When someone you care about is in a stressful situation, and we’re overcome by this jittery feeling, it seems as if we can feel stress vicariously.
Not the kind of stress a parent feels when they arranged with their child to be home before midnight, and it’s two in the morning. Sick with worry, the angst is fed by not knowing where their kid is. Not knowing is always bothersome.
The kind of stress a parent feels when they’re nervous about their kid’s examination. The anxiety a partner feels when their loved one undergoes surgery. The disturbing inability to change a situation can eat us alive.
Stress by proxy isn’t all bad. Apart from being an apparent nuisance, it’s a visceral reminder of how much we care about a person.