Anticipation In Love And Sex

Anticipation In Love And Sex
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The word "anticipation" makes me think of slow-moving ketchup and Carly Simon. Maybe you think about award ceremonies or being hungry before dinnertime, but when I think of "anticipation," I most often think of carefully-choreographed sexual tension. Patients talk about the feeling of pining, a deliciously uncomfortable sensation that is both exciting and excruciating--like scratching a mosquito bite until it bleeds, or that deep massage that hurts so good. In general, I think it's playful, more about opening a present than the guillotine blade falling (of course except with "genetic anticipation" where the genetic condition becomes more severe as disorder is passed from one generation to the next as with Huntington's Disease).

There are several phrases that are specific to this type of waiting: "the anticipation was killing me," and "trembling in anticipation." I think anticipation is necessary to push your brain into the crazy-in-love stage; otherwise it goes straight into affection. Something about the uncertainty makes things extra-hot and piques our intellectual and emotional interest simultaneously. Somehow lust and anticipation go hand-in-hand. Reciprocated lust without the wait is just sex, really, isn't it? What is it about waiting to eat that makes it more delicious, waiting to get to the pool that makes the water feel better? I would imagine that SPECT brain scan would show greater pleasure spikes when folks had to "delay their gratification."

That being said, there seems to be a window, after which something kicks in and you just get pissed off; the reaction "I didn't really want it anyway" takes hold. "Screw him," you tell your phone, "he's playing with me." At what point does anticipation pass the "excitement" phase, peak, and curdle? In "date waiting," this peak happens earlier for women, in men, later since they sort of expect a wait... How much does the "I'm running late" phone call or text help delay the peak and turnaround? Making "him wait for it" works women-to-men, but not men-to-women. From a man's point of view, how long he will wait for a "piece of ass" defies sales and marketing mathematical formulas: "it depends on the ass, the fineness of the ass," someone explained to me earnestly.

The rule books on love have tried to corner that time with contradictory advice: wait one day before calling, make sure she got home OK that same night, make sure you get off the phone first, don't be too available. All this that has become further complicated by the advent of texting and emailing. At what time does "absence makes the heart grow fonder" cross over to "out of sight, out of mind"? Both history and film are full of scenarios where love that isn't meant to be grows, or at least remains consistent despite time or space. Think Cold Mountain.

Social psychology discusses anticipation, and waiting a form of political resistance; clinical psychology about the effects of waiting to get treatment on say, PTSD, and industrial psychology addresses waiting line "management" --usually with the goal of speeding up of service -- the general rule being that the more coveted the prize, the more waiting time people will spend.

Television has it down to a science in knowing how many seconds it takes to lose a viewer, and how to stagger the commercials with lengthier time closer to the end where the biggest loser/bachelorette/survivor is uncovered.

One of the "advanced concepts" my patients and I discuss in therapy is not being attached to the outcome. I think that turnaround from excited to angry occurs in dependence upon our expectations. The Bhagavad-Gita teaches us we have the power to act, but we do not have the power to influence the result; therefore we must act without the anticipation of the result, and without succumbing to inaction. If you can manage this, then you can just enjoy that excited feeling without feeling the after-burn of the unfulfilled desire.

So much about how you experience waiting depends on whether you are a "nothing easy is worth having" person, or subscribe to a more fear-based definition of anticipation, as Hitchcock said, "There is no terror in a bang, only the anticipation of it."

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