27th May 2012: Noomi Rapace’s Different States

Noomi Rapace (Olaf Becker, The New York Times)

Karen Olsson’s New York Times Magazine profile of Swedish actress Noomi Rapace features some insights about managing different emotional, neurological and psychological states. “I want to keep being able to change into different shapes and different personalities,” Rapace told Olsson.


Rapace trained in Thai boxing for Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009). She met with a psychiatrist for Daisy Diamond (2007). For Prometheus (2012), “Rapace tried to cultivate an explosive power. She wanted to be like a cat, she says, nimble and powerful but still feminine.”


Physical training enables Rapace to model and to access different emotional and psychological states:


In anticipation of each part she plays, Rapace chooses a training regimen (or, sometimes, a lack thereof) not simply to get in shape but to adjust her relationship with her body. To become Lisbeth Salander, she Thai-boxed and kickboxed, because she wanted to awaken her fighting spirit. Before appearing in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” Rapace’s first Hollywood movie, she stayed away from the gym, which she said would have been wrong for her Victorian-era-gypsy role, but she studied with a gypsy-dance expert. And for “Passion,” the film she came to Berlin to do, she decided on Bikram yoga, because she felt that its regimented sequence of poses would appeal to her character, Isabelle — “a control freak,” she called her.


Rapace developed the ability to shift into different emotional and physical states during childhood but had to mediate this skill as a mother:


Once Rapace has taken on a role, her impulse is to part with the everyday world, which is to say her everyday consciousness, in favor of the character’s. “When I was younger, I went really deep, as deep as I could, leaving the world behind and stepping into another universe,” she says. “But when I had my son, I had to find a way to be aware of what’s what.”


Olsson captures the range of childhood experiences and acting roles that Rapace can draw on to shape her characters. These included living in Solheimar, Iceland, with Downs Syndrome people; playing alone and having early acting roles; judo training; and attending a Stockholm drama school where she experimented with her social persona. These developmental and learning contexts gave Rapace a repertoire of states of consciousness that she could anchor, chain, and use to design different acting experiences. On playing Blanche in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Rapace said she was “The first character that was running through my veins. I was a little bit psychotic. After shows I didn’t remember what happened.”


For NLP and Ericksonian Hypnosis practitioners, there’s a wealth of material in Olsson’s profile of Rapace to work with. In childhood Rapace developed a controlled form of disassociation from external reality, inward trance, and the ability to access internal emotional, neurological and psychological states as resources. She could alter her subjective universe to become a different person and to move toward a frame of deep identification. She learned to mediate this in social personas — which stunned Hollywood executives who had expected her to be like Lisbeth Salander. Acting roles became a vehicle for creative experimentation and self-growth. When she finished a role, Rapace moved away from it. Physical training provided the kinasthetic anchors for her different states. Rapace thus conceived a strategy for state management that can be modelled and used in non-acting contexts.

21st February 2012: John Overdurf In Zagreb

John Overdurf is an interesting neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) trainer. He recently posted a recording of an NLP introductory session held in Zagreb, Croatia, in September 2010.  The session features Overdurf’s ‘All You Are Is Change’ routine; a Milton Erickson story; a discussion of nominalisation (turning processes or verbs into things or nouns); and Overdurf’s personal interpretation of psychology and the quantum zeno effect. Overdurf’s presentation has some seamless metaphors, nested loops, anchors, timelines, and other NLP techniques.

13th February 2012: John Grinder on Human Excellence (1985)


Full-length clips of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) co-creators John Grinder and Richard Bandler are rare. This clip of Grinder from the early period of NLP New Code discusses NLP as a “technology of excellence”; eliciting, modelling and transferring behavioural strategies; Grinder’s provocative philosophy of learning; and strategies to integrate the insights from NLP Practitioner training. It’s like seeing a time capsule of NLP training after the ‘classic’ period of 1974-79 had ended.

Trading Chaos

Williams, Bill & Justine Gregory-Williams.  Trading Chaos: Maximise Profits With Proven Technical Techniques (2nd ed.), John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2004.

The father-daughter authors summarise a personal methodology based primarily on: (1) the technical analysis of oscillations in market securities; and (2) the opportunities for day traders and swing traders to appropriate value from institutional funds through ‘countertrend’ signals which occur in commodities futures and currency/foreign exchange (forex) markets.  The first (1995) and second (2004) editions coincided with the IT and subprime bubbles which created day trading subcultures and market volatility, so it would be interesting to see how the authors have fared during the 2007-08 global financial crisis.

