I have to admit that I am prone to falling into cognitive traps that are probably responsible for most of the weaknesses in my game.  It's difficult to acknowledge our own cognitive biases and this is of course evidence in itself that we are suffering from optimism bias and can't readily see weaknesses in our own behaviour that are so easy to identify in others'.

The reason why poker is more than just a game is that it teaches us about ourselves.  A successful poker player must exhibit characteristics and possess abilities that do not often appear to be compatible with each other and are not therefore commonly found in the same individual.   As an example, people on the whole tend either to be:

Risk taking/gambling/thrill/stimulation-seeking/impatient/impetuous/spontaneous/over-valuing of the immediate future at the expense of the distant future/non-conservative/less disciplined/ types

Or else:

Risk averse/insurance-buying/security-seeking/planning-ahead/delaying gratification/conservative/more disciplined/methodical types.

It's rare to find an individual who displays characteristics of both personality types to a significant extent as one set will usually dominate the other.

Poker however calls on both sets of characteristics at the same time.  A successful poker player must practise extreme discipline; there is nothing harder than cutting losses and letting go after arriving at this decision through analytical, mathematical, unemotional consideration rather than despair and capitulation.  On the other hand, it's essential to be willing to seize opportunities and take bold risks when the circumstances call for decisive action.  It's also crucial that the game must be seriously studied and complex strategies be learnt and put into practice and yet the best poker players must be unpredictable, unconventional and original at times.  It's imperative that to advance beyond beginner stage, the aspiring player must have the humility to acknowledge his own errors and weaknesses and accept criticism but at the same time have the confidence to play with conviction in order to avoid exploitation.  Perhaps most importantly of all, to be a really successful player, you have to love the game enough to stick at it and put in the hours while managing to avoid obsessive, compulsive addicted and problematic gambling behaviour.

Some of my own shortcomings are the result of not having the knowledge and experience necessary to recognise standard plays and employ appropriate strategies.  The vast majority of my bad and losing play however is simply the consequence of psychological weaknesses, cognitive traps and biases, fallacious thinking or in other words tilt of one form or another.  I recently read ArtySmokesPS blog post Why I won't be setting any monetary goals in 2014 in which he mentions the Gambler's Fallacy and followed the link to the wiki page.  This includes a discussion of the psychology behind this wrong thinking and explains that it results from viewing independent events such as consecutive hands of cards dealt during a poker game as a part of a sequence.  Now I'm sure that nobody reading this actually consciously believes that if you toss a coin and repeatedly get heads, the chance that tails turn up next go gets any greater.  I'm also sure that I'm not unusual in having allowed myself to over value a hand such as KA if it's the first playable hand I've been dealt in the last 30 and perhaps play it in a way that I wouldn't have done if I'd been dealt AA and KK in the last 10 hands.  It's natural to feel that you are due a bit of luck when having endured a run of bad luck.  The article goes on to explain that it's essentially this fallacy in one form or another that motivates the losing gambler to go on playing long after he should have stopped.  Feeling that you're bound to make back your losses if you keep playing is attributing a memory or dependence to independent random events that simply isn't there as a consequence of viewing them as part of a sample sequence that should represent the randomness of an infinite one.

I've concluded that if I can find a way to trick myself out of seeing the current hand in the light of the previous hands that constitute the history of the game then my performance will improve significantly.  Since these cognitive biases are so deeply etched into our psychology, we sometimes have to rely on tricks in order to deceive ourselves into seeing reality as it really is.  My method for avoiding tilt after losing a large pot early in a tournament and being tempted to throw away what I have left with reckless play is to imagine that I have just taken over from someone else and it's my job to see what I can do with the remaining stack.  I play as if it's been handed to me as a free tournament ticket to make of it whatever I can.  This enables me to play with careful optimism rather than hopelessness and despair, which would otherwise sabotage my game and ensure a swift exit. 

I would be interested in learning of any techniques others find effective to keep a level head in such circumstances.