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Is there a single word for the feeling you have in the moment you successfully avert a bad outcome and simultaneously realise what would have happened if you had failed to do so? For example catching a dropped knife and realising as you know you have successfully grabbed it that if you'd missed it would have stabbed you in the foot.

In a sentence it would look something like this "She had a moment of [...] as she realised what would have happened if she'd missed her snatch for the vase."

It's an example of juxtaposition, between success and failure, but that doesn't describe the feeling at that moment. It often causes an adrenaline rush but that's non-specific, it might also be characterised as a moment of horror but again that can mean many things while this is a distinct, mixed, sensation.

I can say "...a moment of [relief mixed with horror] as she realised..." but I want to use one word if such a thing exists and without resorting to a non-English term if at all possible though of necessity such a term could be used as the piece is one involving culturally blanded characters.

  • Why would you feel horror if you realize that you haven't stabbed your foot? I can't imagine feeling any negative emotion at all in that context. Perhaps a mixture of pride (at having good reflexes) and also relief, but I certainly wouldn't feel horror after the fact. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 22 at 13:38
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    @JasonBassford Because you realise only after the fact what could have happened, the relief happens first, then the panic. – Ash Jul 22 at 13:39
  • But there is no panic. You've successfully prevented the disaster. (At least that's me. Maybe other people do feel something negative. I've never felt that way or had anybody express it to me before.) – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 22 at 13:40
  • @JasonBassford Yes there is, there's the panic of realising the possibility you have just avoided existed in the first place, which in these cases happens only after you've averted disaster, thus the "realisation of failure". – Ash Jul 22 at 13:44
  • "Realisation of potential failure" might be a better way to put it. To me "realisation of failure" only applies to an actual failure, not a hypothetical one that was averted. Anyway, I know the feeling you are describing, but I don't have a single word for it - I have usually seen it described with multiple words, like the phrase you used "relief mixed with horror". You mentioned not wanting to use a non-English term: are you aware of any? – nnnnnn Jul 23 at 5:49
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There is a word, although it is not that common; 'Blessedness'.

Blessedness: adjective

Source: Dictionary.com https://www.dictionary.com/browse/blessedness

"She had a moment of 'blessedness' as she realised what would have happened if she'd missed her snatch for the vase."

divinely or supremely favored; fortunate:
to be blessed with a strong, healthy body; blessed with an ability to find friends.
blissfully happy or contented.
bringing happiness and thankfulness:
the blessed assurance of a steady income.

The first word that sprang to my mind though was 'euphoria'. I realise this only relates to the pleasure of the success and does not intimate that the person is also blessed to have escaped misfortune too.

  • It describes what she was to reach that moment rather than the failure that could have resulted, but not how she feels about it. – Ash Jul 22 at 12:44
  • You can feel blessedness as well as europhic. – GoodJuJu Jul 22 at 13:05
  • You can feel blessed but that's only part of the sensation. – Ash Jul 22 at 13:17
  • "Blessedness" doesn't have any connotations of averted disaster or narrowly avoided failure. You could feel blessed in such a situation, but the word doesn't at all describe the "what a relief" part of it. – nnnnnn Jul 23 at 5:43
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I don't think there is one word that describes this sequence of elation and dread but "dread" would probably work as far as your sentence is concerned.

"She had a moment of dread as she realised what would have happened if she'd missed her snatch for the vase."

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I can't think of anything so specific, but there are words for having mixed, or conflicting, feelings. The first word I thought of was incongruous.

It doesn't capture the distinct sensation you described, but it does get across that it's mixed and unique.

: lacking congruity: such as

a : not harmonious : INCOMPATIBLE incongruous colors

She had a moment of incongruity as she realized what would have happened if she'd missed her snatch for the vase.

"Turmoil" and "discord" have similar qualifications.

She had a moment of turmoil as she realized what would have happened if she'd missed her snatch for the vase.

Another possibility is bittersweet.

It was a bittersweet moment, realizing what would have happened if she'd missed her snatch for the vase.

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