Today’s Daily Prompt “When you’re giddy with excitement, does time speed up? Slow down? Tell us about the experience of anticipation.”
Anticipation. That precursor of pleasure.
I’ve previously written about anticipation. In my post “An Ideal Saturday and The Science of Optimism” I quoted Dr Tali Sharot “We prefer Friday to Sunday because Friday brings with it the thrill of anticipating the weekend ahead.” That post talks quite a lot about anticipation (and optimism).
When I’m excited, when the anticipation is strong, my mind is creating an image of the pleasure to come. A scenario is building inside me of what is to come. I imagine good things happening. Dr Sharot mentions that too, she calls it the “optimism bias” – our tendency to overestimate the likelihood of good events happening to us in the future.
I find that time can both rush and slow down. A great example can be found in the hours before I go to a dance party. Most good dance parties don’t start till nine or ten at night and the last few hours between dinner and leaving can seem to take forever. By the same token sometimes it can rush by, I find the last few days before I go overseas just zip past.
Anticipation is one of the great joys in life. Excitement almost requires it. I think about what stimulates my senses, what excites me and they all have an element of anticipation to them. Just think about sexual arousal, it is almost entirely built upon anticipation of the further pleasures to come. It’s also the perfect example of subjective time, a hand across your cheek can seem to take minutes, a kiss can last forever.
Giddy with excitement.
Giddy, frivolous and light hearted. Anticipation so strong that the excitement about things to come makes you impulsive. Sounds a lot like that first flush of romantic love doesn’t it. I really like that feeling.
So far I’ve assumed that anticipation is looking forward to something good but this isn’t necessarily the case. Dr Sharot tells us “people with severe depression tend to be pessimistically biased; they expect things to be worse than they end up being.” So we have anticipation of the negative.
At the moment this is quite familiar to me, when I anticipate the days ahead I don’t build a picture of pleasure and success but one of pain, problems and failure.
At it’s worst this is the dark side of anticipation, anxiety. The Wikipedia page on anxiety has a good phrase, “feelings of dread over something unlikely to happen”.
There is a difference between simple pessimistic anticipation and real anxiety. A common example of the former for me is that sometimes before I sit down at my drum set I am anticipating a hard, unsuccessful practice session. This is qualitatively different to my social anxiety, which is stronger and tied in to fears of things much less likely such as people laughing at me or telling me I’m stupid.
Anxiety can really make time drag. I have anxiety about dealing with government bureaucracies and the time I sit waiting in the dole office waiting to see someone is the slowest time I know.
However, I think we should stop talking about anxiety. Let’s anticipate a weekend of nice weather, nice meals and nice friends.
- Thinking about the optimism bias: Tali Sharot at TED2012 (ted.com)
- The Enthralling Passing of Time (sognagrandezza.wordpress.com)
- Look on the bright side: A Q&A with TED ebook author Tali Sharot on our biological wiring for optimism (ted.com)
- Teenage anxiety (teenageadviceandhelp.com)
- The Optimism Bias (mysustainabilityjourney.wordpress.com)
- 10 Anxiety Relaxation Techniques (aboutanxietysite.com)
- Anxiety (ucucc.wordpress.com)