The book’s first half synthesises various ideas on formulating a trading plan and the psychology of market trading.  The ideas include a social constructionist view of money as a holder of value (John Searle); crowd psychology and rational herds in markets (Gustave Le Bon, Charles Mackay); the new paradigm of chaos theory in markets and how fractals and self-similarity create new trading perceptions about pricing and signals (Benoit Mandelbrot), and the popularity of Eastern belief systems amongst traders as models for skills acquisition and stress management (notably Western popularisations of Zen and Taoism).  Thus an awareness of broader intellectual trends can be useful to unpack the building blocks of a system and for comparative analysis with other theorists and models.

Ben Williams’ original contribution is to explain how his background as a psychologist informs his trading approach.  Chapter 7 outlines a generic model of skills acquisition — novice, advance beginner, competent, proficient and expert — that was explored in the book’s first edition, and can be integrated with Agile, CMMI and other frameworks for integrating operations and strategy.  Williams summarises exercises from autogenic training for stress control in the face of market volatility, symbolic interactionist approaches to align the trader’s individual psyche with the market, and cognitive psychology techniques such as cognitive chaining for surfacing deeply held beliefs which lead to self-sabotage and trying to trade out of a losing position without stop losses.  The cognitive psychology approach reminds me of physician John Lilly‘s mid-career work on meta-beliefs and it also parallels recent work in behavioural finance.  However, some descriptions — such as a section on Taoism, Zen and visualising the market as a river which follows the path of least resistance — seem to be closer to New Age beliefs about zero point fields which integrate consciousness and matter than the original metaphysical systems.  I agree these systems can be applied to training however they need far more grounding than detailed here.

From the earlier material on trading approaches, the book’s second half develops a trading system to anticipate the price movements in market securities through fractals and self-similarity which occur in volatility.  It’s always interesting to see how traders justify their approaches and the example trades given.  I’m closer to the adaptive markets, event arbitrage and behavioural finance schools of investing and remain to be convinced about the validity of technical analysis that the Williams propose, beyond the obvious role of pattern recognition.  Actually perceiving nonlinear dynamics and turbulence can be very different to the language and paradigmatic thought that makes chaos theory a popular explanation.

I did experience some perception changes after reading Trading Chaos: (1) charts might be interpreted in a different psychological frame using fractal, self-similarity and volatility metaphors; (2) viewing charts at different timescales (e.g. 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week) might develop the cognition skills to quickly scan signals in a real-time environment; and (3) the juxtaposition of lead and lag signals for trading decisions and triggers has potential, particularly if combined with game theoretic modelling of the market and volatility effects from institutional investors, monetary policy and rational herds.  It remains to be seen if these perceptions are sustainable and verifiable in trading conditions, and not just subjective reactions based on past research about chaos theory models.

That said, the trading system may also have several criticisms and weaknesses. Finding signals in oscillations and nonlinear dynamics may be difficult in a volatile market.  Analysts can be subjective particularly if de-leveraging and other actions by institutional investors are not factored in.  Swing traders may be exposed to market sensitivities (aka the Greeks): Gamma (the rate of change in the underlying security’s price), Vega (sensitivity to volatility), Theta (time-decay) and Rho (time-decay of interest rates).  Finally, modelling turbulence and uncertainty in a grey or white box system remains a major challenge for financial engineers in new market environments.

Threaded throughout Trading Chaos are the mix of useful insights and shibboleths in day trading subcultures.  CNBC, investment experts, and the plethora of courses and newsletters thrive on investor insecurity yet create noise (pp. 34, 42, 56).  Trading decisions, trading volume, and speed and type of momentum may be lead indicators of price volatility (p. 126).  Broad market knowledge purports to trump expert/specialist understanding (p. 135).  Market facts must be distinguished from opinions and beliefs (pp. 8-11).  Trader personalities shape risk tolerance, time horizon, the asset allocation process and types of controls (pp. 92, 155), a factor relevant to human resources consultants and the ‘transition in’ process for trading desks in investment banks.  Analysis risk involves emotions and perceptions of a signal (pp. 52-53).  The interest in Fibonacci numbers and Golden ratios are partly because they are iterative, geometric structures applicable to price movement forecasting (pp. 22-23).  Grey and white box systems with transparent, programmable rules are preferable to expensive, high-end black box systems which use artificial intelligence and neural net algorithms (pp. 53, 56).  A useful bibliography highlights the Santa Fe Institute‘s influence on chaos theory applications in finance and macroeconomics.  It suggests this area needs far more research to verify the claims and provisional findings in this book, to separate the gold from the dross.

Perhaps the most pivotal insight of Trading Chaos is buried in the text.  “We all trade our belief systems.  When some of you think about this, it produces a crisis,” the authors assert.
  Now that could be the basis for a ‘contrarian’ trading system — probably the one that hedge funds with a short/event arbitrage approach use to scalp day traders in currency/forex and commodities futures markets.