The psychology behind a countdown: A sense of deflation and inflation



My niece just turned ten. Unbelievable that she is now a tween. What is funny, though, is that she had a major birthday countdown beforehand. For about a month beforehand, we received daily updates on her birthday celebration. She had multiple agendas that we had to review and understand our role in. I laughed as I remembered my past highly anticipated events. I always loved Easter and Christmas but I didn’t have major countdowns to them. My birthday was always an awesome thing for me to look forward to in terms of me realizing that I had been on this earth yet another year. But I didn’t have much of a countdown to them either.  Still don’t.


However, that is not to say that I have not had things I counted down towards.  Countdowns are funny though. They can signal a sense of urgency and grand anticipation. And, they can signal a sense of urgency and dread. We can countdown towards the end of something that we desperately wish to have over and down with. For example, I hate getting MRIs and I always do a countdown, eagerly anticipating the moment it is over. There are also things such a trips to fun places that I have down mental countdowns for. Last year, I couldn’t wait until my Hong Kong trip. Then it starts and then it is quickly over. Then what? A new countdown? A sense of being let down by it all? I loved my trip but once it was over I was a little bit sad for reality had to step into my life again.  Countdowns are emotional rollercoasters. Thus, while my niece had the countdown of countdowns, there was a sense of “now what” once 9pm rolled around and she had to start getting ready for bed.


If a day is so emotionally up and down, should we really engage in such countdowns?

One countdown that was indeed the best thing ever was when I counted down to the day that I gave birth to my son. That was, I feel, the only countdown that more than lived up to expectations. The day he came into the world was the day I started a new life and that has been everything and more.


But right now I find myself in yet another countdown that has me emotionally taxed. I am looking forward to something that is supposed to occur in four months.   It is supposed to be a “good” thing. However, I would willingly give it up to not have to go through the time leading up to it as it will not be easy. Yet, day in and day out, I mentally mark my calendar. I place an imaginary “X” on the months that have passed by and feel heavy with the weight of anticipation.


I suppose I can focus on my movie countdowns such as how excited I am by the upcoming Bohemian Rhapsody or even the latest Mission Impossible film.  And, that is what I will do.


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