Monday, August 24, 2026

Chapter Four: Radically Renewing Our Relationships

In Chapters Two and Three we explored how roles that tap into our most fundamental values, interests, and talents can set us on new life trajectories.  We don't change simply by motivating ourselves or rehearsing self-help techniques.  We renew our lives by finding roles that tap into our passions.  These provide us with powerful mirrors that enable us to experience ourselves in new, energizing ways.  In short, we internalize our actions.  What we do shapes who we become.

Can this apply to our relationships?  Can we renew our romantic relationships?  Our relationships with our children and parents?  Our friendships?  How about our relationship to markets?

It turns out that one of the most powerful gateways to personal change lies in the radical renewal of our most meaningful relationships.

Let's take a look.

Finding Your Bond

There is a popular saying:  Use it or lose it.  If we don't use our muscles, they will atrophy.  If we don't exercise our minds, they become dull.  The same applies to our relationships.  If we don't grow and nurture them, they stagnate and wither.

What we've seen is that the great enemy of all renewal is routine.  This is especially true in relationships.  When couples first meet, everything is new.  Each activity is a shared adventure.  Time together is precious.  Too often, with the demands of work/career, maintaining a home, raising children, and keeping up with daily tasks, quality relationship time is shunted to the back burner, relegated to our leftover moments.  In those situations, after the day's work is done, each partner is too exhausted to engage in shared adventure.

Vacations can be special precisely because they allow us to vacate our routines.  We leave work and home, travel to new places, and engage in unique activities.  Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve car rides from Ohio to Florida and trips to the beach in winter.  Those were times together, when we most vividly experienced ourselves as a family.

This dynamic is no less common in friendships.  After a while, friends get together in the same ways, engage in similar conversations, and do the same things.  Many couples I know socialize with other couples by going out to eat and chatting about the latest events.  There is nothing wrong with that, but there is nothing renewing in it either. Same roles, same activities, similar settings.  It may fill time, but rarely does it nourish the heart, brain, or spirit.

Suppose friends took a course together, learned new things, and shared their insights.  What if a couple took an art class together?  An exercise class?  A cruise to new cultures and destinations?  Suddenly roles and activities shift.  That is when we are most likely to experience each other in fresh, exciting ways.

What is a honeymoon?  It is a structured activity for newly married couples when they go away and experience life as a couple.  Typically the location is special and the focus on each other is exclusive.  We make relationships special by doing special things together.

There is a deep psychological reason why honeymoons follow weddings:  The honeymoon punctuates the marriage commitment.  You vow to share your life with another person and then you follow through:  you share amazing experiences.  What better way to treat another person as if they're the most special person on earth?

Suppose we thought outside the box and decided that every anniversary was to be a renewal of vows and a honeymoon?  Now, every year, couples could invite their friends and family, reaffirm their commitment to one another, and spend amazing time together.  Every year you could be part of your friends' and siblings' renewal of bonds and they would be part of yours.  The specialness of marriage would become part of ongoing specialness.

The Spirituality of Relationships

True love takes us outside of ourselves.  When I deeply experience a bond with my wife or one of my children, there is no ego in that.  The feelings of specialness connect us to the present; there's no fretting over the past or concern about the future; no worries about profits and losses; no preoccupation with success or status.  When we're immersed in the present, connected to one we love, we access a different self.  That in itself is renewing.

When we love something, we lose our (small) selves.  True love, including a love of markets, is transcendent.  We cannot reach such a point if we treat the market as an adversary.

Recently, after enjoying a close time with family, I began trading during morning hours in New York.  There was unusually high volume, particularly for a holiday period, and there was elevated volatility.  I watched, assessed, then watched and assessed some more.  The ebb and flow of buying and selling just wasn't making sense to me.  Suddenly a strong feeling came over me.  "Don't do this to yourself," I thought to myself.  "You don't have to trade.  Nothing here is making sense."  So, I turned off my screens and spent the morning working on this book.

