• David Unger, PhD

Anticipation and Contentment




Hi, my name is David and I am an anticipation junkie. I wasn’t always this way and I am hoping to become less so, but for the moment I am addicted to anticipation. I used to think this wasn’t much of an issue. Everyone likes to look forward to things in their future that hold positive promise. People enjoy planning trips they are going to take, decorating the home as events appear on the horizon. Some people put up Christmas lights right after Halloween. I am not that bad. But I am not that good either.


My first job out of graduate school was at a drug clinic. People would come in there because they had been caught in possession of some drug, had a DUI or committed some other offense that required some therapy sessions to reduce the sentencing. Clients would tell me they did no abuse alcohol or drugs, they just had the misfortune of being caught. I would point out to them, that while I did not know if they used or abused substances, I could tell them that their use had gotten them involved with the police, the justice system and now me. They might want to consider that some real world evidence that they may not be using their substances as well as they might think.


It occurred to me after awhile that most people consider what they are doing to be use. And that person over there who is doing more than you are, that person is abusing. Too much was what other people did. What you did was okay, although maybe occasionally it was too much. Certainly New Year’s Eve, your birthday and other random occasions you had permission to do too much. While I can understand that point of view, I have also heard it extended to the weekend, some weekdays and then pretty much any time.


I mention this type of rationalization because it is what I used with anticipation. The amount of time and energy I spent anticipating events was not too much. That other guy with the Christmas lights up after Halloween, now that guy has a problem. But I am okay. I guess if we are going to play the comparison game we can always find people to the left and right of us.


All I know is I go to a music festival in June and I have been thinking about the next one since the last one ended. The closer it gets the more I think about it. I got an email in December about tickets being on sale and I started thinking about hanging around the camp site talking with my friends. Parts of the lineup are announced and I picture myself sitting out in a field and listening to the music. Anticipating the pleasure of being there helps fill the time. There is nothing really wrong with this, but there is also something not really right with this.


I like anticipating things. Or at least I did until I realized that not only was I looking forward to things, but I was also worrying about things that had yet to happen. If I felt a pain I could easily find myself worrying if something was seriously wrong with me. And then it wasn’t too much longer, before I could horribilize that worry and now start to think I might have some life-threatening disease. That kind of anticipation was not much fun. But, I realized it was born out of the same womb.


Sort of like the glass being half full and half empty. I have the capacity to dwell on either side of that. The research does convincingly point to better outcomes if you allow/train yourself to focus more on the positive. Positivity does beget positivity.


When I realized my thinking ahead had enjoyable and not so enjoyable aspects to it I decided I needed to focus more on dwelling in the moment. I am not abandoning thinking about events in my future. I am just reminding myself to dwell more in the moment.


To do that I have re-familiarized myself with a word I don’t hear much anymore – contentment. People talk about happiness and all the things you can and cannot do to obtain more of it. I am all for that. But I am also for a quieter easier state of mind. The state of mind that has you lean back in your chair after a good meal, hold your stomach and say “Ah.” I want more “Ah” moments. Moments when I say to myself (or others) “This is good. Relax. Savor the moment.”


So, I am going to take this moment now, look at these words and say to myself: “Ah. This is good. Relax. Savor the moment.”




#Anticipation #Contentment

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