The wisdom in being more than mad, sad, or glad

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

In my previous article for The Navigator, entitled Do less to make more, dated 15 January 2022, I wrote that the definition of patience is having the capacity to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering, without becoming annoyed or anxious. I had no idea at that time just how difficult things would become for investors on global markets and how much easier it would be to descend into this psychological pitfall.

In that article, I provided some practical insights and practices for understanding our inclinations to be impatient and how we can make a conscious effort to work around these emotions as investing is not about timing the markets, but time in the markets. I spoke to emotional regulation and the comfort I feel in knowing I can control my behaviours, but not those of others. However, it is impossible to control behaviour when we do not understand the underlying root cause of that behaviour – the emotion or the experience which led to it.

Unfortunately for impatient investors, when emotions take over, the result is often poor decision-making that could decrease the prospect of meeting future financial objectives. Practising patience means learning to overcome these instincts. Sacrificing in the short term for the longer-term benefit. As with all emotions, we do not want to suppress them but rather learn how to control these emotions. Understanding our emotions and what drives them takes us a long way toward controlling them.

Most people can only name three emotions: happy, sad, and angry.

Mad. Sad. Glad.

In Brené Brown’s latest book, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping meaningful connection and the language of human experience, she details eighty-seven emotions and experiences (experiences because not all of them are emotions, they are thoughts that lead to emotion).

Why does she do this, and why am I sharing it with you?

Because research shows that the process of labelling emotions and experiences is related to greater emotional regulation and psychological well-being. Without accurate language, we cannot regulate our emotions and experiences in a way that allows us to move through them productively, and our self-awareness is diminished. Emotional literacy is the ability to recognise the emotion we are feeling, name it and describe what is happening to us emotionally. We cannot fully move through an emotional experience without emotional literacy.

Literacy

  • the ability to read or write.
  • competence or knowledge in a specified area.

Becoming literate in the language of emotion gives us the “power of understanding and meaning.”

In any practice, there is discomfort for many, especially in the practice of patience.

Uncomfortable emotions, such as anxiety, worry, sadness, anger, annoyance, frustration, hopelessness, and despair are tough to tolerate. To tolerate is to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of something that you dislike without interference. Whilst I reiterate that sometimes the best action to take is no action at all, the one thing that you can do is learn the language of those uncomfortable emotions that you are experiencing to take back the power.

Pema Chödrön, one of the most inspiring spiritual teachers of our time, offers simple, practical advice for living with less fear, less anxiety, and a more open heart in the book The Places That Scare YouA Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times. She also explains that “wisdom is inherent in emotions.

Wisdom

  • the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement; the quality of being wise.

At Anchor, the acronym that we use to describe our culture is WAPEN. The first letter is for Wise.

(Wise, Authentic, Personable, Entrepreneurial, and Nimble).

The quality of being wise entails having experience. We all have lived experiences. Experiences lead to emotions.

We then need knowledge – the facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education. Or becoming acquainted with or understanding science, art, or technique.

Let us acquire some understanding of our emotions so that we can practice good judgement. Impatient investors let anxiety and emotion rule their decision-making. Good judgement means understanding our emotions and using the information we have gathered to think things through. It means considering the consequences of one’s decisions, thinking before acting and speaking, and having the tools to make good decisions in a variety of situations. A Harvard Business Review article breaks down the elements of good judgement into six basic components and how to improve them. The author concludes that “leaders need many qualities but underlying them all is good judgement.”

Judgement—The ability to combine personal qualities with relevant knowledge and experience to form opinions and make decisions.

All definitions and explanations below are borrowed from Brené Brown’s research. Whilst completing her extensive research, she enlisted a group of experienced therapists who work in diverse mental health settings to help her identify these emotions and experiences. One of the criteria that the clinicians had to keep in mind was this question:

“In my experience working with clients, the ability to name this emotion or experience is essential to being able to process it in a productive and healing manner.”

Anxiety – Escalating loss of control, worst-case scenario thinking and imagery, and total uncertainty. The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as “an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote “you are afraid of surrender because you do not want to lose control. But, you never had control; all you had was anxiety.”

Worry – Worry is the thinking part of anxiety; a chain of negative thoughts about bad things that might happen in the future.

Fear – Fear is a negative, short-lasting, high-alert emotion in response to a perceived threat. Dread.

Frustrated – We feel frustrated, discouraged, or resigned when things are not going or did not go as desired. Frustration overlaps with anger as both results when a desired outcome is blocked. The main difference is that with frustration, we do not think we can fix the situation, while with anger, we feel there is something we can do.

The last definition of an emotion I want to leave you with is that of ‘calm’.

Calm – creating perspective and mindfulness, while managing emotional reactivity.

Calm people bring perspective to complicated situations and experience their feelings without reacting to heightened situations.

When you feel fear, panic, or anxiety rising, we encourage you to ask the two questions below:

  1. Do I have enough information to panic? The answer is normally ‘no’.
  2. Will panicking help? The answer is always ‘no’.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “A smooth sea never made a good sailor.”

Our job is to be the sailor, let us help you navigate the stormy seas.

OUR LATEST NEWS AND RESEARCH

INVESTING IN YOUR NEEDS

Submit your details and we’ll give you a call back to assist and advise you on your investment.

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTERS

Subscribe to our newsletters to receive regular market commentary, research and updates from the Anchor team. Select between our Individual or Financial Advisor newsletters by selecting the relevant tab below.