When something significant happens, our response does not start and end all at once. We start with one emotional reaction (or nonreaction if we repress it) and pass through its transformations over time.
This is because when something complex and meaningful happens, we can't account for all our thoughts and feelings toward it instantaneously. It takes time to process. There are many angles to consider and different parts of ourselves that each need a turn in touching and reacting to the stimulus. This process can't be rushed, but it can be stalled or corrupted if we refuse to engage with our inner world.
It's very likely that the initial reaction is one of simply feeling overwhelmed--there are many implications and no clear indication of where to begin. Mixed feelings compete for attention and hormones rush around. I have learned that when I'm in this stage, unless it is important to take immediate action, my best option is to just create time and space for thoughts and feelings to unfold. I don't commit to solving anything or drawing any conclusions. I have to let my reactions run their course.
For example, one time when I lost my job, I professionally ended my Skype call and then burst into tears. Questions swarmed me. "How will I pay rent?" "What if I have to move?" "How long will it take to find a new job?" "What if I have to get a job I hate?" "How will it feel not to work with my dear colleagues anymore?" "How do I say goodbye?" "What will feel good to leave behind?" Pressure mounts with each question but this is not a time to really do anything. The most productive thing at this point is to let the natural emotion (sadness, anger, confusion) express healthily. Anxiety comes from a feeling of needing to analyze and resolve everything at once. Commit to just feeling what you feel and agree to address the details at a later time.
Once that initial emotion stabilizes, honestly, just sleep. It may not be worth visiting this problem for a couple days, especially if you have a lot going on. Even when you are not thinking about a problem, your mind is working on it. Focus on caring for yourself. Eventually, revisit the topic and see what comes up emotionally. You may have transitioned from shock to anger or anger to sadness. Whatever your next phase is will also require expression. That might mean venting, or writing a letter you never send, or journaling about how you feel.
Depending on the event and how much you work with it, the process can last months or years, certainly decades before stabilizing, at least for the most profound events of our lives. A couple years after my childhood cat died, I finally mourned her one night while in meditation. I didn't let myself before then, because it was too painful to think about what she meant to me. It's interesting to think that I was carrying that seed of emotion for so long. I have a sense that too many of those (or holding for too long) turns us into agitated people.
When we provide space for our emotions to express and change, we are essentially getting ourselves "on course." We are allowing things to take their natural places and permitting change. The truth is that we HAVE to move through each phase. There is no skipping to the end.
Each time we follow and document the phases of a significant emotional event, we become more emotionally intelligent. Watch for patterns long enough and you will learn to predict them, just as you can learn to predict the weather or what chord will likely come next in a song. Also, significant emotional experiences are the soil of creative work. Becoming artistically engaged with your inner world is a powerful way to guide yourself through your emotional content.
Given all this, consider the implications of "giving" someone an emotion. If you do or say something to someone that causes a significant emotional response, you may actually be giving them months, years, or decades of emotional transitions. We can't just NOT react to the world. If you give someone an emotional experience, they either have to repress it or work with it. This means we have a responsibility to others to be careful in how we choose to engage. It's not that life shouldn't be emotional, but rather that if a person is on one emotional journey, there is not much room for another. So if someone needs to grieve the death of a family member, and then they are robbed, they are going to become less able to focus on and live out the life cycle of the grief of their loss. Or, they may be so traumatized that they don't allow any emotions through, and then suffer depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and/or the many other coping mechanisms out there.
We really do affect others. There are many complex emotional journeys taking place inside every person at any given moment. Each one informs our everyday actions. We can acknowledge this and strive to help guide ourselves and others to be on course and seek out pathways through each necessary phase.