What was unusual about this episode is that I normally don't talk to myself in such a fashion.  My normal mode, if the market wasn't making sense, would have been to double down on finding patterns to trade.  After the close family time, however, my self-talk was more empathic.  I didn't need to trade, and there was no true edge that I could discern.  Being close to those I love helped me access a different set of motivations and perspectives.  Rather than get chopped up and enter the holiday frustrated, I did some good writing--and felt at peace with my decision.

One trader I worked with a little while ago reminded me of the no-drama llama.  Early on he informed me that he didn't like to put trades on.  He didn't enjoy placing his money at risk.  His default, therefore, was to not trade unless something so clear showed up that he absolutely had to trade it.  He loved markets, but disliked trading.  His joy was uncovering those occasions when everything lined up, across markets, across time frames.  It didn't happen often, but his win rate on those occasions was very high.  He was patient with the market the way we might be patient with a little child first learning to walk.  With that child, we accept that we will move at his or her pace:  there's no rush, no need to make something happen.  That was the trader's attitude toward markets.  Once he took the ego out of the equation and didn't need to trade, he was free to appreciate the market for what it had to offer.  Quite simply, he had a different relationship to markets than his peers.

But why not take it a step further?  Why couldn't every vacation for a couple be a honeymoon?  Why couldn't family vacations be family honeymoons?  The odd thing about my vividly remembering the family trips between Ohio and Florida is that those were long, long periods stuck in a car.  And yet I recall them with heartfelt fondness.  The time together made the experience special.

Bond is a verb, not just a noun.  We don't have bonds with people.  We bond with them.  What renews relationships is the act of bonding:  generating energizing ways to experience closeness.  Creating meaningful, shared experiences is a powerful gateway to renewed bonding.

How we approach markets determines our relationship to markets.  A central flaw of many traders is that they approach markets out of ego attachments, not out of an appreciation of the markets themselves.  If we formed human relationships on such a basis, those would not last long.  Too many traders are interested in trading markets before they truly get to know markets.  Often, they make the same mistake in pursuing human relationships.

But once love is achieved, it never dies.  It has to be killed.  A great way to strangle a relationship is to start with we and then focus on me.  I've known successful traders who lose it all once they bump up their trading size and risk-taking.  Once it becomes all about the P/L, all about the "me", the sensitivity to market patterns--the "we"--flies out the window.

Finding Your Deepest Bonding

Some of my most satisfying and meaningful bonds have been with the cats Margie and I have adopted.  For a long time that puzzled me.

All of our cats have been rescue animals and all but one has been female.  Most came to us challenged in some way.  Mollie was a neglected cat whose untreated eye disease left her blind.  Mia and Sofie were abandoned kittens picked up by Animal Control authorities and scheduled to be put down before they were rescued at the last minute.  No one wanted them because they were sick.  (Sofie, initially named Sakura, was only 26 ounces at 5 months of age, with chronic digestive problems).  Naomi, as we learned, was a neglected and mistreated kitten; Marlo, dropped off in a neighborhood by a family that no longer wanted her, came to us out of hunger.  Gina and Ginger were unwanted as well--a bonded pair stuck in a shelter.  They were no longer kittens and thus no longer of interest to people adopting.  Aries, like Mia, came to us from a kill shelter in rural Kentucky, where no one wanted to adopt a black cat.

All became incredibly loving, healthy family members, as Sofie's more recent picture below illustrates:

My day typically begins very early in the morning to follow financial markets and work with those overseas who trade and invest in them.  Before I tackle markets and emails, I greet each of the cats good morning, change their water and litter, and feed them their breakfast.  As I give each one their food, I say something loving and give a gentle stroking.

Do I do this because I'm such a wonderful person or because the cats need such coddling?  Absolutely not!  Strange as it may sound coming from a psychologist, for a long time I never really gave much thought to my routine.  All I knew is that the cats had been through a lot and now deserved to be loved and appreciated.

