Holding on to suffering: the Martyr Syndrome – Part 2

In Part 1 I related the story of two traders at the Chicago Board Options Exchange on October 19, 1987, the day the market crashed. One made a huge amount of money and the other lost over a million dollars.

About six years later in a conversation I had with a very successful trader, he summarized it succinctly if not elegantly. He said, “Look, when you have to pee, you pee. Period. You don’t hold it in. You get rid of it and you feel better. It’s the same with a bad trade. You get rid of it and move on to the next one.”

Trader B, who lost over a million dollars that day, didn’t consciously set out to be a martyr. He didn’t consciously want to lose, yet he did.

Nobody held a gun to his head and forced him to keep a losing position, yet he did.

What subconscious beliefs led him to hold on to the loss?

Probably a belief ingrained during childhood that he needed to be perfect and that taking the loss would be an admission that he wasn’t perfect, and the fear that if he’s not perfect he must be a total loser and nobody would ever love him ever, ever again. In other words he took it personally. He projected all kinds of irrational fears into the simple act of getting out of a losing trade.

His ego wouldn’t let him admit being wrong

So the question is why do people do what is obviously bad for them, i.e., hold on to their suffering?

No matter what you believe with your conscious mind, your subconscious will always win out over the long run and control your behavior. Your conscious mind works while you’re awake. Your subconscious works around the clock.

Man, does it work around the clock!

If you think you have to be perfect, can never be wrong, will be rewarded for your suffering and self denial; those deeply held beliefs will cause you to hold on to your suffering.

If you have a fear of change or a fear of consequence, you will hold on to your suffering.

If you have low self-esteem and don’t feel competent to face the consequences of change, you will be mired in martyrdom.

If you insist on waiting for the other person to be a mind reader, you are REALLY screwed!

This advice isn’t only for traders. It’s the same with whatever suffering you’ve got. Don’t hold on to it. Get rid of it. You’ll feel better.

Take a leak!

Try another belief instead.

Stop demanding of yourself that you be right. Nobody is perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. Correct the mistake and move on.

Stop expecting to be rewarded for your suffering. (You won’t be)

Stop being a martyr.

Regardless of the reasons why you’re in the situation you’re in, take responsibility for dealing with it as it is now.

Focus on the solution instead of your misery. You don’t have to wait until you have a forced realization.

Permit yourself to have something better. You have to give yourself permission to have something better before you can let go of your suffering.

If you can’t find it within yourself to give yourself permission, get a friend to help you through it. If you can’t do that, hire a coach who can work with you, guide you, and hold you accountable for taking responsibility.

When you take action and face your challenges, you increase your self-esteem and grow in confidence that you can handle the consequences of change.

Stop holding on to your suffering needlessly. Stop shooting yourself in the foot.

Take the first step. Realize that there are alternatives to living with that pain. Talk to a friend you can trust. Get coaching. Get counseling. See a doctor. See a lawyer. Take a step away from your suffering, dammit!

Take a leak!

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