The Power of Anticipation

The Power of Anticipation

“…What the brain expects to happen in the near future
affects its physiological state.”
~Evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers

I’m reading a wonderful book called Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin MD that tells the story of a doctor’s research on the placebo effect. I read the above quote today and it got me thinking about the idea of anticipation.

The way I see it, “expectation” is a function of the mind and “anticipation” is a function of the heart. They are related like this: when we expect something we then anticipate it. So anticipation is the end result of the mind and heart focusing on the same thing.

Here’s how I’ve seen this quote playing out in my healing practice. Someone with a physical or emotional issue calls in distress to book a Reiki appointment with me yet when they arrive they say, “Actually, I’m feeling a little better now.” This has happened so many times that I’ve come to know that the healing process begins with the booking of the appointment, or perhaps even with the decision to make the phone call.

When you have an expectation that you are going to get relief, you begin to anticipate that relief and the body begins to deliver it. It seems anticipation is a key component of the placebo effect because, as Trivers suggests, “…those with Alzheimer’s don’t experience a placebo effect because they are unable to anticipate the future, so their minds cannot physiologically prepare for it.”

Anticipation can be a powerful trigger for healing but that’s not the only place in our lives where we can experience its benefits. Think of it in smaller terms. You’re hard at work tying up loose ends before your upcoming cruise vacation that is still two weeks away. Then you find yourself thinking about your vacation, how you’ll stand on deck watching the waves and enjoying the fresh sea air as the ship brings you to exotic, foreign ports. Suddenly you are feeling happier and more relaxed. You are already enjoying the feelings you anticipate feeling later.

Anticipation may help us to override our deepest beliefs. For instance, say you have long-held beliefs about your ability to confidently deliver a speech. Then you learn a little about public speaking, practice your speech and come to feel good about it. Now you have an expectation that it just might go well. That expectation, if held for a while, becomes a feeling of anticipation of how well your talk will be received. And the anticipation sets the stage for a different outcome than the one maintained by your deepest beliefs.

In contrast to “thinking positive”, which is an act of will, of the mind; anticipation, like daydreaming, is a simple exercise of the heart.

Melody Fletcher suggests that when we want a certain outcome we should, “Align with the reality where what you want has already been orchestrated.” Isn’t that what anticipation does for us? Dr Joe Dispenza says that we have the ability to make thought more real than anything else. We have the power to focus on the things that make us feel good–and anticipate them. Why are we not harnessing the power of anticipation all the time?

Have you experienced the power of anticipation? What role does it play in your life?

Photo credit: Christian Lambert

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About The Author


I am passionate about writing and community building. I’ve written a book about healing and happiness, The Happy Place, as well as a Community Building book, Sounding the Drum: Community Building in the Digital Age, now available at any Amazon store. I’ve been through life changes that I thought were the end of my world, but I’m still here. I never know what will happen next. Isn’t that what makes life interesting?