(As I have been writing this, Sofie brought her little rubber mouse to me and squealed.  This means that she wants me to throw the mouse so she can fetch it and bring it back to me.  I routinely drop everything I'm doing to play "mousie", which is one reason I get so little work done at home...)

But that was it:  because of their backgrounds, the cats evoke in me a profound sense of empathy.  I cannot raise my voice to them, even when Mia is chewing my papers or Sofie bites my chin in play.  Little Aries came to us as an active boy who had been alone much of the time in a small apartment.  Now he runs around the house playing tag with the girls, creating quite the racket.  What I feel toward them is like the tenderness we feel toward our children as babies.  Holding them, stroking them, loving them:  we're aware of their vulnerability and that awareness inspires empathy and deep bonding.

My work as a psychologist found renewal when I brought my relationship with my cats into my work with clients.  One trader I worked with, Tom, had grown up with a difficult relationship with his parents.  He had a turbulent life, making and losing large sums and going from job to job.  When I first met with him, my immediate impression was that he was one of the most obnoxious people I had ever met.  I wondered how his wife had stayed with him for so long!  He was boastful and intolerant, with little good to say about anyone.  I was deeply troubled by the fact that I was dreading meeting with him.  Maybe I should refer him to another therapist, I thought...

But, no, that would only continue his pattern of failures and rejections.

Then something dramatic happened in one of our meetings.  Tom experienced a trading setback and, for a moment, expressed fear for his position at the firm.  His facial expression reminded me of the fearful reaction I have seen from our cats shortly after we brought them into our home.  They had no idea what was in store.  The cage in an animal shelter was they were on unfamiliar ground.  

That was when I started visualizing Tom as one of my cats.  Immediately, I saw him as a damaged person needing to assert himself to ward off his painful past.  Before our next meeting, I gathered an image of one of my cats in my head, visualized holding her and comforting her when she was threatened, and then began our meeting.  

Immediately my tone toward Tom changed.  I was welcoming, exactly as I am in the morning toward the cats.  I asked about his week and complimented him before he could get out a word of boastfulness.  At one point I got out of my chair, put my arm around him, and told him that I was proud of his progress in self-mastery during difficult trading.

To my surprise, Tom opened up about his feelings of isolation growing up and his fear that his wife would leave him.  Gone was the air of ego.  Instead, he spoke softly, candidly about the one relationship that had seen him through his turmoil.  He spoke of his infidelities and his episodes of anger.  To my surprise, he cried.

This was a different Tom.  We spoke about making amends and, yes, we spoke about empathy and placing himself in his wife's shoes.  He knew as a child what it was like to be mistreated.  Could he visualize himself as a little boy and reach out to that hurt child?  Could he visualize his wife as a hurt child and reach out to her?  He had achieved greater self-mastery in his could he master his past?

From that time forward, I felt closer to Tom than other people I was meeting with.  I am convinced he felt that from me, triggering his sense of empathy, renewing his marriage, and also repairing his fragile sense of self.  I was able to help Tom by drawing upon one of my greatest relationship strengths, ironically developed with cats.  I became a radically different psychologist when I learned to call upon the empathy that was always there, but covered over by my own personalized reactions.  Had I responded from the ego, I would have referred Tom to someone else.  Responding from the soul, I became an effective therapist.

The Spiral of Generosity and Gratitude

A while back I wrote an article that reviewed research on generosity. The evidence is dramatic: when we give to others--even in small ways--we experience enhanced physical health and emotional well-being.  Similarly, there are tremendous emotional and physical benefits when we feel grateful for the good things in our lives.  Research that I covered in the article found that successful relationships, from romantic relationships to teamwork relationships at the office, display upward spirals of generosity and gratitude.  In a successful relationship, members reach out to each other--and the resulting gratitude inspires efforts to give back.

Radical generosity is a powerful way to create gratitude in others and engage them in the rising spiral of engagement.  What is radical generosity?  It is going above and beyond.  It is wowing another person with the depth and sincerity of your actions.  When I put my arm around Tom, it was a spontaneous gesture, but it also was something I rarely do with people.  He was deeply touched, later mentioning that no one outside his marriage ever hugs him.  The generosity of a hug was like my spending morning time with each cat:  a heartfelt act of bonding.

