My biggest lesson: Learning to let go

Sally Underwood shares how the turbulent experience of trading affected her and why she now works to support people’s mental wellbeing.

I’m quite a magpie. This has led to an interesting professional life: financial technical writing for investment banks; day trading; being a performance artist and sculptor; volunteering with an environmental NGO. Most recently, I have specialised in therapeutic massage and facilitating people in self-inquiry, to explore the question ‘Who am I?’

Although art and trading may sound like a strange combination, I spent much of the 2010’s doing both. My plan was to crack trading, so I could be financially free with a few hours of work each day, to live wherever I wanted to, and make my sculpture free from concern about funding or sales.

This project made sense. I already had a career as an artist after spending six years at art college, and I had plenty of experience in markets and trading.

So I dove in, and after some mistakes in navigating the crazy world of trading educators, I found some of the best traders in the world to learn from. I tried my best to do as they advised and it all looked quite easy.

I would be working in my studio with one eye on my computer screen, monitoring the markets. I would be installing an exhibition, then my phone would ping and I would buy or sell a currency pair or stock market index.

Meanwhile, working with a wonderful friend, and now one half of a collaboration, I was having more success as an artist, receiving more support and even doing a museum exhibition. But I was also getting obsessed with trading.

My results were diabolical; I would make money and then lose it again.

The teachers made it look so easy; I was sure I could succeed

I kept telling myself to work harder and when that didn’t work, to find a better mentor. When I read the stats about how difficult it is to succeed at trading, and how low realistic returns are, I convinced myself none of this applied to me.

I was trying to keep my emotions at bay by being secretive and selective in my reading material, but underneath I was horrified that I was compromising my basic values by chasing money like this. I would feel high and invincible if I had a good week, convinced that my gamble for financial independence would pay off; but despair and self-loathing would soon return.

I set about trying to change myself with self-help, cold showers, EFT tapping, meditation, studying my lizard brain and my monkey mind, NLP and many more, but consistent profits and peace of mind continued to elude me.

The strangest part of this story was that I was aware I was being controlled by feelings of fear, despair and inadequacy. I was aware of how I was trying to undo the past and the extent to which I was relying on trading success to compensate for past pain. I knew that seeing my professional and personal life – especially as artist – as a failure was feeding my obsession.

But being conscious of what was driving me made no difference to my behaviour.

Back then, I truly believed I had to succeed to restore my sense of self-worth and regain my confidence.

During this time, I was introduced to the Sedona Method of ‘letting go’. It was recommended to me by my trading coach. It seemed too easy, and I was only interested in techniques that would make me good at trading. Back then I had no idea how the Sedona Method could achieve that, but something about it was working for me and even though it didn’t magically produce the results I wanted, I continued with it all the same.

Eventually, I learned to trade. I developed all my own systems, knew how to control risk, knew how to measure my success. But by then my account was far too small to make it worthwhile. Plus, the effect of my losses was now wired into my body and the prospect of risking money would set my heart racing heart and my hands shaking.

I knew had to stop, to let go of this dream, and one day I did, I just realised that it was never going to work. I closed down all my charts and trading apps and never went back.

I wrote an essay about my experience and shared it with a couple of friends. Although I wrote the essay under an alias, it brought me relief to have finally spoken out and that was really the beginning of being able to move forward.

With this amount of unresolved history, my attention was in the wrong place. It was on me, ‘Sally’, on my past and all that had gone wrong instead of on all that was available to me. All this just fed feelings of inadequacy and shame. The more I hid it from others, the worse it got.

What did I learn from all of this? To let go of the past, we have to feel it rather than analyse it. Our minds will forever convince us that our past controls and limits us. To get free of these stories, we need to welcome all of our feelings about them and then we can get underneath or beyond the mind. When we do this – with the Sedona Method or any other self-inquiry-based approach – our past loses its emotional charge and therefore its ability to influence us.

At this point, this story and the other stories that came before it, are still available to me as memories, but they no longer have any power to disturb me. They appear in my mind as a flat, calm sea instead of as a raging storm.

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