Years ago, when I was in graduate school pursuing a Master's degree in music therapy, I had a teacher who taught us about the difference between expectation and expectancy and the significance of these differences in one's therapeutic attitude. At first I was very baffled by this, they seemed the same to me. Both had to do with expecting something to happen. Over the course of several weeks Edith Boxill, my teacher, patiently kept explaining the difference to those of us in her class.
Her point was that there was a critical difference between a therapist expecting a particular outcome in therapy and holding a sense of expectancy and openness to the various things that might happen. We were young and it took many discussions before her message came through, yet it was and is an important one which has stayed with me.
Expectation is expecting things to happen and almost predicting that they will. It is more of an assumption of the inevitable. I celebrated my birthday this week; I expected and received calls from my family and friends. My children are still young, I expect that at least one of them will feel lonely sometime this week and likely crawl into our bed in the middle of the night to snuggle with us.
Expectancy on the other hand is being open to potential. One can't assume that a particular outcome will occur, but rather is aware that there is the potential for something to happen. There is no predictable conclusion, just a window of opportunity. Expectancy is a heightened sense of anticipation and of excitement. The result is unknown, but the unknowing makes it all the more exciting.
Obviously, some experiences hold both expectation and expectancy. My colleagues Lisa, Kathleen, Shannon, Serena, and Robin are all pregnant and expecting their first babies. The unknown issues of exactly when the babies will be born, what their gender, eye color, and temperament will be create a sense of expectancy in all of us.
So I face the future with both a sense of expectation and expectancy. Next week I leave for the American Music Therapy Association week long conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. As an officer in the association, I expect to have certain tasks to accomplish at this conference, certain duties, and certain responsibilities. I also carry a sense of expectancy. I am open and expectant for unforeseen and unanticipated experiences that will be part of the conference. It is these unplanned moments which bring me the most gratification and excitement. It may be in a conference session where I gain a new clinical or theoretical understanding or a late night jam session might bring an unplanned new connection or awareness. Where ever and whenever it occurs, I will be moved by the immediacy of the experience.
I become President of the AMTA in January and I face this too with a sense of expectation and expectancy. The job in itself is daunting. Corresponding with music therapy colleagues, traveling to conference, chairing meetings, delegating responsibility are all expected tasks of being President. At the same time there are many unknowns - many places where I hold expectancy about the future. What do we, as an association, need to accomplish next? What opportunities might we want to explore? What challenges will we face? It is both a time of excitement and expectancy.
As I contemplate this conference, my role as President, (and my life in general) the task for me is to not get stuck in expecting things to be a certain way, but rather to live in expectancy, maintaining a sense of openness to the potential of the moment. Thanks for that lesson Edith.
Forinash, Michelle (2003) On Expectation and Expectancy. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 18, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2003-expectation-and-expectancy