Over the course of our lives, we run across all types of adverse situations.
Some examples might include you losing your job; you’re backstabbed by a member of your inner circle, your love interest rejects you, you lose a good chunk of your capital in the market.
Most of those situations have the potential to make us wiser, but notice how easy it is for them to instead make us bitter.
Here’s what happened to me just a few weeks ago: As you might know, my course, The Trading Psychology Mastery Course, has gotten a major update recently.
As I was working on those updates, I tried to outsource at least 70% of the work — I wanted the course to look really neat and professional.
Long story short, I hired a small group of people who were supposed to help with the video and sound editing, the creation of an accountability tool, some SEO work on my website, and a few other things.
And I paid them a fair amount of money upfront ― well over 14, 000 Euros.
Next thing you know, the work was only half done and now those people are nowhere to be found.
I had to pick up the work where they left it.
The updates for my course went out on time, but still, it’s disheartening. Not because of the money I lost (some months, this is the kind of losses I go through in trading). It’s disheartening because of how dishonest some people are.
And this adds on top of another bad experience I had in 2017 where I invested 10k (USD) in the development of an app.
I had to make a decision to halt the project temporarily because the developers were constantly asking more and the product being developed didn’t look anything like what I was envisioning.
I don’t know how I tend to get myself in such situations, but somehow I just do. (It’s probably because I tend to trust people a little bit too much.)
Bitterness is a feeling. Feelings can’t be turned off.
No matter where we stand, adverse things will happen. This is life.
Few people want to become negative and bitter as a result. This is not a state we naturally seek for ourselves. And yet it’s not uncommon for people to become like that, especially when they’ve experienced more than their share of tough times.
When life happens, we have the right to feel angry, resentful, or even hateful.
We have the right to hold on to that bitterness for as long as we want –decades even.
We even have the right to make ourselves sick with it.
But is it a wise choice and a good way to live? Definitely not. I’m sure you’d agree.
The truth is, the psychological habits we adopt shape our personalities — the ways we interpret events, the thoughts that run through our heads like clockwork, and the emotions that come along for the ride.
They also shape our behaviors and our future expressions in the world – including the market.
They determine the kind of beings we become.
If so, then how do you stop yourself from feeling bitter when something adverse happens?
Well, that’s the thing. Bitterness is a feeling. And feelings can’t be turned off by snapping your fingers. What we can do is develop a productive way of dealing with them.
Below are some things I’m working on myself … I hope they can be of some use to you.
How to Let Go of Bitterness.
1. Seek to understand.
Don’t blame anyone or anything for your miseries. And if you do, try your best to understand that there’s a cause-and-effect relationship to everything; i.e., people’s actions are the inevitable product of their personal history, and if you don’t like something about yours, change it. But don’t blame or complain.
Epictetus puts it beautifully in these two quotes:
Small-minded people habitually reproach others for their own misfortunes. Average people reproach themselves. Those are are dedicated to a life of wisdom understand that the impulse to blame something or someone is foolishness, that there is nothing to be gained in blaming, whether it be others or oneself.
When you are feeling upset, angry, or sad don’t blame another for your state of mind. Your condition is the result of your own opinions and interpretations.
Really try to understand this, even if you don’t want to.
2. Feel your bitterness.
Usually, the first step will alleviate the bitterness a little bit. Here’s how to let go of what remains of it: Instead of repressing your feelings or letting them overcome you, stop yourself. Become aware of the thoughts that are playing in your mind.
The moment you observe those thoughts (objectively, without creating judgment about them), they suddenly pop like a balloon and they’re not there anymore and you’re not unconsciously under their grasp.
It’s very hard to overcome some difficult feelings if you’re in the middle of the situation, so this is the first step you want to do.
Now what usually remains are the feelings. Same thing: become aware of them without generating any judgment about what you’re feeling. Just feel it all for what is it, as it is. See how long the feelings last.
This is a simple mindfulness practice, it could take 5 minutes or even 30 minutes. It’s up to you. The longer you stay with your feelings, the more you get to explore their nature.
3. Practice gratitude.
If you’re not constantly creating and rehearsing stories in your mind about what you’re feeling, the feelings just die off naturally, on their own. But if they’re still there, you are most likely left with neutrality… some neutral feelings, neither good nor bad.
Now I want you to manufacture gratitude for what you’re feeling. And how do you do this? Try to see how lucky you are to be alive and to experience life with all its ups and downs.
Being human means that we will inevitably face suffering, one way or the other. But at the same time, there is no joy without sadness, no light without dark. If we don’t experience the range of what is there to feel, there is no basis for comparison.
So the most uncomfortable of emotions has its purpose. Try your best to appreciate this.
4. Stay open.
When bad things happen, we become afraid of getting hurt again, hence, we tend to develop a defense mechanism.
We become cynical, fearful, and eventually, we miss on some great opportunities life has to offer.
Instead, why not accept fully what has happened as a part of life?
In my case, this means to continue to live with openness and kindness but with a little bit more wisdom this time, so that I don’t fall in the same traps.
What has happened has already happened, so it can’t be different. Accepting it and moving on is the best option.
Why do these things?
Whether you’re going through a nasty drawdown in trading, or you’re going through a divorce, or whatever your specific case is, doing these things will prove to be beneficial for two simple reasons:
1. You’ll be happier.
If you have anger, resentment, and bitterness inside of you, even if you don’t think about it all the time, there will be times when it surfaces. And that will affect your behavior in all sorts of ways. But above all, it’ll make you unhappy (it’ll eat you up); you’ll pour that unhappiness in everything you do and you’ll pour it on others too, even the people you cherish the most.
2. It’s a test of you as a person.
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said:
The most intelligent men, like the strongest, find their happiness where others would find only disaster … their delight is in self-mastery … They regard a difficult task as a privilege; it is to them a recreation to play with burdens that would crush all others.
Nietzsche believed that hardship and happiness operated in some sort of osmotic relationship where reducing one would also reduce the other.
I’m sure you want to become a someone like that who uses difficulties and challenges as an opportunity for growth and who consistently acts in his/her own best interest.
All you have to do is to just be that person. That’s one hell of a challenge, if you ask me. And it’s a life-long one.
Last few Words…
Life is hard for everyone.
But different people will deal with this reality in different ways. Some will cope with it by developing bitterness, a cynical attitude, and a nihilistic outlook. Others will develop wisdom and compassion (for themselves and for others).
Do you notice any of these different habits in yourself or those you love? Let me know in the comments.