You receive bad news in a context where you can't react. Better or worse?

You are in the middle of a public place, somewhere that you can’t react in any overt emotional way and you receive bad news. This bad news is something that would normally get a big reaction from you. You are stuck, reactionless, for, say, 4-6 hours.

Do you find that such a circumstance makes the way you feel about the bad news more muted/tolerable? In other words, do the circumstances force you to handle it better?

Or does it just mean that there is a delay and you’ll have the full reaction later?

Or does it mean that the delay will make the full reaction worse than it would have been in the first place?
Obviously, anecdote and conjecture is welcome.

I found it harder.

It was my own fault for sneaking a peek at Facebook while I was at work. It was the evening shift, I was working alone on the phones, and no one had called for an hour. Bored, I just logged in for a quick look at my timeline to see what everyone was up to… and saw a post from a former coworker announcing the passing of another of my old coworkers. And at that very moment, the phone rang.

I held it in and got through my shift, but cried all the way home, and for a while after I got there. I would always have been upset to learn of his passing, but the circumstances really ampified my reaction.

I would excuse myself to have a reaction, although it would be a smaller reaction than if I were alone. I have actually done this. Every job I’ve ever had has always allowed me the ability to take a bathroom break when necessary. Then I’d allow myself to go on a major crying jag when I got to my car/house. I can’t imagine a set of circumstances where I’m prevented access to a bathroom for 4 hours.

Aren’t you glad that 99.9999% of pilots not only do not fall apart at really bad news of any kind but can still do their job quite well?

I somehow doubt they radio in: “Yo man, your wife just died. Over and out!” :dubious:

Of course not that’s just silly. They would say something like, “QANTAS 504, be informed that your wife has responded to a final and immediate boarding call and is now in a holding pattern but is expected to soon be on her final approach into the afterlife.”

Worse, mainly because I do not really have much of an off mode for extreme emotions. If I’m just mildly hurt I can hold it in, but the sort of stuff the OP is talking about would just cause me to break down in front of everyone. My ex broke up with me over the phone when I was at the supermarket, and the only thing I could do was find a dark corner of the store and cry for a few minutes.

The one time I did manage to hold it in was when I got into a car accident that was my fault and a woman got hurt enough to need some surgery*. Her husband was spitting on me and threatening to kill me, but his little kid was there. So I had to hold in all my emotions about hurting the woman, and ignoring the guy who was like 5" taller than me and really strong looking making credible threats on my life while spitting on me just so I didn’t freak out the little kid. 4 days before my birthday. That was HARD, but I actually kind of think it was for the best, since I had time to process it before I reacted and I calmed down a lot quicker than I normally would have.

  • In fairness to me, she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt in a car with no airbags and the accident happened at 25mph, tops. Nobody would have had a scratch if she was wearing it. It wasn’t a fender bender, but it wasn’t exactly a wreck either.

I don’t really know that there is an answer. I have been in plenty of situations where I haven’t been able to immediately vent my feelings but whether they became stronger, because I concentrated on what needed to be done, I don’t know. They were as strong as they were when I could indulge them and I think sometimes by the time I got to them they had just dissipated. But when they hadn’t maybe they were worse but how would I know?

I’m not sure really that external expressions of your feelings are all that important. How you acknowledge them privately is what is most important. Generally I think external displays are mostly froth and serve to maintain the feeling. For instance angry people who are prone to vent their anger become more angry, people who are excited and openly show it become more excited.

One of my exes broke up with me by calling me at work. Several of us worked in a large room with not even a partition separating us, so my coworkers heard every word of my end of the conversation.

I called him when I got home and released all the anger I couldn’t release at work. I think he got the message.

I wonder if I am the only one to whom the OP’s premise (that the obvious/natural immediate reaction to bad news is an emotional display) does not make sense.

For me the immediate reaction to bad news is to go quiet (for major bad news like the deaths of my mother and father, deaths of other relatives, yet another hospitalistion of one of my parents, and minor disappointments like romantic rejection, getting fired from a temporary job, etc.). *It’s not that I successfully control an impulse to bawl, rant and rave - the impulse is not there. * The numbness of grief is strongest at the first moment for me; immediately on hearing the bad news the feeling of living on autopilot begins for me.

Also, are you receiving the bad news in a public place for the specific reason that the bearer knows that you can’t really react? Because, that’d make it much worse, once I had some privacy. That shows a certain level of malevolence, with them knowing I’d have to hold in whatever it was I was feeling. What might normally just result in grieving would then be accompanied by anger and rage towards whoever gave me the news.

Even if it is embarrassing I think catharsis helps.

I’m in this category as well. As an introvert, I need time to process information before I react. I suppose a situation as outlined in the OP would be beneficial for me as it would prevent emotion from over riding my normal MO.

Worse! I’ve never exactly had that happen but I have sat directly in the middle of hundreds or thousands of people at work allllllll day while my psycho, evil ex harassed and attacked and threatened me via text (and I couldn’t really avoid it) and it was horrible.

Another time I had to go meet with my professor one-on-one later in the day after my pet died that morning and that was also horrible. He was super nice and I told him what happened but I sure didn’t want to cry in front of him. When I’m really upset I don’t even want my mom to see me (which my mom canNOT understand), let alone teachers or strangers.

I can’t imagine any situation where receiving really bad news in public could have any positive aspect to it.

That wasn’t part of my thought when writing the OP, but I have no objection to people exploring the idea.

Naw, you’re not alone. I’m the same way… and my wife both loves and hates me for it.

Honestly, the only thing that makes me upset is when she is upset with me. Happy wife, happy life, right? :wink:

Everyone is different. My initial reaction to grief is disbelief followed by a flurry of question-asking.

My own reaction to bad news when I’m alone or can react however I want without regard to other people’s feelings is pretty tightly controlled anyway.

So I’m not sure if it would be better or worse.

I’m leaning towards better because then I’d at least have a reason for not falling apart. Without that I often find myself thinking things like “a normal person would be crying about this. How come I’m not crying?”

I’m such a stone-faced under-reacter anyway that it really makes no difference where or when I get bad news.

The only places where the OP would be relevant to me are places where my phone would be off such as commission hearings and the like. If I got the call at my desk, I’d take it and if necessary, leave for somewhere private.