and stomach.
point is that your whole body feels.
Is Organized Around Feelings
are important to the organization of your experience.
First of all, memories are strongly linked to feelings.
Evidence suggests that feelings are stored in the body in
the form of Condensed Experiences or COEXs, for short.
The COEX was coined by Dr. Stanislov Grof to describe the
phenomenon he observed in his research on how feelings were
released under altered states of consciousness such as psychedelic
drugs and, more recently, hyperventilation.1
example, someone working on a fear issue might have an experience
that includes: a painful rejection experience, a feeling of
pressure in the chest, an image of a parent about to beat them
with a strap, a certain body posture with its associated feeling,
a harsh wounding voice yelling loudly, and an image of a group of
boys ready to attack.
entire complex of internal representations is a typical example of
what Grof calls a COEX.
For example, there is lots of psychological evidence to
suggest that when someone goes into any particular mental state,
they will recall any event related to that state.
Thus, if someone imagines a situation in which they would
become angry, they can easily recall the entire complex of
memories related to being angry.
addition, COEX might also include a number of beliefs.
Feelings, even if we are not conscious of them, underlie
everything we know.
When we are cut off from our feelings, it becomes much more
difficult to make mental connections.
Thus, feelings may be the organizers of the mind and of the
Gray and LaViolette2
assume that consciousness is located in “the structure and
relation between the feelings themselves.”
In other words, consciousness is transcendent.
The brain is simply a blender that allows feeling tones to
feel and affect themselves and thereby to mix themselves into
complex concoctions—namely, our thoughts.
interpreting from his feeling-tone model, argues that there are
two basic forms of emotional/cognitive imbalance.
The first form amounts to being driven by emotions.
This might occur when emotions are locked into the body and
continually strive to express themselves.
The second form of imbalance amounts to being cut off from
Driven by Emotion: Knots in the Body
you simply experienced each feeling as it occurred, you would have
few problems with feelings.
You would just feel!
Unfortunately, what most people do is judge their feelings.
feelings about people and events are thought to be strictly
inner emotional states are thought to be best kept separate from
our actions. Often,
we are told that the intelligent way to make decisions is to keep
your feelings out of it.
And it is practically an unwritten law for traders not to
feel their feelings.
Yet it is very practical and useful for traders to be
willing to feel their feelings.
tend to judge some feelings to be good and acceptable.
They judge other feelings as being bad and to be avoided.
For example, if someone tells
you a humorous story and you feel like laughing, that is
judged to be “good,” and you are willing to laugh until the
feeling is complete and out of your body.
On the other hand, if you feel angry or fearful or some
other “undesirable” feeling, then you will probably attempt to
suppress that feeling.
When you were angry as a child, one of your parents, who
was probably having a problem dealing with anger, told you that
your expression of anger was not appropriate.
As a result, you learned to suppress that feeling.
happens when you suppress a feeling because you judge it to be
COEX associated with that feeling becomes tied into a knot of some
knot actually traps the feeling in your body.
Most of you have many such knots in your body.
These are COEXs, such as the one described above, plus any
judgments we have about the feeling.
you have such a knot in your body, it will be full of suppressed
feeling striving to express itself.
It is like you have created a part whose positive intention
for you is to avoid feeling the feeling that you have judged to be
happens, however, is that the part continually creates
interpretations of environmental events to justify feeling those
look at an example of how this one might work.
that you are a teenager.
You notice a very attractive person of the opposite sex.
You approach that person with the intention of asking for a
this person wants nothing to do with you and says, “I would
never go out with anyone like you.”
You feel massive rejection inside of you.
You judge that feeling to be negative, and you suppress the
feeling as much as you can.
Suddenly you decide, “I never want to feel this feeling
a result, you establish a part of you that has the positive
intention to never be rejected again.
But what happens?
This part starts looking for environmental conditions that
might produce rejections.
As a result, it begins to interpret external events in such
a way to create rejection for you continually.
You may even begin to think of that part of you as some
sort of devil within you.
see how this might work.
