Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Anticipation is something that is important to all people. It means thinking about something before it happens. Some of us are a lot better at it than others. The youngest children often can't wait for things, so anticipation is difficult for them. Anticipation can be a good thing. This happens when we think of some positive events that can happen in the future. It also happens when we have had an experience with some event or person and become excited in a happy way, or nervous in a bad sort of way. It also happens when we do something that might be wrong in the eyes of another person or other persons, and we anticipate a response or consequence. Telling a lie or a fib is something that involves an incredible amount of anticipation once the fib or lie has been told. The anticipation is the tremendous amount of anxiety that exists from the time the lie has been told until the time it is discovered. Discovery, oddly enough, can be such a relief that it functions as a reward for telling another lie.

Planning for something that has a good chance of happening helps take the edge off the anxiety particularly if the future event has a chance of repeating something unpleasant that has happened in the past. Many people approach a holiday with anxiety because they plan on being with family members that they both love and fear. They recall all of the good times that they have had with those family members, but some things just get in the way of making them comfortable about being together with them. The more intense prior events were, the more conflicted people are about having something social with those family members. What can be done? What would you want to do? What family members are most harmed by doing nothing at all, and chancing a repetition of prior events?

Those people who are planners have the potential of being good behavior engineers. Behavior engineers set up situations to minimize negative things. They are good at anticipating. Suppose, for example, we know that some family members don't like being near others. Planned seating arrangements are a really great way to reduce potential problems with that one. Suppose we know that some guests have the potential for breaking family heirlooms. Moving those to a safer location prior to their arrival is a great idea. Now, here is the difficult one. Suppose we are having company, and one or more of the guests is a person who has gotten into trouble because of alcohol.

There is NOTHING wrong with eliminating all alcoholic beverages from the home prior to the arrival of alcoholic family members. They might even thank the host for doing it. This might mean moving liquor bottles from the home to places like an office, or a storage facility. Serving non-alcoholic facsimiles at dinner might be a reasonable addition to moving all alcoholic beverages, or it might cause a reaction. Actually doing it (serving non-alcoholic beer or wine/fancy grape juice) might send a great non-verbal message. Plan for any verbal response to the non-verbal message that you are sending with a good deflection or positive response such as, "We have planned for a loving and positive family gathering this year." A repeated (though different) negative response should result in the same response, "We have planned for a loving and positive family gathering this year." Keep saying the same thing until the negativism stops, or make a non-alcoholic toast, "A happy, and healthy year for all, until we get together again." Many alcoholics bring a bottle of an alcoholic beverage to family gatherings as a "gift." This should be accepted gracefully and quickly brought to the place outside of the home where the other beverages are hidden. Never hide the alcohol at the home where the event is taking place. Alcoholics are good at finding it. They might even go so far as drinking cooking extracts (vanilla extract, almond extract, etc. all contain alcoholic - true alcoholics know this and will empty them), mouthwash, aftershave (yes, even though the alcohol in that is poison), cough syrup, etc.

Involving all members of the host family in planning can help reduce anxiety. Remember to have one last meeting before the arrival of guests to go through a checklist of the plan. Scripting or anticipating what might be said in various circumstances might be a good idea. One anticipated remark from a guest might be, "I am sorry about what happened. Can we please have fun?" The response might be, "We accept your apology. We love our family. That is why we have planned to have a loving family event this year." Repeat as necessary.

Another form of anticipation has to do with punishment. Anticipation can be used a part of a program of consequences. This is part of the Love and Logic behavior management system (refer to http://www.loveandlogic.com/). Suppose a child has done something, and there is a need for some kind of organized punishment from ALL caregivers (both parents, grandparents, extended family, etc.). It is perfectly reasonable to say, "You know that we love you. What you have done has caused me to have discuss your consequence with (family members). We will let you know what we have decided. Until then, don't worry about it." That last part is what creates the anticipatory anxiety that serves as punishment.