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Bulkowski's Shock Therapy

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Candles Chart
Small Patterns
As of 02/15/2019
  Industrials: 25,883 +443.86 +1.7%
  Transports: 10,568 +30.06 +0.3%
  Utilities: 739 +3.09 +0.4%
  Nasdaq: 7,472 +45.46 +0.6%
  S&P 500: 2,776 +29.87 +1.1%
Tom's Targets    Overview: 02/14/2019
26,000 or 24,600 by 03/01/2019
10,900 or 9,900 by 03/01/2019
755 or 725 by 03/01/2019
7,700 or 7,050 by 03/01/2019
2,825 or 2,650 by 03/01/2019

Written by and copyright © 2005-2019 by Thomas N. Bulkowski. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: You alone are responsible for your investment decisions. See Privacy/Disclaimer for more information. Some pattern names are the registered trademarks of their respective owners.


The Accident

A picture of my dog with a long neck.

A cab, driven by Basket Case Bob, sped through a four way stop and smacked into Jennifer's car. Her Pinto burst into flames, making that low "woof" sound that signals the ignition of gasoline. Her newborn baby, strapped into the back seat along with a dozen German Sheppard puppies, were doused with gas. She lay unconscious in the burning wreckage.

Did Basket Case Bob jump out of his cab and come to the rescue? No, he ran into a nearby grocery store for marshmallows. No sense letting a good fire go to waste.

I think I have driven away from the point of this article...


When you are in shock, you should not make decisions. If possible, have someone you trust make the decisions for you until you recover. You may feel as if you have regained control of the situation, but onlookers will say otherwise. Just let events unfold in their natural rhythm and let your friends, acquaintances, or others you trust take over.

Let common sense be your guide in selecting whom to trust. Years ago, when a 16-year old ran a stop sign at an intersection, I swerved to the right. I totaled his car anyway, but I could have taken his life and that of his passenger because I was going the speed limit -- 55 mph.

Panic set in. With a broken car, I had no way to get to work. Fortunately, I lived only a few miles away and my ex-fiancée came to my house with a warm hug and lots of TLC.


A picture of my dog in bed.


When traders get into trouble, finding someone to talk to is even more difficult. Certainly other traders can help, since they may have had similar setbacks in their lives.

Keep telling what happened over and over until you are tired of telling it. Then let it go. Distract yourself by doing something different, such as exercising, going on a picnic, seeing a movie, cooking marshmallows over burning gasoline. Resume your life.


After you have wiped out your trading account, your body will undergo changes. The stress will dampen your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and infections. You may have difficulty sleeping, will feel exhausted, irritable, and be unable to maintain concentration. The smallest problem will seem insurmountable as a result of the exhaustion from shock.

To combat those symptoms, eat properly, exercise, and take vitamins and minerals to make sure your body is given what it needs. The best cure for insomnia is to get some sleep.


Bomb Damage Assessment

After a shock occurs, it is time for the bomb damage assessment. Call the Air Force and have a U2 spy plane fly over your office to see what shape your trading life is in. The actual damage may not appear at first because it resides in your mind.

Are you afraid to put on new positions for fear of suffering another loss? Do you even want to step into your office, the scene of the disaster?


Try these ideas.

  • After the crisis is over, make a list of things to do, starting with the simplest. They can range from fixing the broken shutters on your house to updating your database of stock quotes to examining world market developments.
  • Start with the first item on the list and work on it. If you can't finish it or find you are having difficulty, then don't force it. Give yourself time to heal. Take breaks and try again when you feel ready.
  • Analyze how you feel about the task. Was it easy or difficult? Did you fear the result (like another failed trade) or did it feel natural?
  • After you successfully finish the first item, go to the second one, and continue down the list, pondering any problems that may occur. Soon, you'll feel as if your life is back in control.


Helping A Fellow Trader

Let's say that your best trading buddy has just wiped out his account and comes to you for help. What do you do? Hand him a gas can and say, "I'll get the marshmallows!"


With a person in shock, you want to help them take their mind off their problem. Give them something to do, something that they can accomplish.

Since people in shock cannot handle complex decisions, make a list for them, a set of instructions to help them begin functioning again. This doesn't have to be about trading, but anything that they can follow, step by step, accomplishing each item. As they progress down the list, they will begin to feel better about themselves. Accomplishing the tasks will make them feel as if they are in control again. They will begin functioning and life will eventually return to normal.

A picture of my dog in bed.

What you don't want to do is set them down and say something like, "Just take it easy." They will sit there and the mental horror of what happened will loop in their brains until it becomes an ingrained mess. You don't want to clean up that kind of blood from your trading office.

The most useful help you can give is just to listen. Not all people in shock will want to talk, but lend an ear to those that do. Do not give advice. Do not become emotional. Just listen. Allow them to express their feelings.


Death in the Family

When a loved one dies, it is not the time to continue trading as usual. Give yourself time to grieve. Have a conversation with the deceased, discussing fun activities or events that you shared, listening for answers from them. Focus on the positive aspects of your relationship. Say what you need to say until you feel as if there is nothing more to add. Then divert your attention by doing something different like eating out, walking along the beach, hiking, and so on.

That's a Wrap!

If you undergo a shocking experience, whatever it may be, don't ignore the repercussions of that event. It will affect your trading. Give yourself time to recover, perhaps by following a list of simple chores to do until you feel as if you have regained control over your life. Then begin trading again, slowly, like a train building up speed. If the fear of loss overwhelms you, then do something else for a while and then try again. Over time, the fear will dissipate and you will begin functioning normally again.

And don't forget the marshmallows.

-- Thomas Bulkowski


See Also

Written by and copyright © 2005-2019 by Thomas N. Bulkowski. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: You alone are responsible for your investment decisions. See Privacy/Disclaimer for more information. Some pattern names are the registered trademarks of their respective owners. Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists. -- John Kenneth Galbraith