Isn't It Shocking!

Sometimes when a major surprise, such as the news of a death, has just been broken to a character the actor is asked to expand this moment. Sometimes the actor's response is "What else can I do? I've heard the news and I've responded."

Indeed how can a moment like this be heightened?

On Life Matters, ABC Radio National 24th September 1998, Norman Swan was talking to a man about the experience of being a father of a handicapped child.

This father explained that the doctors task of breaking the news about the recently born child to the parents, was an immensely important and difficult moment for on some occasions, in fact mostly, the parents had to be told this information many times. They weren't able to clearly process the news immediately as their heads were in a whirl.

He talked about the difficulty of putting words together after the event and how everyone else seemed to be talking quickly while you can only string a few words together at a time - "as if in some kind of slow motion." And this condition lasted some considerable time after the news had been broken. It's evident that the period of time these parents where in shock was huge.

So what is shock? In this discussion there were a few clues to work on.

  • That the news had to be told many times suggests that the person is either not hearing or not coming to terms with the information which is being presented. Obviously they in fact hear it the first time because it's the breaking of the news which has caused them to behave in this way. If they heard it but are not really responding does this then suggest some sort of denial of the news? ( This is understandable as these are circumstances that anyone would prefer to be different.)
  • That they describe the feeling of being suspended in time - "everything has slowed down" - also makes sense for it is a feeling that we all are familiar with in some way. It is not difficult to imagine some of the thoughts which might be going through an individuals mind under these circumstances. Are these the distractions which prevent the news being clearly heard? Or is it the difficulty in coming to a full understanding of what it will all mean that causes the confusion? Under these circumstances are we hearing the thoughts inside our heads more clearly than the conversations outside it? Is this a way of postponing the recognition of something we don't like? A fear which leads to the failure to clearly identify and come to terms with the unexpected news?

So what might be the reasons which would cause an individual to respond this way? ... Try making your own list to understand this situation more within your own experience.

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