How could you surprise and delight someone you love?  How could you go out of your way to reach out, to spend quality time, to open up?  The most powerful giving, often, is giving of ourselves--and going above and beyond in offering that gift.  When Margie retired from teaching, I made reservations at a restaurant we liked as part of our celebration.  What she didn't know is that I invited our close relatives and flew them in for the event.  When Margie got to the restaurant, her family surrounded her to be part of the special occasion.

That memory is vivid, even after decades of marriage.  Powerful emotional experiences are a gateway to changes we make in our lives, but equally so can be gateways to the ongoing renewal of our relationships.  Doing special things has an amazing way of making people feel special--and that brings out the best in all of us.

What Are Your Emotional Experiences in Trading?

Here is a powerful principle:  Over time, the dominant emotional experiences in our relationships define those relationships.  What we feel most deeply and consistently in relationships is what we internalize.  That is why abusive relationships are so damaging, and it's why loving relationships can be transforming.  Strong experiences of enjoyment, love, appreciation, and support lead to bonding.  Strong experiences of frustration, fear, and uncertainty undercut our security and confidence.

We internalize, not just what we do, but what we feel.

So what are your dominant experiences in trading?  Do you experience anger, fear, frustration, and confusion, or is yours an experience of learning, understanding, appreciation, and fulfillment?  This is a reason risk management is so important, and it is why we need to trade in simulation mode while going through our learning curves.  If we build painful, negative experiences while trading, we create painful, dysfunctional relationships with the very markets we're trying to engage and understand.

By viewing trading as a conversation that I'm having with the market, where my job is to be a good psychologist and listen to the flows of supply and demand, I create a unique relationship to markets and trading.  It is when I feel and understand what the market is doing that I can structure my best trades.  Often this is at points where cycles of different duration line up.  My dominant emotional experience at such times is not unlike my dominant experience as a coach or therapist:  one of empathy and understanding.  This relationship experience with markets keeps trading fresh and engaging, allowing me to devote full attention to the communications of the market, listening, listening, listening before acting.

Consider:  Your trading process defines your relationship with markets.  If that process draws upon your strengths, that relationship can be fulfilling and empowering.  If your trading process lacks meaning and vision, and especially if it channels your fears and frustrations, then you build a dysfunctional relationship with markets that can only impair performance.  Many traders hope to feel good by making money from trading.  It is just the opposite.  Your emotional returns from the trading process--from your relationship with markets--help shape your financial returns.


Think of it this way:  In every relationship--as a colleague at work, as a parent, as a spouse, as a family member, as a friend--you are a mirror.  Everyone who interacts with you will come away with some experience of themselves.  And, through your interactions, you will emerge with experiences of yourself.  It's a powerful psychological dynamic that I named after our youngest daughterWe become the person we experience in life's mirrors.

So what does this have to do with trading??

As we've seen, we have relationships with the markets we trade.  We can view markets as adversaries.  We can view them as challenges.  We can view them as threatening.  We can respond to them in ego terms, as sources of pleasure and pain.  Even when we trade solo, we never are alone.  We always interact with markets.

For many of us, the relationships we have with markets would be completely dysfunctional if we had them with people.  How often do we do special things with markets?  How often do we engage in those spirals of generosity and gratitude?  How often do we find deep fulfillment in our market dealings?  Conversely, how successful would our personal relationships be if we experienced the kinds of fear, greed, anger, and regret that punctuate much of our market experience?

How We Trade Shapes Our Relationship With Trading

Earlier, I mentioned that I had tried my hand at full-time trading many years ago.  To my surprise, I disliked the experience.  It kept me from the kind of helping activities that drew me to psychology in the first place.  My relationship with trading was stifling, and that created barriers to success.

