You experience shock when suddenly something bad happens, which you had not seen coming at all1. The most typical cause of shock is receiving bad news, for example, learning that you just got fired, hearing that an earthquake hit a nearby region, or coming home and finding out that your cat has been run over. Clearly, these pieces of news will also evoke other emotions, such as anger, fear, and sadness, respectively. In comparison to these emotions, shock is chiefly a reaction to something unexpected. You will only experience shock if you hadn’t foreseen the job loss, the natural disaster, or the death of your pet. If there were already announcements of cutbacks in your department, or premonitions of seismic activity in your region, the news of the actual events should not be (as) shocking as without those early warnings.
The experience of shock represents a sudden shift in your worldview: you thought your world was arranged in certain ways – having a secure job, believing that earthquakes will never hit this part of the world – and you now find that this view has to be changed instantly. This also makes you wonder which other beliefs that you held as self-evident might be wrong.
Typically, shock lasts a short time, firstly because the affected person gets used to the new event – in which case it is probably succeeded by other relevant emotions. As long as you have not been able to assimilate the new information into your worldview, it will feel as though you can’t think or function2. Secondly, shock is such an intense process, both in terms of experience and bodily arousal, that it would be dysfunctional to experience it for a long time. People who experience shock typically cease all their current activities and open their eyes and ears in an attempt to find out everything about the unexpected event.
In the comic, Murphy learns from his boss that his company, which he thought was doing well, is actually on the verge of bankruptcy. The news comes to him like a bolt from the blue.