Or just any kind of semi-unexpected personal injury. Maybe someone destroys the painting you spent months on.

So after the inciting incident, there's a split second where you're trying to figure out what to do. You feel a hot rush as your primal instinct is to lash out in anger, but your intellect is trying to tell you that maybe there's a better way.

Is there a word for that moment/decision?

  • 1
    I'd call it the flush of immediate pain and anger—especially appropriate if you are slapped in the face.
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 19, 2015 at 5:53
  • Only the one in that state should know.
    – Kris
    Apr 19, 2015 at 6:41

6 Answers 6


I think the most appropriate word would be "Stunned".

Astonish or shock (someone) so that they are temporarily unable to react.


I think the phrase taken aback can be used this situation.

TheFreeDictionary defines this phrase as:

confused or surprised by something unexpected

It offers the following examples:

When Mary told me the news, I was taken aback for a moment. When I told my parents I was married, they were completely taken aback. Company executives have been taken aback by the criticism. I asked him directly if he was looking for someone with my skills, and I think he was kind of taken aback.

There are also examples of this phrase on Google used to describe people who were slapped.

  • Yes, "taken aback" is a rather old idiom, but well-recognized, and is the first that came to mind when I saw the question. Perhaps not an ideal fit for a slap, though -- I'd maybe say "stunned".
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 19, 2015 at 12:32


It means: Surprised and confused so much so that one is unsure how to react.

  • Unfortunately, the American variant of the language has changed the meaning of this word to something closer to "nonchalant". But if you're not in the USA you'll be okay. :) Apr 19, 2015 at 16:08
  • Agreed. The North American usage is different.
    – hft
    Apr 19, 2015 at 17:30

A pause is a temporary inaction especially as caused by an uncertainty. (Merriam-Webster)


You can use the expression shocked silence.


This time SAMIR is slapped on the face. After the slap SAMIR stands in shocked silence as he is about to burst into tears.

Talk to Me: Monologue Plays edited by Eric Lane, Nina Shengold

I slapped him hard with the back of my hand. 'Silence fool' I said, he stood there in shocked silence as I continued.

Fear the Reaper: Special Edition By Fritz O'Skennick

She ripped the cuts so that his knees and chest were exposed. Ben watched in shocked silence as she destroyed his clothes.

Yours Unfaithfully By Deer, Geraldine C. Deer

An earthquake came along one day and the magnificent lighthouse was shaken to bits – completely destroyed!' There was a shocked silence.

Famous Five 19: Five Go To Demon's Rocks By Enid Blyton


Reaction time (latent time/ latency)

Medical Definition of REACTION TIME : the time elapsing between the beginning of the application of a stimulus and the beginning of an organism's reaction to it

It's actually a very broad term. When you see an obstacle in the way and apply brakes, your reaction time varies according to various factors.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.