What I came to appreciate was that an important ingredient in my relationship with markets is time.  Sitting in front of a screen from early morning to late afternoon every weekday feels, to me, like a prison.  It prevents me from writing, from working with people, from studying, from doing things with family.  

Partly to accommodate my work needs, but also to accommodate my personal needs, I developed a way of trading that fully engaged me in the morning hours only.  I discovered patterns that occur at particular times of day when institutional desks are most active.  Instead of trading smaller size and putting on more trades through the day, I traded larger size during the morning hours, leaving room to hold smaller positions as active investments as market conditions allowed.  During my morning time, I could be fully absorbed in market research and trading.  During other times, I could engage in the other activities that bring me meaning and energy.  By making trading fit into my time rather than throwing my time into trading, I took an activity that had been stifling and made it quite fulfilling.

  How does trading fit into your life, or are you making your life fit into trading?  

We internalize what we do and what we feel, but also we internalize what we spend time on.  We absorb our experience.  A surprising proportion of the stressed-out traders I've worked with make their lives fit into their trading, not the reverse.  Trading controls their experience; their self-control and self-mastery does not guide their trading.  Too often, this is justified by citing a "passion for trading".  But if we just look at those traders' experience, it is anything but passionate.  They are miserable.  Being controlled by a partner in a relationship is part of the dynamics of abuse, not fulfillment.

One amazing transformation I've observed occurs when traders team up to support each other's trading.  With a trading buddy, you can share views and engage in daily re-views.  You can support one another during challenging periods, set goals together, and celebrate victories.  Most of all, you can use your partnerships with other traders to enhance your accountability and deepen your commitment to trading success.  Connecting to the right trading partner becomes a path of radical renewal.  In giving to a peer, we gain much more in return.  Suddenly trading becomes an affirming mirror--even when we're drawing down!

Recall the discussion of my client Gina in Chapter Three.  She turned her work around by taking boring, individual work and transforming it into team-based activity.  That drew on her interpersonal and creative strengths and literally changed her from a marginal employee to a standout.  The same dynamic is possible in trading.  By radically renewing our relationships with markets--and channeling our trading through powerful social bonds--we can draw upon strengths that have remained untapped during market hours.  If some of your greatest assets are emotional and interpersonal, those may very well be your most promising paths toward trading success.  The implications are profound:  What we do to cultivate our personal relationships are precisely what we need to draw upon in our trading.


*  How often do you experience gratitude during your trading reviews?  Research finds that gratitude positively impacts both our emotional and physical health.  Here is an excellent gratitude quiz from the excellent Greater Good site.  Here are 20 excellent video presentations on gratitude from the always-helpful Positive Psychology Program site.  Can we truly have positive relationships--with people, with markets--without gratitude and appreciation?  What would your trading process look like if you decided to maximize experiences of gratitude?

This article from The Pursuit of Happiness site points out the close connection between happiness and our relationships.  Five dimensions of positive psychology go by the acronym PERMA:  Positive emotion; Engagement; positive Relationships; Meaning; and Accomplishment.  This article from The Positive Psychology People explains the role of relationships in our well-being.  If you graded each trading week on the PERMA criteria, how would you score?  Can we really perform at our best without a positive psychology?

This article takes a look an important facet of our work as traders:  Does that work lead to self-actualization or a stifling of the self?  This article looks at the relevance of our relationships to our trading.  Here is a post on a neglected topic:  the importance of our romantic relationships to our trading.

*  How have relationships contributed to your success in past endeavors?  The odds are good that they might contribute to your trading success in similar ways.  Too often, trading is suboptimal because it is conducted in isolated, siloed environments.  How we engage others ultimately shapes our trading.  In this article addressing traders who are going through losses, I highlight a number of resources, many of which are also included in the Appendix.  Many of these are trading communities, which connect traders around the world for learning and mentoring.  Such online communities are a powerful way of channeling our relationship strengths to aid our trading.  Forming our own trading networks with peers we admire can accomplish the same purpose.  

