Tool Time: Expectancy

By Thea Iberall


I don’t know when I first learned about the word ‘expectancy’ outside of the context of life expectancy. The Google Books Ngram viewer shows that it’s been climbing in use since 1966 and it peaked in 2002. The word ‘expectations’ hasn’t peaked.


Expectancy has been mentioned in 61 of Shirley’s daily meditation readings. And I began wondering when and where we’ve defined the word and how we’ve used it.



Expectancy vs Expectation


In April 2020, Shirley talked about training as a psychosynthesis practitioner and discovering subpersonalities within her psyche. One of them was the strict General with very high expectations. The General developed in her personality because of her external harsh environment. A coping mechanism is to internalize inside what we are experiencing outside so that it feels more in control. The General had the same goals for her as she did, which was to help her to be happy. Befriending the General over time, his expectations lessened. During the reflections, perhaps as a way to define things, one of the meditators said expectation is premeditated resentment. I do believe that. Besides setting us up for disappointment, expectations can set us up for resentments.


Anticipation, Expectation, Expectancy, Presence


In December, Shirley reflected that her expectations bred anxiety taking her out of the present moment and placing her smack dab in the middle of stress and worry about the future. The key, she said, is to be in the present moment. She shared a poem by Julia Fehrenbacher who said, “Forgive yourself for not meeting your unreasonable expectations. You are human, not God—don't be so arrogant.” Fehrenbacher goes on to say “breathe until you stop needing anything to be different.” I like this idea. It reminds me of the way Donna Eden suggests holding the OMG points on our foreheads until we can feel the blood pulsing back into our forebrains (the link has other tools for practicing mindful awareness).


Silence is the oil that eases us open


In February, Shirley wrote about her two minds. One lives in her human body, holds life memories and listens to her ego. The other one lives in her heart and remembers the miracles and silver linings of her life. Her heart is where her compassion and gratitude live, things she said that are rich with expectancy knowing anything is possible. It is the place where miracles are discovered. She said that silence lets us witness both our minds and awareness lets us choose which to be in. Silence opens doorways to places in ourselves that offer us respite, hope, possibility and expectancy. The more we practice the better we get.


Letting Go of Outcomes


In June, Shirley talked about wanting safety and steadiness as a child in an alcoholic home but getting disappointment and chaos. She wound up leaning towards always expecting bad things to happen. She had to learn that acceptance doesn’t mean accepting pain and suffering. It means taking what happens in life and finding the gems within the challenge. It means advocating for one’s best and highest good as we navigate through life. It means respecting one’s needs and honoring one’s emotions. Through the use of attaching notecards with affirmations written in the present tense on her mirrors and lamps, she subliminally retrains her brain to change to positive thinking.


What is the difference between expectations and expectancy?