Suppose, a couple of days later, you see another attractive
person you would like to meet.
You start to approach this person, but your new part starts
to release some of that stored feeling of rejection, saying, “If
you get too close, you might experience a rejection feeling like
are, you would avoid that person, suppress the feeling, and just
make your “rejection” knot even tighter.
let’s assume that you keep approaching this person.
As you get closer, the part starts releasing more and more
of that rejection feeling.
By the time you get within conversation range, you feel
worse than you felt when you were actually rejected—and this new
attractive person has done nothing at all.
If you actually still have enough courage to talk, you
would probably look down and in a very shy and undesirable tone of
voice say, “You wouldn’t want to go out with me, would you?”
Such an invitation is almost certain to produce the
response you expected—rejection.
As a result, the rejection knot within you becomes even
are you will have difficulty ever approaching anyone again.
In addition, you will be continually experiencing rejection
in your life. This
part of you, in trying to avoid rejection, will continually
interpret environmental situations as possible threats that might
In doing so, it will continually produce that feeling.
how does this apply to trading, you might ask?
Well, almost any emotion you have stored in your body can
find some justification for expression through trading.
If you have anger, you can find lots of reason to be anger
at the market or your broker or your computer or something.
And it’s never you.
It’s always "them" producing the feeling, even
though it really comes form emotions stored in your body.
you do not want to feel fear, then chances are you will have a
knot in your body associated with fear.
And can you think of any better vehicle than the market
about which to create fear?
Of course not!
In fact, your interpretation of what is going on in the
market is an excellent way to justify any feeling.
can become “afraid” to pull the trigger.
You can become “afraid” of a position that goes against
you even a tick.
You can become “afraid” of a position moving in your
favor—it might turn around and you might lose your profits.
In other words, the part of you that does not want to
experience fear can use the market to come up with any number of
situations through which it can anticipate being fearful.
And, as it anticipates being fearful in each situation, you
actually feel fear being released from the COEX.
Thus, the part that wants to avoid fear actually produces
fear in the process of trying to avoid it.
do you know if you have trapped feelings?
Here are two sample exercises.
think about an experience that you judge to be negative.
When you think about that experience, do you still feel
so, then you still have trapped feelings in the COEX that includes
do you have any particular negative emotions that come up
frequently for you?
Have you noticed any particular pattern to these negative
so, then this is a good indication that something needs to be
you can learn about the existence of your knots through these two
exercises, this whole process of learning how you create your
emotions and your reality is an ongoing exercise in awareness.
Most people have numerous emotional knots that they know
very little about.
And when you release the trapped feelings in one knot, the
process will probably bring other knots to the surface.
summary, if you judge your feelings, which all of us do as human
beings, you will find that you wish to avoid certain
Since you consider these negative feelings undesirable, you
tend to suppress them in the body.
As a result, they become locked into the body as
so-called knots continually create the very emotions that the
person is trying to avoid.
“Not” Feeling Feelings
equally serious problem—perhaps more so in terms of health—is
the situation in which a person totally cuts off from their
condition is known as alexithymia (meaning “without words for
call it the John Wayne syndrome because John Wayne helped develop
the “image” that real men do not express their feelings.
severe trauma, cutting off your feelings is useful.
For example, under severe psychological trauma, such as
combat stress, people learn to totally cut themselves off from
Combat veterans with alexithymia can clearly describe the
incident that resulted in a conscious decision to suppress their
experience of emotion.3
also may result from a turbulent childhood, rigid family
structures, or from families in which emotions are considered
the ability to stifle feelings in order to carry out a particular
task is present in everyone.
However, when this condition persists, it can become a
severe problem for any individual.
one of our workshops there was an attendee who was clearly
what he did for a living?
He was a skydiving instructor and he estimated that he’d
done over 17,000 jumps.
My guess is that something traumatic had happened, but that
without the alexithymia, he would have to give up his profession.
does cutting yourself off from feelings affect trading?
Typically, my clients with this problem express symptoms
such as not being able to pull the trigger, but they cannot
understand these problems since they do not feel anything.