KEY TAKEAWAYS - Close relationships require sensitivity to another: the ability to listen, empathize, and take the perspective of the other.  For this reason, good relationships take us away from our own ego needs and ground us in something larger and more meaningful.  Traders always have a relationship with the markets they trade.  Many of the skills that make for good personal relationships help us become sensitive to market patterns and flexible in our trading.  Building our social and romantic relationships thus can help us become better traders.

PRACTICAL EXERCISE - Double down on the quality time you spend with people that matter to you, going out of your way to make the time meaningful to them.  Your sole goal is to make that other person feel special.  Then, replaying those experiences in your mind, bring that same mindset to your trading day, where you are going to simply listen to the market(s) you trade and respond to what you hear.  Let trades come to you, rather than anticipate what you think will happen or what you want to happen. 



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  1. Dear Brett,

    after the chapter four I have one general remark. It is hard for me to monitor where I stay, in which chapter and on which line in chapter, because this book is online and assessible on my phone and my computer, and I read this book let say from 10 to 20 minutes at once. It would be gret if you can organize book in smaller parts as sub shapters and that after reader finish the chaper make a notification that this part of book is read. My proposal would be that when you read a certain part of the book you can mark it as already read and that one part of the book is not more that 20 minutes of reading.

    Regars, Grega

  2. I have indeed learned that one's relationship with the market is a real thing. I don't think that was intuitive when I started trading and as a result, I developed some harsh feelings regarding my market. I am now working to undue those and be grateful for the opportunities that the market provides within the context of my process. Work to do though...

  3. Examining your interaction with the market and looking at it as though there were dialogue is a great example of why after years in this business, I have seen so many come and go: unable to truly focus on the intangibles. Just about every fallen soldier on this battleground is P/L focused, Market Profile focused, VWAP focused. The spotlight is on the X's & O's in times of rising and falling volatility...instead of saying something intangible like "Today my goal is to be consistent." "Today my goal is to remain in the now moments of opportunity flow." "Today my goal is to improve my relationship with the market by focusing on listening to it to build that skill." You have to intentionally activate the right side of your brain and shift your focus to the more abstract. Most people cannot or do not know how to do this. It's not in alignment with their logical conditioned thinking patterns.
    On another note after the 4th Chapter I love all the links and rabbit holes you can go down. As with all your work it looks like you put so much time and resources into putting this together. I travel down all the side roads here and find it very beneficial. And you are absolutely correct, gratitude is the currency of the Universe. Much gratitude!

  4. Dear Brett,

    I feel really grateful to you for sharing this book openly with everyone. My own recent experience reflects what you have written in this chapter and in this Book. Your work resonates a lot with David R Hawkins who wrote a book Power vs Force where he has a energy frequency scale for emotions with fear anger and pride being the lowest energy frequencies and love, peace, gratitude being very high emotional energy frequencies. At high frequencies like gratitude I realized that I was drawing similar energies into my field (through the law of sympathetic resonance) which creates a further positive feedback loop that feeds on itself. When I am in a state of gratitude when I do my Market Analysis I have found that Opportunities that I have focus and clarity on (ie a clear set of objective trading rules to analyze and execute good trading opportunities) get drawn to me like the power of gravity. I have also noticed when I am in a State of Fear or Worry that I can't find good trading opportunities, I will chase a trade or try to forcefully create a trading opportunity which leads to a lot of stress, anxiety and bad trading outcomes. It resonates well with the last line of this Chapter where you say "Let Trades come to you".....its like when I am in a state of gratitude, good trading opportunities get pulled into my field of consciousness like gravity. This Book is already helping me to clarify my thinking process of the importance of putting myself into a State of Gratitude and to channel that Gratitude through an objective and structured rule based framework for Trade Analysis and Execution to consistently find good trading opportunities while maintaining a more healthy emotional perspective. Thank you for sharing this Book with all of us

  5. Thank you. I had a good run trading this week and I'm sure this blog is a part of the reason why. It's possibly the first time I've had ten consecutive winning trades. Worth reading a second time to understand what you are saying.