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For other uses, see Anticipation (disambiguation).

Anticipation, or being enthusiastic, is an emotion involving pleasure, excitement, and sometimes anxiety in considering some expected or longed-for good event.

Anticipation is the process of imaginative speculation about the future.

As a defence mechanism[edit]

George Eman Vaillant considered anticipation as one of "the mature ways of dealing with real stress... You reduce the stress of some difficult challenge by anticipating what it will be like and preparing for how you are going to deal with it".[1] There is evidence that "the use of mature defenses (sublimation, anticipation) tended to increase with age".[2]


"Anticipation is the central ingredient in sexual desire."[3] As 'sex has a major cognitive component — the most important element for desire is positive anticipation':[4] indeed, one name for pleasurable anticipation is excitement.

More generally, anticipation is a central motivating force in everyday life — 'the normal process of imaginative anticipation of, or speculation about, the future'.[5] To enjoy one's life, 'one needs a belief in Time as a promising medium to do things in; one needs to be able to suffer the pains and pleasures of anticipation and deferral'.[6]

In phenomenology[edit]

For phenomenological philosopher Edmund Husserl, anticipation is an essential feature of human action. 'In every action we know the goal in advance in the form of an anticipation that is "empty", in the sense of vague...and [we] seek by our action to bring it step by step to concrete realization'.[7]

Anticipation can be shown in many ways; for example, some people seem to smile uncontrollably during this period, while others seem ill or sick. It is not uncommon for the brain to be so focused on an event, that the body is affected in such a way. Stage fright is a type of anticipation, stemming from the actor or actress hoping that they perform well.


  1. ^ Robin Skynner/John Cleese, Life and how to survive it (London 1994) p. 55
  2. ^ Hope R.Conte/Robert Plutchik, Ego Defenses (1995) p. 127
  3. ^ Barry and Emily McCarthy, Rekindling Desire (2003) p. 89
  4. ^ McCarthy, p. 12
  5. ^ Clon Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism (2005) p. 83
  6. ^ Adam Phillips, On Flirtation (London 1994) p. 47
  7. ^ E. Husserl, in Alfred Schutz, The Phenomenology of the Social World (Illinois 1997), p. 58

External links[edit]