They complain of interpersonal conflicts that affect their
trading or their business in the long run.
Or in some cases, they just complain of a general sense of
malaise that seems to have a major impact upon their trading.
In each case, they notice what is happening, but they do
not understand it.
traders still feel emotions, but only at the extremes.
While the average trader might feel very stressed, the
alexithymic trader will just feel a mild sense of discomfort.
Nevertheless, emotions for such a trader can build up like
a volcano. A
trader with a mild sense of irritation over a period of time may
suddenly find himself responding with full-blown anger.
Similarly, a trader who normally only experiences a mild
sense of anxiety may suddenly find himself experiencing a
full-blown state of panic.
Thus, the alexithymic trader will only experience a mild
sense of discomfort or a full-blown volcanic eruption of emotion.
Emotions in the middle ranges are suppressed.
addition, the suppressed feelings will probably manifest
themselves in some manner other than emotions.
For example, there is a strong tendency for the emotions to
manifest themselves as a dis-ease process.
Thus, the alexithymic trader may experience a mild illness,
a mental breakdown, or even the build-up of a severe health
problem such as the potential for bleeding ulcers, a heart attack,
alexithymic trader will only have limited effectiveness in his or
her trading life.
This means he or she will show a lack of focus or
sharpness in his or her trading.
Intuitive skills, which depend highly on inner awareness,
will be lost. Since
intellectual skills, at least according to the Gray-LaViolette
Feeling-Tone model, depend on subtle feelings, these skills will
be much more dull in the trader who has suppressed his or her
the alexithymic trader will have greatly-reduced or negligible
Dealing with other people involves handling emotions.
People who have suppressed their ability to even feel
emotions will be severely handicapped in this area.
In fact, an alexithymic person would be hard-pressed to
explain most positive emotions, such as love, except in very
As a result, they lead more hollow lives.
can you determine if you suffer from some form of alexithymia?
Recall a number of different stressful experiences you have
First, think about a recent interpersonal stress
episode: a quarrel, a confrontation, a period of grief, the loss
of a relationship, etc.
Next, think about a business stress episode:
a professional conflict, not trading well, or a period of
think about a crisis situation: being the victim of a
crime, having a very large market loss, or being involved in an
was more true for you?
Did you just experience the situation with only a vague
sense of discomfort?
Or were you very aware of intense feelings?
The first reaction is alexithymic.
you had an alexithymic response to any of the episodes you
recalled, then think about what happened later.
Was this reaction temporary or did it last a long time?
For example, did your emotions come to the surface as soon
as the situation was resolved?
Did they come to the surface much later or did they never
The longer it takes for the emotions to surface, the more
severe your alexithymic reaction.
forms of psychotherapy assume that major psychological problems are
preceded by some Significant Emotional Experience (SEE)4
is judged to be negative and that is very intense.
It is fully associated and highly charged.
The potential of a negative SEE to create mental or physical
problems is based on the trapped emotions which remain stored in the
body in the form of a knot as described above.
Most forms of psychotherapy attempt to undo the effects of
the SEE by talking about it.
important term needed in our model for producing change is the First
Event or the Root Cause of the emotion.
This root cause is the primary event, usually one that
happened in the first five years of life, which sets the stage for
the SEE to have a major effect.
For example, if you have a problem with rejection and can
remember your fiancé telling you she didn’t want you, then that
experience is a SEE for you.
if you traced the emotion of “rejection” back in time, you might
find out that while you were in your mother’s womb you experienced
negative vibrations from your mother because one of your parents
(perhaps both) did not want another child.
It is that First Event or Root Cause that sets you up so that
rejection is a major issue in your life.
of my clients was born around the start of World War II.
His father went off to war and did not return to the family.
Instead, he got a divorce and remarried.
His mother did her best to raise the two children, but
eventually showed up on her ex-husband’s doorstep and said, “I
cannot do it; they are yours.”
As a result, he remembered being raised by his father and
major SEE occurred when his step-mother led him around by the ear,
saying he was no good, and that she did not want him.
As a result of this experience, he became alexithymic.
He felt a tremendous hatred for his step-mother, but all that
emotion was contained in a bubble that he could not access.
It influenced all aspects of his life—including his
had worked with a number of therapists in an attempt to break
through that bubble, including traditional psychotherapists and
step-mother saying that she did not want him was a good example of a
root cause was his mother giving him up in the first place.
Moreover, he had not placed a bubble around the incident with
his mother. As
a result, when he had dealt with that, then the bubble around his
step-mother just collapsed.
brings us into more detail concerning the very effective procedures
that have now been developed to deal with these trapped emotions.
Those trapped emotions, when properly used, are the very key
to dealing with your suffering.
with Trapped Feelings
that symptoms (or emotions) resulting from some trauma or crisis
represent an immense opportunity for the individual.
Those emotions are not to be cut out, but experienced and
reflect the effort of the organism to free itself from old stresses
and emotional knots.
If you are willing to experience these symptoms, in a process
that Grof calls experiential psychotherapy, then you can convert
knots in the body into a healthy flow of energy.
advocates activation of the unconscious blocks through psychedelic
drugs or, more recently, through the use of inducing an altered
state of consciousness through hyperventilation.
there are much more direct techniques of getting rid of emotional
knots. In fact, you can use the conscious mind to directly access an
undesirable and unconscious pattern of emotions quickly. Then,
through a procedure of simply being willing to feel the feelings
that come up, you can release knots in a much shorter, more direct
method. The procedure has had startling results for people in our
seminars. We teach this process in both the Peak
Performance Home Study Course and in the Peak Performance 101
one person’s recollection of the experience.
first time I went through the feeling process of just feeling my
feelings, I was very apprehensive.
It seemed like letting my private self out to the world.
Your first demonstration seemed strange to me—that was not
the way I express my overload of feelings.
And the second demonstration that was even
stranger—laughter to the point of hysteria.
I could feel the tension being released in the laughter and
the anger that was in the laughter.
was very surprised at the different expressions of feelings, and
even though I know myself pretty well, I was anxious about my own
I had decided to work on the feeling of anger that I’m sure
holds me back as a trader.
But I could not dream of entering this private part of my
innermost myself without a strong feeling of trust for those around
I started the exercise, different visualizations came into my head
about past traumas.
A feeling started welling up inside of my chest.
It was like I was searching for the right feeling and
rejecting others that did not fit.
I did not understand at that moment was that the experience of the
exercise had to come without my conscious control of it.
At the moment I realized that, I visualized a scenario that
was very traumatic for me.
It was like a choking feeling in my throat and a shivering
feeling throughout my body.
The story was not anything anymore...the feeling was the
thing to go with.
I started recognizing, naming, and giving sensorial descriptions to
my feelings, they began to change.
It was different.
That process continued for three or four different sensations
until I got this overwhelming need to laugh.
It was not the uncontrollable laughter that I had experienced
in the demonstration, but a silly, giddy feeling about holding onto
these feelings. The
laughter subsided into little gurgles and a sense of relief came
over me like a cloud had floated overhead and just left.
I wasn’t sure what had happened, but there was a lightness
and completeness about the experience.
back on the experience, I no longer get angry at the market and my
trading is better as a result.
I am less critical of others and of myself.
I found more love in my life that I could give to others and
my anger just seems to be gone.
I doubt that I could have done it without the kind of support
that you gave me in the background.
No, I think it would have been impossible.
use this procedure in our workshops to help people make major
breakthroughs in their trading.
Why keep pain and emotions suppressed—hidden in darkness?
A hurricane is just as destructive in the darkness of night
as in the light of day.
you have a pain, notice your reactions to it.
If you resist it, hate it, fight it, or try to escape from it
with some frantic external activity, then you do not understand the
whole process. That
is why you suffer over and over again.
Unresolved pain gradually increases.
If your computer breaks down and you pretend that there is
nothing wrong, you will continue to have problems.
And you will also hate computers!
Why not just face the inner breakdown and correct it?